Women in HPC: Moving High Performance Computing Forward


August 4, 2021

The cloud revolution that enabled high performance computing (HPC) gave way to a professional revolution and created a new breed of scientists: cloud engineers. Whether they were on the implementation, testing, development, validation, or usability side, cloud engineers shared a passion for pushing science and technology boundaries and challenging the status quo. As with everything new and exciting, existing software, hardware, and application technologists took the opportunity to jump into the fast-growing field of HPC. And, just like with the industrial, silicone, and IoT revolutions, women are an integral part of the HPC revolution. 

Areas in which women have helped the HPC community improve its workforce diversity are academics, development, and as users. In this article, we highlight two women with outstanding HPC achievements.

Academia has played a pivotal role in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field

There are many reasons we still rely on research universities to break the glass ceiling of gender inequality in STEM including progressive thinking, incubators of ideas, and brilliant minds, to name a few.

Trailblazing women today at the peak of the HPC research in national labs and universities can help instill the HPC “bug” in female students. Working with local university chapters such as the one at the University of Florida, presenting at Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) conferences, can help spread the word about HPC jobs and increase the representation of women in the field of cloud computing.

featured woman in hpc Amy W. Apon Ph.D.
C. Tycho Howle Director of the School of Computing, Clemson University
Amy Apon Ph.D. Clemson UniversityIn her early career, Amy Apon joined Texas Instruments as a software design engineer and moved quickly into the academic roles at Vanderbilt University and the University of Arkansas where she established the Arkansas High Performance Computing Center and led the cyberinfrastructure for Arkansas from 2007-2011.

Dr. Amy Apon is currently the Director of the School of Computing at Clemson University where she maintains an active research program. She is a leader in HPC development and a role model for students in the field.  Having recently worked with a leading vehicle manufacturer to develop an innovative manufacturing technology utilizing artificial intelligence for the manufacturer’s vehicle inspection process, Apon enjoys solving interesting problems with HPC.

Code development and validation of cloud services is on the rise

A career in computer science and engineering, emphasizing parallelizing scientific code and GPU programming, is a perfect fit for many women who pursue STEM education. Many young women engineers start as computer modeling and simulation experts and transition into various ventures to run their code. The change from scripting for finite elements to scripting for cloud development is relatively easy, and many women migrate from one field to another.

Finite Element analysts and simulation scientists lead the charge

Many FE analysts use cloud services to simulate complex physical phenomena to design productsKnowing the difference between a node and a core becomes second nature to them. FE analysts are crucial to pushing HPC ahead by painstakingly debugging issues with software installation, scripting, open-source code, and parallel processing. Presenting their work at conferences, having peer-to-peer conversations, or virtual meetings can help grow the community of women analysts.

featured woman in hpc Hiranmayi Ranganathan
Machine Learning Researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
hiranmayi ranganathan Hiranmayi Ranganathan is using HPC to make drug discovery faster and better. Her work in machine learning and artificial intelligence focuses on building deep learning models of secondary pharmacology that will eventually become tools used by researchers to predict side effects of drug candidates before human testing.

Ranganathan's other research projects include Socio-Assistive technologies for Children with Autism, Dyadic Interaction Assistant for the Visually Impaired, and Deep Learning Approach to Multimodal Emotion Recognition which we encourage you to read more about on Hiranmayi's LinkedIn page.

Continuing the women in HPC trend and encouraging youth to get involved

Working together to create communities, like WomeninHPC.org, where women can interact with peers and mentor young scientists is just one attempt to improve diversity for our HPC community.  A tight collaboration between industry and academia can help the HPC community improve its reputation of being more accepting and diverse in general. Women will continue to play an integral role in its development, and the best is yet to come for HPC. We are proud to share with you that an entirely female team who works in the HPC industry contributed to this article.

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