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Turing Award Winner On His Pioneering Algorithms



Jack Dongarra’s dream job rising up was to show science at a public highschool in Chicago.

“I used to be fairly good in math and science, however I wasn’t a very good pupil,” Dongarra says, laughing.

After he graduated highschool, there was just one college he wished to attend: Chicago State. That’s as a result of, he says, it was identified for “churning out lecturers.” Chicago State accepted his utility, and he determined to main in arithmetic.


His physics professor instructed that Dongarra apply for an internship on the Argonne Nationwide Laboratory, in Lemont, In poor health., a close-by U.S. Division of Power science and engineering analysis heart. For 16 weeks he labored with a gaggle of researchers designing and creating EISPACK, a package deal of Fortran routines that compute the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of matrices—calculations frequent in scientific computing.

Dongarra acknowledges he didn’t have a background in or data of eigenvalues and eigenvectors—or of linear algebra—however he liked what he was doing. The expertise at Argonne, he says, was transformative. He had discovered his ardour.

“I assumed it was a cool factor to do,” he says, “so I saved pursuing it.”

About Jack Dongarra

Employer: College of Tennessee, Knoxville

Title: Professor emeritus, pc science

Member grade: Life Fellow

Alma mater: Chicago State College

The IEEE Life Fellow has since made pioneering contributions to numerical algorithms and libraries for linear algebra, which allowed software program to make good use of high-performance {hardware}. His open-source software program libraries are utilized in nearly each pc, from laptops to the world’s quickest supercomputers.

The libraries embrace primary linear algebra subprograms (BLAS), the linear-algebra package deal LAPACK, parallel digital machines (PVMs), robotically tuned linear algebra software program (ATLAS), and the high-performance conjugate gradient (HPCG) benchmark.

For his work, he was honored this yr with the 2021 A.M. Turing Award from the Affiliation for Computing Equipment. He obtained US $1 million as a part of the award, which is called the Nobel Prize of computing.

“After I take into consideration earlier Turing Award recipients, I’m humbled to consider what I’ve discovered from their books and papers,” Dongarra says. “Their programming languages, theorems, strategies, and requirements have helped me develop my algorithms.

“It’s an amazing honor to be this yr’s recipient. The award is a recognition by the computer-science group that the contributions we’re making in high-performance computing are necessary and have an effect within the broader computer-science group and science basically.”

Dongarra didn’t find yourself instructing science to highschool college students. As an alternative, he grew to become a professor {of electrical} engineering and pc science on the College of Tennessee in Knoxville, the place he taught for 33 years. The college lately named him professor emeritus.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

After graduating from Chicago State in 1972 with a bachelor’s diploma in arithmetic, Dongarra went on to pursue a grasp’s diploma in pc science on the Illinois Institute of Expertise, additionally in Chicago. Whereas there he labored at some point every week for Argonne with the identical group of researchers. After he obtained his diploma in 1973, the lab employed him full time as a researcher.

With encouragement from his colleagues to pursue a Ph.D., he left the lab to check utilized arithmetic on the College of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He honed his data of linear algebra there and commenced understanding algorithms and writing software program.

He returned to Argonne after getting his doctorate in 1980 and labored there as a senior scientist till 1989, when he obtained the chance to satisfy his dream of instructing.

He was provided a joint place instructing pc science on the College of Tennessee and conducting analysis on the close by Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory which, like Argonne, is a Division of Power facility.

“It was time for me to check out some new issues,” he says. “I used to be able to attempt my hand at academia.”

He says Oak Ridge operated in an identical technique to Argonne, and the tradition there was roughly the identical.

“The problem,” he says, “was turning into a college professor.”

“The Turing Award is a recognition by the pc science group that the contributions we’re making in high-performance computing are necessary, and have an effect within the broader pc science group and science basically.”

College tradition could be very totally different from that at a authorities laboratory, he says, however he rapidly fell into the rhythm of the educational setting.

Though he liked instructing, he says, he additionally was interested in the chance the college gave its instructors to work on know-how they’re keen about.

“You comply with your personal path and course of analysis,” he says. “I’ve prospered in that atmosphere. I work together with sensible individuals, I’ve the power to journey all over the world, and I’ve collaborations occurring with individuals in lots of international locations.

“Academia offers you this freedom to do issues and never be constrained by an organization’s drive or its motivation. Reasonably, I get to work on what motivates me. That’s why I’ve stayed in academia for thus a few years.”

Man with glasses and checkered shirt sitting in front of a Tektronix computer.
In 1980, Dongarra labored as a senior scientist at Argonne Nationwide Laboratory, in Lemont, In poor health.Jack Dongarra

Dongarra based the college’s Revolutionary Computing Laboratory, whose mission is to supply instruments for high-performance computing to the scientific group. He additionally directs the college’s Middle for Data Expertise Analysis.

He’s now a distinguished researcher at Oak Ridge, which he calls “an exquisite place, with its state-of-the-art tools and the most recent computer systems.”

Software program for Supercomputers

It was working in inventive environments that led Dongarra to give you what many describe as world-changing software program libraries, which have contributed to the expansion of high-performance computing in lots of areas together with synthetic intelligence, information analytics, genomics, and well being care.

“The libraries we designed have primary parts which can be wanted in lots of areas of science in order that customers can draw on these parts to assist them clear up their computational issues,” he says. “That software program is moveable and environment friendly. It has all of the attributes that we wish by way of being comprehensible and offering dependable outcomes.”

He’s presently engaged on making a software program library for the world’s quickest supercomputer, Frontier, which lately was put in on the Oak Ridge lab. It’s the first pc that may course of greater than 1 quintillion operations per second.

Pc-Science Recognition

Dongarra has been an IEEE member for greater than 30 years.

“I take pleasure in interacting with the group,” he says in explaining why he continues to belong. “Additionally I take pleasure in studying IEEE Spectrum and journals which can be related to my particular subject.”

He has served as an editor for a number of IEEE journals together with Proceedings of the IEEE, IEEE Pc Structure Letters, and IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Techniques.

Dongarra says he’s a giant promoter of IEEE conferences and workshops, particularly the Worldwide Convention for Excessive Efficiency Computing, Networking, Storage, and Evaluation, sponsored by ACM and the IEEE Pc Society, of which he’s a member. He’s been attending the occasion yearly since 1988. He has received many awards on the convention for his papers.

“That convention can be a homecoming for the high-performance computing group,” he says, “and IEEE performs a serious function.”

IEEE is happy with Dongarra’s contributions to computing and has honored him over time. In 2008 he obtained the primary IEEE Medal of Excellence in Scalable Computing. He additionally obtained the 2020 Pc Pioneer Award, the 2013 ACM/IEEE Ken Kennedy Award, the 2011 IEEE Charles Babbage Award and the 2003 Sidney Fernbach Award.

“I’m very joyful and proud to be a member of IEEE,” he says. “I feel it gives a priceless service to the group.”

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