For William Killian, being a Student Volunteer at the SC conference means opening himself up to new opportunities to learn, meet many of the leading lights of the high performance computing community, and to hone his own research as he works toward his Ph.D. at the University of Delaware.
His first year as a volunteer was at SC11 and then he returned for SC12, both times providing general support for the conference. He also found time to attend a number of talks, meet with people and go to the student job fair. “I got my internship with Intel in 2013 because I went to SC,” he said.
And he kept coming back, but at SC13, SC14 and SC15, he was a Student Volunteer with SCinet, the team that assembles the high performance network to support the conference each year. “You arrive a week before the conference starts and layout all the floor fiber,” Killian said. “You work 10-12 hour days and it’s very labor-intensive, but it’s wonderful. You’re surrounded by experts who know so many things.”
With SCinet, his responsibilities have changed over time, serving first as a member of the measurement team, but then joining the fiber team and being in charge of one of the DNOCs, the distributed network operation centers installed around the exhibition. “That was really cool – I was given this unit and it was my responsibility to make sure it’s running and act as a liaison between the booths and SCinet if problems came up.”
He also wrote a code to help determine which DNOC was involved when a booth’s connection was dropped to make things easier for future teams.
At SC15, Killian presented his research in graph-based program characterization as a student research poster and he’s planning to apply for the Doctoral Showcase at SC16.
“If I hadn’t first attended SC as a Student Volunteer, I wouldn’t be aware of these opportunities,” Killian said. “It’s a huge benefit.”
His research at the University of Delaware is aimed at developing graph-based prediction models to determine how various optimizations will improve the performance of applications on different computer architectures. The goal is to take much of the guesswork out of deciding which optimizations to use.
Killian said he wants to be part of the Doctoral Showcase to help ensure that the science he is doing is valid and accurate, “and if I can’t check that off, then I need to improve my research,” said Killian, whose target graduation date is May 2017. “At the Doctoral Showcase, I know I’ll subject my work to curious minds who will provide additional perspective. I’m still learning, but I’m also building my expertise.”
For students pondering whether to apply as a Student Volunteer, Killian advises “You have to apply, you have to put yourself out there. This is a fundamental opportunity to attend THE world-class conference on high performance computing and meet brilliant people, learn about the latest and greatest research and network with other people. If you’re not sure you want to apply, just look at the opportunities you’ll have when you get there.”