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The Real ‘Deel’: Ewa Deelman Sees the Future of High Performance Computing

Ewa Deelman is a Research Professor, Principal Scientist, and Research Director of Scientific Computation Technologies at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI). There, she pursues solutions for supporting complex scientific applications on a variety of distributed computational environments, including clusters, grids, and clouds. Among her many achievements, Deelman has been the longtime leader overseeing design and development of the Pegasus software system used for diverse scientific research, including astronomy, physics, climate, and biology (and more). She also leads CI Compass, a National Science Foundation Cyberinfrastructure Center of Excellence. This year, Deelman was honored as an ISI Fellow, the highest scientific engineering rank at the Institute. Deelman is a Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and has been a contributor and volunteer for many SC Conference events and activities.

An HPC Community Leader

As an innovator and a proponent of HPC, Deelman has sound advice for those seeking their future in computing (Hint: artificial intelligence may not be the catch-all problem solver). Deelman also shares her team’s best work and the first time she realized “I AM HPC”… while doing math!

Ewa Deelman

Research Director, Science Automation Technologies Division at Information Sciences Institute

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

Ewa: When I took a discrete mathematics course in college, I found it much easier to program the homework solutions than use pen, paper, and a calculator. I made fewer mistakes.

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

Ewa: My team and I conceptualized and developed the Pegasus workflow management system used in production by various scientific domains. For example, in 2016, LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) used Pegasus to analyze the data captured by their detectors and confirmed the first-ever direct detection of a gravitational wave. 

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

Ewa: It is hard to pinpoint one particular breakthrough. HPC is a fascinating field, where breakthroughs lead to increased, more sophisticated capabilities. These, in turn, directly impact the scale and type of science and engineering problems we can solve.

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

Ewa: I would like to see more students pursuing research in HPC and, more generally, computer systems. Today, most students study and look for careers in AI. However, one needs robust, performant, and energy-efficient systems to sustain the needs of AI and other large-scale, data-intensive applications.

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

Ewa: We have made tremendous progress in workflow management systems. Today, we can execute complex workflows across the computing continuum—from the edge to the cloud to high-throughput and high-performance systems. Yet, we have many new, exciting challenges ahead. Doing science is still not as easy as interacting with an app or ChatGPT.

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