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Alicia Klinvex Is Ready to Change the HPC Landscape

alicia klinvex

For Alicia Klinvex, currently a Principal Scientist at the Department of Energy’s Naval Nuclear Laboratory, which supports the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, the call that initiated her personal computing journey started with a question: Why is it far-fetched for a woman to be hacker? From there, curiosity turned into a personal challenge: Why should computing belong to only a select few? Since then, Klinvex has expanded her love of computers and math by earning a doctorate in computer science from Purdue University and built a rewarding programming career. Along the way, she also has combined her dedication to children, science and technology, and education with a commitment to sharing the computing landscape by making it more accessible and diverse. A welcoming nudge toward HPC could steer both tech-savvy and tech-curious students into becoming the next-generation computing workforce—one Klinvex expects will look wholly different as outdated expectations about who “belongs” in computing dissolve.

You Belong Here

For Klinvex, the true test of I AM HPC will be when there are opportunities available throughout all computing communities for anyone with interest regardless of race, gender, disability status, or sexual orientation.

Alicia Klinvex

Naval Nuclear Laboratory, Department of Energy

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

Klinvex: When I was in high school, one of my teachers made a comment about the movie The Net. He didn’t think Sandra Bullock looked like a hacker. I didn’t like the idea that certain people look like they should work with computers and certain people don’t, and I wondered whether I was in the category of people who don’t. I always loved computers and all the math you could do with them, and I thought it was unfair that anything objective and scientific belonged to a small group of people who refused to share. I guess you could say that I became a programmer because I wanted programmers to look like me.

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

Klinvex: I wrote an automatic conference scheduler! It’s new, so I don’t know what the impact will be yet, but I hope that it stops very smart people from manually scheduling conferences. For reference, we used it to schedule SIAM CSE23, a conference with roughly 400 minisymposia, in a few hours. Beyond reducing the amount of time accomplished scientists spend moving Post-it notes around on a whiteboard, I hope it is used to reduce the amount of unconscious bias in scheduling. With a few modifications, we were also able to use the code for the Sustainable Research Pathways to connect students in underrepresented groups with lab scientists based on their research interests.

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

Klinvex: Well, I’m 37, so it’s tough to say. I think the most significant change that’s occurred during my life so far is the ubiquitousness of high-speed Internet and low-cost computing devices. Children are now growing up with access to smartphones and tablets, frequently through their schools. These children have much greater access to information than we did, and I hope that decreases the barrier to entry in our field. I’m curious to see whether this development changes the demographics of the tech space as these children grow up and enter the workforce.

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

Klinvex: I would like to see the community become more inclusive. I’ve been the target of behavior that makes women feel unwelcome in computing, and I hope the community makes it clear that this behavior will not be tolerated by the time my nieces are old enough to attend their first computing conference. It’s not enough to simply not be sexist or not be racist or not be homophobic on an individual level. We have to be anti-sexist, anti-racist, and anti-homophobic. When we see bad behavior, we need to counter it, and we need to take action to welcome the people we have traditionally left out.

Learn More:

A Genetic Scheduling Code for SIAM CSE23, (Date accessed: June 5, 2023)

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