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Pioneering Computational Science and Software Ecosystems

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Lois Curfman McInnes is a trailblazer in the world of computational science. Based at Argonne National Laboratory, her work revolves around creating scalable numerical libraries and fostering community collaboration for sustainable software ecosystems. Her expertise lies in solving PDE-based applications and optimization problems using the PETSc/TAO library.

Curfman McInnes holds key positions, serving as the Deputy Director for the Software Technology focus area of the DOE Exascale Computing Project and co-leading the IDEAS scientific software productivity project. This project has birthed initiatives like the Better Scientific Software (BSSw) site, BSSw Fellowship Program, and the Extreme-scale Scientific Software Development Kit (xSDK).

With a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Virginia, Curfman McInnes is a SIAM Fellow (2017) and has received numerous honors, including the SIAM/ACM Prize in Computational Science and Engineering (2015). She was also recognized with the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award (2011) and the R&D 100 Award (2009) for her work on PETSc.

Curfman McInnes’ significant contributions shine through in her featured publications in renowned journals such as Nature Computational Science, ACM Transactions, and SIAM Review. Her pioneering research in optimizing parallelism in numerical software libraries has made a lasting impact.

On Wednesday, November 15, SC23 attendees had the privilege of attending her invited speaker presentation, “Broadening Participation in HPC: Together We Can Change the World.” During this session, she provided a comprehensive overview of workforce initiatives across the HPC community, highlighting opportunities for engagement. McInnes delved into the vital role played by DOE lab staff involved in the ECP Broadening Participation Initiative, as they are addressing DOE’s workforce challenges through a lens that acknowledges the unique needs and culture of high-performance computing.

Progress Though Team-Based Science

Curfman McInnes is a computational science pioneer whose work and leadership have left an indomitable mark on the field. In this I Am HPC profile Lois shares her HPC journey with us.

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Lois Curfman McInnes

Senior Computational Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory

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

Curfman McInnes: During my time as a grad student (in applied math at the University of Virginia), I spent a summer working at Argonne National Lab. This exposure to high-performance computational science and the multidisciplinary culture of DOE labs hooked me; I returned to Argonne as a postdoc … and I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to work in such an exciting field with such terrific colleagues throughout the HPC community.

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

Curfman McInnes: All of my work in HPC has been as part of exciting team-based collaborations. So, I would say that my biggest contribution has been, over time, being a member of a variety of terrific teams. Because “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” in team-based science, we are making strong progress in advancing scalable algorithms, productive and sustainable scientific software ecosystems, and diverse collaborations needed to tackle next-generation challenges in high-performance computational science.

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

Curfman McInnes: As the impact of high-performance computational science has grown tremendously, driving advances throughout science and society, so has the complexity and scope of HPC applications and software technologies. This shift demands intentional work toward software ecosystem approaches for HPC, explicitly considering relationships among diverse HPC contributions. I consider this topic – software ecosystem approaches for HPC – to be an “in-progress” breakthrough, not yet fully realized but with important progress underway by various groups throughout the international HPC community. One example is work in DOE’s Exascale Computing Project, where a robust scientific software ecosystem is supporting a diverse set of applications for scientific discovery.

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

Curfman McInnes: The combined expertise of diverse teams is essential for pursuing new frontiers in HPC. We need to expand partnerships across the HPC community to address the full life cycle of the HPC workforce, including broadening participation of underrepresented groups.

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