Conference Introduces High School Students to Supercomputers

Jim Collins

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On April 10, nearly 400 high school girls from the Chicago area visited Argonne National Laboratory for the 27th annual Science Careers in Search of Women conference.

The conference is designed to give young women the opportunity to “test drive” a science career by attending meetings, networking, and participating in one-on-one conversations with women researchers in the physical, engineering, and life sciences. Students are able to tailor their own experiences during the registration process by choosing the types of science they’d like to explore.

For young women interested in computational science and software engineering, the day included a trip to the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), where they were introduced to Mira, Argonne’s IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer.

ALCF staff members Beth Cerny, Richard Coffey, and Jini Ramprakash led the students on a tour of the facility, showed them how supercomputer simulations and visualizations can lead to scientific insights, and played an interactive game to explain the Monte Carlo method (a computational technique that uses a repeated sampling of random numbers to determine the properties of some phenomenon).

“It was exciting to see the light bulbs go on in their heads as we explained what was possible with Mira,” Coffey said. “These young women are the scientists of tomorrow, so hopefully we inspired a few to learn more about using supercomputers as research tools.”