Last week, a notification on my phone said SC20 was ready for submissions, and it reminded me of my awesome experience as a SCinet student volunteer at SC19. For those who aren’t familiar with SC (aka the Supercomputing Conference), it is supermassive, and super cool, and people present work that sounds almost supernatural.
Volunteering for SCinet
At SC, SCinet is a team of volunteers that provide powerful network infrastructure for attendees and exhibitors to display HPC research. It has about 16 sub-teams that manage everything from power to logistics. All the volunteers arrived a week or two ahead of the conference, and for the first few days, we all worked towards setting up fiber optic cables on the exhibit floor. These cables are later used by exhibitors to connect their equipment and demonstrate high-performance applications. A map detailing the network layout with instructions on different types of fibers and their connections to the NOC (Network Operations Center) was provided and we laid out a total of 66 miles of fiber. You have to carefully tape them down to the floor every half meter (goodbye knees) and all of this is happening in the middle of people laying carpets, fixing lighting, and moving heavy crates. So, no matter how hard you try, there will always be a forklift that will run over your fibers. It becomes more stressful when you are told how delicate and expensive these fibers are. In fact, the total infrastructure utilized by SCinet (hardware, software, services) adds up to about $80 million!
After the fiber installation, I was assigned to the SCinet communications team, which develops content for the conference program guides and press releases, and collects online content during the conference. I worked on interactive kiosks and scheduling live interviews. The team was very organized, creative, and supportive. Truly, the entire team of SCinet is very friendly, and it’s the most diverse team I’ve ever been on, however I never felt the language/culture barrier. We all shared the same excitement when we hit a record-shattering bandwidth of 4.22 TBps (and the same anger when the fibers were run over)!
There are many perks to being a SCinet student volunteer! A dedicated SCinet booth on the exhibit floor, lovely dinners, and a suite for the team to hang out after a busy day with games and drinks.
Highlights From Sushma’s Week
My highlight of the week has to be meeting Jensen Huang! I should have asked for a job, but I was so starstruck, I barely squeaked out “Nvidia is awesome!” I met popular HPC figures whom I follow on Twitter, professors I admire, and some powerful women in HPC. Listening to their talks and reading research posters encouraged me to work towards advancing scientific research and build systems that redefine computing standards. I attended sessions on parallel programming, runtime environments, and simulation and optimization of large-scale parallel applications, which all helped me look at computing problems from a new perspective. There were also programs designed especially for students including resume building, elevator pitches, a Job Fair, the Student Cluster Competition, and more. At the time I was working for an open-source company with all remote employees from different parts of the world. It was unreal to finally meet people I have been having Zoom calls with every week!
Sushma’s Advice for Students
To sum up, being a SCinet volunteer requires you to be energetic, proactive, precise, and a multitasker. I had to run errands and cover a co-located event as a photographer one day. The entire team is on the go till the teardown, when everything that has been installed throughout the week is taken down in less than two hours. Everything I did as a SCinet student volunteer was productive and enjoyable. Having such an opportunity is highly competitive, but it was worth applying three times! My suggestion to future volunteers is to prioritize their interests carefully so they don’t miss their target sessions during the conference, as so many run in parallel. Also socialize and network because you will learn something new every time you talk to a student, professor, or researcher at SC. By the end of the conference, I realized that all I ever knew about HPC was only the tip of the iceberg.
Aspirations and Thank You
Thanks to SC and SIGHPC for introducing me to HPC. I cannot wait to start my career in this direction. Special thanks to all the sponsors without whom a lot of us students would not have received the financial help required to attend the conference. I hope I’ll eventually have a PhD and will have an opportunity to deliver a keynote presentation at SC someday!
Sushma Yellapragada is a recent university graduate with a Bachelors in Computer Science Engineering from Northcap University in New Delhi, India. While in school, she interned with both large and small companies as a data analyst, cyber risk analyst, and web developer, but since her participation in the SC, starting with SC17, she has become interested in studying high performance computing and solving scientific problems. She enjoys open-source projects and has contributed to Singularity, which is a container platform for HPC environments.
In the future, she wants to get involved in HPC research and development, and support the deployment of intensive workloads. She hopes the computer science community can work together to make computing resources equally accessible to all, and promote interdisciplinary research. Outside of work, she likes music, traveling and learning new languages.
SC20 Students@SC Communications Liaison (Easy English 4 All)
Christine Baissac-Hayden created Easy English 4 All, which provides multilingual communication tools for clients from diverse backgrounds in the renewable energy, medical, defense, marine science, and film industries. Easy English 4 All provides English as a Second Language (ESL), French, Spanish and Japanese tutoring from certified native-speaking teachers and organizes international student exchanges with personalized objectives and goals.