The National Institute for Computational Sciences

Laying a Foundation

NICS Internships Gave an Ambitious Student Supercomputing Knowledge and Workplace Skills

Daniel Hong, a former NICS intern, is now a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley.

Daniel Hong has been collecting as much computer science knowledge as he can so he can pick and choose from career options, and from the looks of what he’s accomplished so far, he’s well on his way to a promising, and flexible, future.

Hong, who started his freshmen year at the University of California, Berkeley, this semester, credits experiences at the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS) with helping him gain knowledge and skills that will serve him well throughout his academic and professional life.

He interned for two years in the NICS User Assistance department led by Bobby Whitten. “Through the internships, I learned the basics of supercomputing and also gained some valuable workplace skills,” he says.

While at NICS he developed an application to provide a basic way for scientists to run simulations on supercomputers. “More specifically, my program is a wrapper for simulations written in C++,” he explains. “We wrote it for scientists who don’t have a computational background so that they wouldn’t have to spend valuable research time parallelizing their programs. However, we’d like to reiterate that our program is not a magical tool that ensures that programs take full advantage of parallelization.”

Hong got further practice in describing his work with precision by attending the XSEDE15 conference in St. Louis this year. “XSEDE15 was a great learning experience for me,” he says. “I got to speak with people from many different backgrounds at the poster session—industry, academia, other students. At first, it was a bit intimidating because my poster was placed near the center, but I eventually got the hang of it.”

Mary Lin

Guidance for Hong has come not only from NICS staff but also from his computer science teacher, Mary Lin, at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, who helped him make the connection at NICS for the spring 2015 internship. Hong said he was enrolled in an out-of-school research course at the school then, and the opportunity at NICS seemed like a perfect fit.

In addition to expressing his gratitude for Lin, Hong says he wishes to specifically thank each of his NICS mentors: Whitten, Daniel Lucio, Dwayne John, Charles Collins, and especially Shiquan Su, who provided him leadership throughout the spring 2015 internship and the trip to XSEDE15.

Daniel Lucio

Dwayne John

Bobby Whitten

Shiquan Su

Su refers to Hong as a "very talented" and "diligent" student. "I am very impressed by his enthusiasm and ability to meet deadlines in working on his research project," Su says. "He devoted himself to the code development consistently throughout the internship and delivered a high-quality product at the end. We acknowledge Ms. Mary Lin in sending us such a great student."

As for his new adventure now underway at UC Berkeley, Hong says that so far the school feels like a great fit for him, with friendly students, excellent weather, and exciting research in which he hopes to become involved.

And concerning what else lies ahead? “I’m hoping that I’ll have enough knowledge of computer science so that I can choose in the future,” he says; adding with a chuckle, “I don’t really have a plan that’s set in stone yet.”

But he also speaks like someone with insight into what the world of computing may have in store: “I’m really hoping I can continue with computer science, especially big data. Data science is, in my opinion, the most important upcoming field. We’re gathering more information every day, and there are going to be problems that need to be addressed. I’m hoping that I can pursue a field that incorporates big data and supercomputing.”

Scott Gibson, science writer, NICS, JICS

Article posting date: 11 September 2015

About JICS and NICS: The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (JICS) was established by the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to advance scientific discovery and leading-edge engineering, and to further knowledge of computational modeling and simulation. JICS realizes its vision by taking full advantage of petascale-and-beyond computers housed at ORNL and by educating a new generation of scientists and engineers to be well versed in the application of computational modeling and simulation for solving the most challenging scientific and engineering problems. JICS operates the National Institute for Computational Sciences, NICS, one of the nation's leading advanced computing centers. NICS is co-located on the UT Knoxville campus and ORNL, home of the world's most powerful computing complex. The center's mission is to expand the boundaries of human understanding while ensuring the United States' continued leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. NICS is a major partner in the National Science Foundation's eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE).