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Fostering Inclusive and Sustainable HPC Cyberinfrastruture

For her distinct take on “I AM HPC”, Alana Romanella, cyberinfrastructure community organizer from University of Colorado Boulder, shares her views on effectively supporting outreach and education programs for advanced cyberinfrastructure ecosystems.

Building Collaborative Cultures

Q: What single event most made you realize you wanted a career in HPC/computing?

Alana: I have always felt a calling to make a positive impact in society and be a part of a larger purpose. This led me to pursue studies in politics and eventually work in government. However, fate intervened, and I found myself on a completely different path, venturing into the world of HPC and computing. At first, I felt uncertain and unsure of my place, but I was supported by the nurturing and supportive community of HPC researchers and cyberinfrastructure professionals. I quickly became involved in various roles, such as building and supporting a booth for SC and serving on committees for both SC and PEARC [Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing]. These experiences allowed me to find my place in HPC and realize the immense potential for making a difference in this field. 

Q: What do you consider your biggest contribution to the HPC/computing community?

Alana: Community building and outreach! With my background in governance, policy, and pedagogy, I have been fortunate to blend my expertise to help prepare the next generation of students and researchers to leverage the power of advanced computing technologies. Through my Co-Chairing of the PEARC23 conference, serving as a Campus Champion, and a Cyberinfrastructure Community Organizer for the NSF ACCESS Support team [National Science Foundation Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Coordination Ecosystem: Services & Support], I have the unique position and community networks to build strong, inclusive, and sustainable cyberinfrastructure. I have also loved every minute of my work with various student programs over the last decade and seeing their success brings me immense joy.

Alana Romanella

Cyberinfrastructure Community Organizer

Q: In the past 35 years, what is the most significant overlooked breakthrough that has impacted the field in your eyes?

Alana: The bridge between high-performance computing and non-STEM users often goes unnoticed, despite the fact that non-traditional users have important and pressing questions that require solutions. However, they may feel lost in how to connect the dots to utilize HPC resources effectively. Thankfully, experts from various fields, including machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computational experts, have come together to develop products like ChatGPT. This product has proven successful in making Natural Language Understanding (AI) accessible to a broad audience. By breaking down barriers and providing access to HPC resources in a user-friendly way, ChatGPT represents a vital step in bridging the gap between HPC and non-STEM users.

Q: What would you like to see change about, within, or among the HPC/computing community?

Alana: I am passionate about the need to foster a strong education-to-career pipeline that is inclusive of individuals from diverse backgrounds and non-traditional disciplines. In order to achieve this, I believe that we must develop stronger partnerships with high schools and community colleges, invest in easily accessible and free training and resources, and support existing and new research that may fall outside the traditional scope of HPC. It is also important to promote openness and collaboration within the HPC community, especially in terms of data sharing. By building a more inclusive and collaborative culture, we can create opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds to contribute to the field and pursue fulfilling careers in HPC.

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