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Yashema Mack

Graduate student experiences computing in the fast lane

Yashema Mack

Florida A&M student Yashema Mack analyzed data from the world’ fastest supercomputer, putting her computer skills to use for nuclear technology advancement as part of an Oak Ridge National Laboratory program called Nuclear Engineering Science Laboratory Synthesis. Click image to enlarge.

Florida A&M University graduate student Yashema Mack experienced a fast-paced program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory working alongside scientists to test the accuracy and performance of the world’s fastest supercomputer, Jaguar. Her research was part of the Nuclear Engineering Science Laboratory Synthesis, a cooperative initiative administered by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education that is geared toward students working in physics and engineering applications.

The Jaguar supercomputer, housed at ORNL, outputs calculations that relate to practical but complex scientific problems that today’s top scientists are tackling, such as carbon dating, climate change, nuclear technology and bio-fuel options. Not only does Jaguar calculate these complex algorithms, but it does them quickly, with a peak speed of 2.33 petaflops (over two thousand trillion calculations per second).

To remain at the forefront of supercomputing technology in the field of nuclear energy, Mack and other scientists worked on the “Joule” project to demonstrate the efficiency and accuracy of Jaguar using performance analysis tools and test codes.

Mack served alongside Dr. Rebecca Hartman-Baker, a computational scientist at ORNL, to test and improve the Jaguar’s ability to calculate complex nuclear simulations. To do this, she used a test code program called Denovo, which was created by Dr. Thomas Evans, senior research and development staff for ORNL.

Mack thoroughly believes that the hands-on, practical training afforded her is priceless and the best way to prepare for her remaining time in graduate school, as well as her doctoral program in computational science. “Networking and acquiring eminent knowledge of how the supercomputers perform will definitely help me with my future in high-performance computing,” she said.

This was her second year as an intern at the lab but her first year in the NESLS program, which focused on nuclear technology. Although Mack does not have an educational focus in nuclear science, her skills in computer science are valuable to technological advancement in this field.

One of the aims of the NESLS program is to train a well-rounded generation of scientists, which sometimes involves more than research. Mack gained first-hand experience in leadership by serving as a mentor to the undergraduate interns. She also practiced collaboration in her daily workings with a variety of scientists.

Hartman-Baker knows that these skills are a vital part of their field. “A career in high-performance computing involves a lot of collaboration with people of diverse backgrounds,” she said. “What’s important is being able to communicate across these different disciplines, to share with these folks some of the stuff that you know. Yashema sharing with these undergrads is just practice for this future role in her career.”

As for Mack, her research experiences have gone beyond her expectations. “I have done performance analysis on the number-one supercomputer in the world. What could be better than that?”