William Kramer has been selected as the next director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), a joint research center of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Kramer, currently project director and principal investigator of the Blue Waters Project and the senior associate director for @Scale Science and Technology at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, begins his role in the fall of 2019.
“It’s our great fortune to recruit Bill, who is known and honored nationally for his leadership and innovations in the world of supercomputing,” said Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research at the University of Pittsburgh. “In many ways, his career path is emblematic of the role of supercomputing in modern scientific research. The field has grown specifically because of his innovations and commitment.”
Founded in 1986, the PSC is a national leader in supercomputing. The center has enabled breakthroughs in many scientific disciplines by providing researchers nationwide with access to the most advanced computational systems available.
“The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center has a long legacy of being at the forefront of high-performance computing. The work being done by the center is essential to the future of data-driven research,” said Rebecca W. Doerge, Glen de Vries Dean of the Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon. “Bill has the experience and vision to lead the PSC and expand upon its legacy during this pivotal time in scientific research.”
The center and its collaborators have attracted more than $611 million in federal support to Pennsylvania, $150 million in the last five years alone, and have played a significant role in the Pittsburgh region’s thriving technology economy. Most recently, the PSC received $10 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Bridges-2, a next generation supercomputer with massive computational capacity. That project expects to attract millions more in operational funding to the center.
“The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a valued contributor to the Commonwealth’s technology sector, bringing the newest advanced computing technologies to the area in their early stages. This forward-thinking approach has not only brought large amounts of research funding to the region, it has provided technology careers and training opportunities for hundreds of Pennsylvanians and resources for local educational institutions and industry,” said Dennis Davin, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development. “We welcome Bill on behalf of Pennsylvania and look forward to the PSC’s bright future.”
Following his first academic appointment at the University of Delaware, Kramer has also held leadership roles at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and at NASA Ames Research Center. Over the course of three decades, his award-winning career has focused on making large-scale, complex computational and data analytics systems extremely effective, and making the organizations that create and use them highly productive.
Most of the systems Kramer has helped create are among the largest supercomputers and storage repositories of their time. He has helped stand up 20 of the world’s most powerful supercomputer systems, six extreme-scale storage systems and five best-in-class high-performance computing facilities.
“I am extremely honored to be selected as the director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The center, which is supported by two world-class universities, is well positioned to help current and future generations of scientists, engineers and researchers create insights into a wide range of challenges in fundamental science, health care, security and other areas that will expand our understanding of phenomena that are of critical importance to society,” said Kramer.
“The PSC is not just computers. Its most valuable resource is the expertise and experience that exist within its staff and collaborators. The people of the PSC are what make the new knowledge and innovations created by the center possible. I look forward to working with this talented group of people,” said Kramer.
“I’m personally pleased that Bill will be at the helm as the PSC continues to advance our own leadership position in the world of supercomputing,” said Rutenbar. “Having worked with Bill at the University of Illinois, I anticipate that his leadership will guide and grow our continued global presence, in support of CMU and Pitt’s shared missions.”
Kramer holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in computer science from Purdue University, a Master of Engineering in electrical engineering from the University of Delaware and a Doctor of Philosophy in computer science at University of California, Berkeley.
In addition to his role at the PSC, Kramer also will be a research faculty member in Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The PSC is home to some of the most powerful systems for high performance computing, communications and data storage, and makes these systems available to scientists and engineers nationwide for unclassified research, providing them with a flexible environment for solving the largest and most challenging problems in science, engineering and digital scholarship.
For example, computer scientists used the PSC’s supercomputers to run artificial intelligence programs that leverage human decision making to get a “step ahead” of adversaries. While this technology is most famous for the “Humans vs. AI” poker match, it also has applications for fighting terrorism and cancer. Outside of the realm of computer science, social scientists have used PSC computers to mine literary collections, public health experts have used PSC simulations to make vaccine delivery more efficient in West Africa, and neuroscientists have used PSC resources to reconstruct the first sub-cellular map of a vertebrate brain and its connections. The PSC’s capacity to analyze health care and pathology data has fundamentally changed the practice of medicine particularly in the area of computational pathology, genomics and precision medicine.
Established in 1986, the PSC is supported by several federal agencies, including the NSF and the National Institutes of Health, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry. It is a leading partner in XSEDE (Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment), part of the NSF’s cyberinfrastructure program.