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Insights From an HPC Influencer – Dan Reed

Daniel (Dan) Reed, Presidential Professor of Computational Science and professor of computer science and electrical/computer engineering at the University of Utah, has spent his career shaping the direction of computing and technology research from perspectives in academia, industry, and government. 

Along with his prior role as Utah’s provost, Reed’s noteworthy academic resume includes serving as founding director of the Renaissance Computing Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; head of the computer science department and director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and professor of computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and medicine at the University of Iowa, where he also was vice president for research and economic development. Previously, Reed was Microsoft’s corporate vice president for technology policy and extreme computing, advancing technology innovations and overseeing the company’s policy engagement with governments and partners. Today, he serves as chair of the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board, the policymaking body that acts as an independent advisor on science and engineering activities to Congress and the president. He has particular interest in policies concerning HPC, big data, and edge networks.

Solving Important Problems

To say Reed has influence in the field of HPC may be an understatement — he readily represents the notion behind “I AM HPC.” Still, this multi-hyphenate scientist-professor-policymaker took time to share his insights about the current state of computing, how the field is changing, and why people should thoughtfully consider their place in the expanding HPC ecosystem.

Daniel Reed

Presidential Professor and Professor of CS & ECE at University of Utah

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

Daniel: Bringing physics equations to life (as a high school student) in Fortran on an IBM 360.

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

Daniel: Performance analysis techniques for parallel systems; bringing Linux clusters and the TeraGrid to production; cloud computing innovations; and science and engineering policy. 

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

Daniel: How much the web, clouds, and mobile devices disrupted the computing ecosystem. Deep learning is about to do that again.

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

Daniel: Less fixation on FLOPS and machine sizes and more focus on solving important problems — scientific, engineering, and societal.

Can you share any “words of wisdom” for those navigating the state of HPC today?

Daniel: HPC is at a critical inflection point. We have to reinvent ourselves, embrace new technologies and approaches, and build new kinds of interdisciplinary partnerships.

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