HPC Career Case Studies

"HPC and simulation play a significant role in innovation for society (eg research in genetics, geophysics, health and energy, related big data processing)" - Elodie Ardoin, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission

"The significance of the work that we facilitate is what excites me; working on cutting-edge science and technologies which will influence the world in the future gives me a strong purpose" - Nix McDonnell, Irish Centre for High-End Computing

Gaining skills in High Performance Computing (HPC) opens the door to a whole variety of interesting jobs, both within the HPC community itself (running the supercomputers and developing the software they use), and in academic and commercial research, where the exceptional computing power of HPC systems is applied to real-world problems.

HPC is used to simulate experiments that are difficult to carry out any other way, because they are too big (e.g. modelling galaxies), too small (e.g. understanding nano-materials), too fast (e.g. nuclear fusion), too slow (the effects of climate change), too dangerous (predicting how fire moves through buildings), too invasive (simluating medical procedures), or too expensive (e.g. high-speed car crashes).

As High Performance Computing is always at the leading edge, working in HPC means tackling a wide range of different projects in a fast-moving environment - it's never dull!

Our EXDCI Career Case Studies series demonstrates the range of career opportunities that are open to people with HPC skills. These case studies show that the paths that lead people to HPC are many and varied, with some people having a passion for computer programming from an early age, while others come via applied scientific domains. Similarly, once equipped with HPC skills, you will find your career can move in many different directions.

Read our case studies below to find out more!

Howard Price

Howard Price: Computer Games Developer at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (UK)

Howard Price is a game programmer who worked for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe for 8 years, developing titles for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 consoles. Before working with Sony, he gained an MSc in High Performance Computing at EPCC (Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre) at the University of Edinburgh.

 

Howard says one of the best things about working in an HPC-related environment is being "surrounded by a mix of young, extremely bright colleagues, and ridiculously experienced industry veterans. It’s fantastic having such a wealth of enthusiasm and knowledge at your fingertips on a daily basis."

 

Read Howard's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Eilidh Troup

Eilidh Troup: Applications Consultant at EPCC (UK)

Eilidh Troup is an Applications Consultant at Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC). She has a background in genetics, but discovered a passion for programming during a computational project in her final year at university, and is delighted to be able to combine these two interests at EPCC, working on HPC projects with a biological focus. Outside work, she loves cycling and reading.

 

Eilidh says: "Coming from a biology background, I was drawn to this job as a chance to work with scientists, and I’m happy working on various biology-related computing projects here.  The science is always interesting, and there are plenty of new coding challenges as the amount of data generated in biology is increasing so rapidly." 

 

Read Eilidh's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Henri Doreau

Henri Doreau: Research Engineer at CEA, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (France)
Henri Doreau is as a Research Engineer at CEA, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission. As a software developer, he contributes to numerous projects in high-performance storage and big data domains. Away from the keyboard, Henri nurtures a passion for literature and likes oenology, cooking, running and cycling.

 

Henri says: "This really is a job where you learn things every day. It shapes your way of thinking. Being exposed to such a variety of approaches, smart people, innovative ideas and technologies forces you into considering many more options to solve what you are working on."

 

Read Henri's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Romain Dolbeau

Romain Dolbeau: HPC Expert at Bull (France)

Romain Dolbeau works as an HPC Expert at the Center of Excellence in Parallel Computing of Bull, an Atos company. In this role, he works with pre-sales and support teams to help Atos customers fully leverage the computing power and energy savings brought by manycore technologies.

 

Romain has been working in HPC for some time. However, he says that "HPC has only become bigger and more relevant since I started in the field", and that "even with the same job description, the ever-changing landscape of HPC is what keeps it interesting for me." 

 

Read Romain's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Elodie Ardoin

Elodie Ardoin: High Performance Networks Architect at CEA, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (France)

Elodie Ardoin joined the seismic research division of CEA, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, in 2002, where she initially had a contract to work abroad for 2 years at a Bolivian seismic laboratory.  In 2009, she moved to the HPC division to work on high-performance networks, participating in storage network design and operations for the CRRT and TGCC supercomputing infrastructures.

 

Elodie summarises the exciting aspect of working in HPC as: "Innovation: HPC and simulation play a significant role in innovation for society (eg research in genetics, geophysics, health and energy, related big data processing, etc). The same is true of systems architecture.  It is innovation at a high pace, and a great place to learn." 

 

Read Elodie's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Marta Garcia

Marta Garcia: PhD Student at Barcelona Supercomputing Center (Spain)

Marta Garcia Gasulla is a PhD student at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), working in the distributed computing group. Her research is focused on improving the performance of HPC applications without modifying them. She enjoys the challenges of the constantly-evolving world of HPC and the idea that it contributes to advances in science.

 

For Marta, one of the most satisfying things about working in HPC is being able to contribute to finding solutions to real-world problems: "I love when we work together with researchers from other areas and we help to solve real problems. Working in HPC means you get to help a diversity of areas, from forecasting the air quality to simulating and understanding how the human heart works. From finding new drugs to detecting unknown stars." 

 

Read Marta's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Rosa Badia

Rosa M. Badia: Research Manager at Barcelona Supercomputing Center (Spain)

Rosa M. Badia is a researcher and research manager at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), working in the Workflows and Distributed Computing research group and coordinating the Big Data activities. Her research is focused on programming models for complex platforms. Outside the office, she enjoys sports and spending time with friends.

 

Rosa says: "what excites me most is working with end-users: we help scientists in fields such as life sciences, astronomy, earth science, etc. to optimize the performance of their applications through our programming models and computer infrastructure at BSC. The fact that my work helps the advance of science and research is very gratifying." 

 

Read Rosa's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Felip Moll Marques

Felip Moll Marquès: System Administrator at Barcelona Supercomputing Center (Spain)

Felip Moll Marquès is a System Administrator at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center where he helps to ensure Spain's biggest supercomputer is always available for its users. He represents BSC in the EU project PRACE. His work takes him to many European HPC centres. Outside of work, he enjoys sailing and other sports and spending time by the sea.

 

For Felip, "Research is one of the most motivating things. For me it has an ethical component: the aim to create progress for society and the environment is really satisfying." 

 

Read Felip's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Jure Jerman

Jure Jerman: Meteorologist at the Slovenian Environmental Agency (Slovenia)

Jure Jerman is a meteorologist at the Slovenian Environmental Agency (ARSO), and was one of the first to build a Linux cluster for operational weather forecasting. While the development of commercial HPC solutions means he no longer has to tinker with the system as much, he still finds working with HPC exciting. Outside the office, he enjoys applying his meteorology knowledge to sailing.

 

Jure says that although we can consider "the pioneering stage" of developing HPC systems to be over, "fixing a problem with the HPC system can still lift one's mood." 

 

Read Jure's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Nix McDonnell

Nicola McDonnell: Consultancy & Solutions for Industry Activity Leader at ICHEC, the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (Ireland)

Nicola (Nix) McDonnell is the Consultancy & Solutions for Industry Activity Leader at the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC). Her work includes project management, project proposals coordination, and EC H2020 activities. Nix started as a chemist, briefly worked in marketing, and then began a love affair with computer science. Now, as a qualified Project Manager, she uses her talents and interests to propel her career in HPC.

 

Nix says that there are plenty of challenges working in HPC - but that they are all good challenges: "It’s a very fast-paced, highly technical environment, and a competitive environment with little room for error. All of the people I work with are highly intelligent. These challenges enable me to push myself to new heights, which is something I value in my career." 

 

Read Nix's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Mehdi Amini

Mehdi Amini: Compiler Engineer at Apple (USA)

Mehdi Amini is a tech enthusiast who works for Apple, and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has a particular interest in parallel and heterogeneous programming, including GPUs, and holds two Master’s degrees and a PhD. A cross-disciplinary Master’s project, working with an astrophysicist, first sparked his interest in HPC.

 

Mehdi was drawn into the world of HPC when he found himself doing "cross-disciplinary collaboration with brilliant researchers"  in the course of his Master's thesis project, which involved working with astrophysicists on galactic simulations. 

 

Read Mehdi's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Update: since the publication of this case study, Mehdi has changed jobs and is now working on the autopilot software at Tesla.

Ondrej Vysocky

Ondřej Vysocký: Research Assistant & PhD student at IT4Innovations, the Czech National Supercomputing Center (Czech Republic)

Ondřej Vysocký is a Research Assistant at IT4Innovations, the Czech National Supercomputing Center. His Bachelor’s thesis project introduced him to the world of HPC, leading him on to do a Master’s degree. His interest was furthered by a two-month PRACE Summer of HPC placement at EPCC in Edinburgh. He is currently working on READEX, a European project for energy-efficient exascale computing, and is also studying for a PhD.

 

One of the aspects that Ondřej enjoys about working in HPC is the connection with other fields: "It is important to realise that most HPC projects involve people from different fields of research. Cooperation with experts in, for example, mathematics, physics or molecular dynamics always brings new challenges." 

 

Read Ondřej's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Massi Alvioli

Massimiliano Alvioli: Landslide modelling researcher at the Italian National Research Council, Research Institute for Geo-Hydrological Protection (Italy)

Massimiliano (Massi) Alvioli graduated in physics and works at the Italian National Research Council, Research Institute for Geo-Hydrological Protection. He mainly deals with numerical modelling of landslides on a large scale. He likes to apply parallel and distributed computing techniques borrowed from his physics background and the HPC world to the geosciences domain, trying to bring HPC awareness into this potentially enormous user base.

 

Massi finds the multidisciplinary nature of the HPC world stimulating, saying: "In my experience, the computing community is so diverse that you hardly ever leave an HPC meeting without having learnt something new, even from seemingly different fields." 

 

Read Massi's story online [html] or downlad the pdf version.

Luna Backes

Luna Backes Drault: Graduate Student of Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University (USA)

Luna Backes Drault, a Graduate Student of Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, has always had an international outlook – while studying for her first degree in Spain, she undertook internships in Slovenia and the UK. In her spare time she loves cooking for friends and listening to music, and also used to compete in ballroom dancing.

 

Luna says: "One of my passions is computer architecture. I like to think that by improving the processor’s architecture and making it faster and more efficient, I am contributing my grain of sand towards solving current social challenges while other scientists develop the algorithms." 

 

Read Luna's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Claudia Rosas

Claudia Rosas Mendoza: Performance Analyst at Barcelona Supercomputing Center (Spain)

Claudia Rosas Mendoza is a Performance Analyst at Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC). Her main research focuses on the prediction and understanding of the behaviour of parallel code. As she says, “Eight years ago, I did not know what HPC was, but after seeing just a glimpse of its potential, I felt like a kid in a candy store”. Having followed her interest in computers from a young age, she now has a dream job working with a supercomputer, and has an interesting story to share.

 

Claudia says: "With my story, I not only want to encourage young people, especially girls, to be curious about opportunities outside the typical careers, but to highlight that variety is the spice of life. When working in HPC, you will not only program a solution for a relevant problem in a certain field, but also work with outstanding professionals from areas as biology, physics, mechanics, materials etc." 

 

Read Claudia's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Sunita Chandrasekaran

Sunita Chandrasekaran: Assistant Professor, Department of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Delaware (USA)

Sunita Chandrasekaran obtained a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in her home country of India, and then got her Ph.D. from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.  She is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Delaware (USA), where she is also affiliated with the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Some of the projects with which she is currently involved are contributing to scientific advances such as the faster diagnosis of certain illnesses, to allow treatment to be started earlier, and making the area surrounding nuclear reactors safer for the engineers who work with them.

 

Sunita says: "My vision is to make the world a better place to live in, by creating computational solutions to problems in biology and other sciences. I envision my tools and software aiding biologists and physicists to make faster progress in their scientific research, and thus save lives."

 

Read Sunita's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Marta Cudova

Marta Čudová: PhD student in the Faculty of Information Technology at Brno University of Technology (Czech Republic)

Marta Čudová is a Ph.D. student in the Faculty of Information Technology at Brno University of Technology (FIT BUT) in the Czech Republic. Working in the Supercomputing Technlologies Research Group, her research focuses on cluster management systems and multiphysics model coupling. Marta took part in the PRACE Summer of HPC 2016, and was the winner of the HPC Ambassador Award for that year's programme. When not in front of a computer, she loves travelling, music, dancing, and taking part in various sports, including badminton, skiing, and bouldering.

 

In Marta's view, "HPC represents a bridge connecting two islands – an island of IT specialists, and the island of scientists. These two islands themselves are very strong, however, together they can be unbeatable".

 

Read Marta's story online [html] or download the pdf version.

Still not sure whether you are the right sort of person to work in HPC? The HPC community is a diverse workforce and your background should not be a barrier.  We recommend that you look at the following sites:

  • Diversity in HPC: The Diversity in HPC project aims to improve the participation of under-represented groups In the HPC and supercomputing community.  In particular, the Faces of HPC feature highlights the variety of people who have worked in HPC and its precursors.
  • Women in HPC: The Women in HPC network was created with the vision to encourage women to participate in the HPC community by providing fellowship, education, and support to women and the organizations that employ them.
  • EPCC MSc in HPC Alumni Profiles: Some of the alumni of the EPCC MSc in HPC tell us what they had been doing before the MSc, their reasons for choosing to take the course, and what they are doing now.

EXDCI strongly supports the Women in HPC network and all initiatives to improve the participation of women in all computing-related studies and work generally. If you are a girl who is considering a career in this area, we would encourage you to watch the "Girls in Tech" video from the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, in which female Informatics students share their passion for computing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Cd_BquE95Q&feature=youtu.be