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Former Student Volunteer and Student Cluster Chair Shares Her SC Story


Rebecca Hartman-Baker, currently the User Engagement Group Lead at NERSC, the HPC National User Facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has an informed perspective on the Students@SC program. Not only did she previously participate as a student at SC02 in Baltimore and later coach two teams to the Student Cluster Competition (SC13 and SC14), she ultimately worked her way up to chairing the SC19 Student Cluster Competition.

An Informed Perspective

Considering this unique viewpoint and long-term connection to the program (and SC in general), we sat down with Rebecca to discuss her time with the Students@SC progrm and how the relationships she has fostered through the SC Conference have helped in her career.

Rebecca Hartman-Baker

User Engagement Group Lead, NERSC

Q: Tell us a little about how you got into the Students@SC program. Where did you first hear about it? Why did it sound interesting?

RHB: I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for graduate school. I had a research assistantship, helping install and maintain computational chemistry codes on the NCSA supercomputers. On my first day, my boss’s boss (Bruce Loftis) introduced himself and then said, “You know, you want to be a student volunteer at this conference called SC.” And, because I was a savvy employee, even though I had never heard of it, I agreed with Bruce that I wanted to be a student volunteer at SC!

Q: Can you tell us about your first impressions when you started with Students@SC? Were you nervous? What was it like getting started?

RHB: My volunteer shift started several days before the conference began. I worked in the committee office, and so I interacted with a lot of the committee. I was definitely nervous at first, but everyone was so nice to me. They asked me about my studies and about what I was thinking of doing in my career. They offered me career advice and made me feel like I could be one of them someday.

Q: Do you believe the program adequately prepared you and gave you the resources you needed to succeed? Did you have access to mentors or experienced people that could assist you? If so, can you tell us about these more experienced people that helped you?

RHB: It was definitely a great opportunity to succeed. In my student program class, there were several people who have gone on to have great careers in HPC. And, because I worked a lot with the committee, a few years later when I was new in my career, they were happy to have me join the committee, where I was the signage co-chair for SC08 (with Loftis) and signage chair for SC09. I actually still have a lot of friends on the SC committee—Christine Cuicchi (SC20 General Chair), for example, was one of those kind people with whom I interacted a lot.

Q: Do you have any favorite stories that you’d like to share? Anything that highlights what is so great about Students@SC?

RHB: I don’t have any particular stories from my time as a student at SC, but I’ve remained student program-adjacent in my SC volunteer activities over the years. It seems to me that SC has been a real innovator in the student inclusion space over the years. Other conferences are copying the things SC has been doing for years. I was the coach for the first-ever Australian Student Cluster Competition team at SC13 (and the team at SC14). I loved how many more opportunities there were for my students 10 years after I went through. And, there are even more opportunities nowthe guided interest groups, HPC Immersion, Mentor–Protégéthese are all innovations that have become mainstays of the student experience and can’t be found at any other conference.

Q: What would you say to someone considering joining the Students@SC program? What would you tell them about the overall experience? And, what do you wish you had known that you’d like new students to know?

RHB: I would encourage them to reach out and give it a try, even if they don’t think they are qualified. Part of the point of being a student is learning new things. Why would you need to be an expert to go to a conference and learn new things?! For me, attending SC as a student volunteer was a huge confidence booster and helped me feel like I belong in this field. I would want them to understand that it’s an opportunity to learn a lot, make good friends, and develop a professional network over the course of a week.

Learn More & Apply

Energize your future. Applications for Student Volunteers, Student Cluster Competition, and HPC Immersion are now open!

If you have questions about the Students@SC program, please contact the program committee.

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