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PEARC17 Report from SGCI Staff and Students

By Nayiri Mullinix

PEARC17, which took place July 9–13, 2017 in New Orleans, was the first event transitioning from the XSEDE conference to the broader Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing (PEARC) conference. Several SGCI staff members were in attendance, and SGCI was a proud sponsor to several student participants.

SGCI’s Nancy Wilkins-Diehr, who is on both the program committee and steering committee for PEARC, attended numerous events at the conference and even managed to find time to lead a group run through the French Quarter, the oldest section of New Orleans. Nancy attended science gateway tutorials, gave a lightning talk about SGCI at the collocated Advanced Computing on Campuses (ARCC) event, presented a poster (along with several others from the SGCI team), spoke with Campus Champions about gateways, ran a Birds of a Feather session on gateway job submission, and spoke about SGCI at a two-day cybersecurity workshop hosted by the Center for Trustworthy Scientific Cyberinfrastructure (CTSC), an SGCI partner.

Nancy had this to say about her experience at PEARC17:

The PEARC17 conference organizers reached out broadly for participation — to other organizations involved in high-end computing, campus research computing centers, software projects, networking projects, and, of course, the international community. New Orleans is a fabulous city and the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, with almost 1200 rooms, had plenty of space for attendees to interact.

SGCI’s Marlon Pierce also attended and presented at the conference:

The highlights for me were the five well-attended gateway tutorials and the numerous gateway and gateway technologies presentations in the Software and Data track. The vitality of our community is clear.  Beyond gateways, I’m always impressed by the enthusiasm and community spirit fostered by the XSEDE Campus Champions program. Finally, it was my privilege to bring three students from my group to the conference, all of whom loved the experience.

Maytal Dahan, SGCI staff member who served as Technology Program Chair for PEARC17, felt that the gateway community was well served by the conference program offerings:

Getting to serve as Technology Program Chair at the inaugural Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing (PEARC) conference was an honor. It was exciting to get a behind the scenes perspective on how a conference comes together — from coordinating track chairs, organizing events, gathering technical content, and more — to make it an exciting and valuable event for all of our attendees.

"As we complete year one of the Institute,
I continually get more and more excited
by things to come and how we can make
an impact on the science gateway community."

— Maytal Dahan

From an SGCI standpoint, I have a passion for the success of science gateways so it was great to see it represented throughout the entire program in the form of posters, tutorials, technical papers, and BOFs. Both the keynote speakers and invited talks — Paula Stephen on How Economics Shapes Science, Paul Morin on Mapping the Poles with PetaScale, Vanessa Sochat on Reproducibility and Containers, and Stephen Wolff on Networking for Research — were perfect for the gateway audience.

Live music at the breakfast and reception, lightning slides to highlight the talks for the day, and delicious local food made the conference a fun and memorable event. I especially enjoyed taking a break from my track chair duties to participate in the poster session alongside other SGCI staff to represent our SGCI poster. It was great to talk to students, current clients, and future potential clients about the exciting things the Institute brings to the community. As we complete year one of the Institute, I continually get more and more excited by things to come and how we can make an impact on the science gateway community.

Sandra Gesing, SGCI staff member, had this to say:

I was thrilled to be the chair of the Software & Data Track and to contribute to the first PEARC conference after its re-shaping from the preceding XSEDE conference series. Already during the review process of the papers, it was clear that we would have a large number of strong science gateway presentations. So it was not surprising that one of the science gateway papers was a candidate for the best paper of the Software & Data Track and the voting was tight resulting in giving the award to “Data Access for LIGO on the OSG”.  The keynote by Stephen Wolff, a pioneer in the Internet Hall of Fame, was outstanding and envisioning network instances than can be stood up and torn down under end-user control accommodating the needs of their applications and data.  I enjoyed many lively discussions in the sessions and the breaks and I got meetings lined up on building on-campus development groups. A further highlight for me was to mentor one of the students, Gourav Shenoy, because his enthusiasm reflected the whole atmosphere at the conference. Not only was the conference lively, but so was New Orleans as a venue. The “Big Easy” is a great place for going out and continuing networking with colleagues and collaborators while listening to live music (my favorite: Frenchmen Street).

SGCI-sponsored students had great things to say about PEARC17, too.

Edsel Norwood II, a student at College of the Albemarle, felt that the student volunteer and mentor programs were a great success:

The PEARC17 conference was a great experience for me. The student volunteer program was a great way to show the students what goes on behind the scenes. The student mentor program was good because it helped give students an idea of what to expect while working in the computer science industry.

Kartavis Phillips, who is studying at Mississippi Valley State University, also had great things to say about the mentor program:

As part of the PEARC17 conference, every student is paired up with a mentor. It is a great way for the students to make a connection with a person who can impact their lives forever. My mentor was Dr. Olabisi Ojo. He has a doctorate degree in Biology. He is currently a professor of Biology at San Diego State University. While we were having dinner, Dr. Ojo left me with very inspirational words. We were discussing the path that led us to where we are now in life. Dr. Ojo’s advice was to never limit my mind and to always try to learn more. He opened my eyes to look into more things that involve computer science. He is someone that I am sure I will keep in touch with over the years.

Finally, Ke’Darius Whitley, a student at Winston-Salem State University, felt that he left PEARC17 with new social and professional connections:

The conference provided me with opportunities to connect and socialize with a diverse group of students from all over the world, as well as with different professors, advisors, business owners, etc.

Mark your calendars! PEARC18 will take place July 22 - 27, 2018, in Pittsburgh, PA.