Turing Award Winner On His Pioneering Algorithms

ByErma F. Brown

Jul 28, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Jack Dongarra’s aspiration job growing up was to instruct science at a general public large school in Chicago.

“I was fairly good in math and science, but I wasn’t a especially good student,” Dongarra says, laughing.

Soon after he graduated substantial faculty, there was only a person university he needed to attend: Chicago Point out. Which is since, he claims, it was recognized for “churning out teachers.” Chicago Condition approved his application, and he made the decision to main in mathematics.


His physics professor advised that Dongarra use for an internship at the Argonne National Laboratory, in Lemont, Sick., a close by U.S. Division of Vitality science and engineering investigation center. For 16 weeks he worked with a team of scientists creating and acquiring EISPACK, a deal of Fortran routines that compute the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of matrices—calculations common in scientific computing.

Dongarra acknowledges he didn’t have a history in or information of eigenvalues and eigenvectors—or of linear algebra—but he loved what he was performing. The working experience at Argonne, he says, was transformative. He had found his passion.

“I believed it was a neat detail to do,” he suggests, “so I retained pursuing it.”

About Jack Dongarra

Employer: University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Title: Professor emeritus, personal computer science

Member quality: Existence Fellow

Alma mater: Chicago Point out College

The IEEE Existence Fellow has because created groundbreaking contributions to numerical algorithms and libraries for linear algebra, which authorized program to make very good use of substantial-effectiveness components. His open up-supply program libraries are made use of in just about every single computer, from laptops to the world’s speediest supercomputers.

The libraries involve essential linear algebra subprograms (BLAS), the linear-algebra package LAPACK, parallel virtual equipment (PVMs), quickly tuned linear algebra application (ATLAS), and the higher-overall performance conjugate gradient (HPCG) benchmark.

For his operate, he was honored this 12 months with the 2021 A.M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery. He gained US $1 million as section of the award, which is known as the Nobel Prize of computing.

“When I consider about preceding Turing Award recipients, I’m humbled to assume about what I have learned from their publications and papers,” Dongarra claims. “Their programming languages, theorems, techniques, and specifications have helped me create my algorithms.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be this year’s receiver. The award is a recognition by the computer system-science community that the contributions we are producing in substantial-general performance computing are significant and have an impression in the broader computer-science neighborhood and science in common.”

Dongarra didn’t close up instructing science to significant college college students. As a substitute, he became a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the College of Tennessee in Knoxville, the place he taught for 33 several years. The college just lately named him professor emeritus.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Just after graduating from Chicago Point out in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in arithmetic, Dongarra went on to go after a master’s diploma in laptop or computer science at the Illinois Institute of Technology, also in Chicago. Whilst there he worked a single working day a week for Argonne with the same group of researchers. Just after he received his diploma in 1973, the lab hired him comprehensive time as a researcher.

With encouragement from his colleagues to pursue a Ph.D., he left the lab to examine applied arithmetic at the College of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He honed his awareness of linear algebra there and started operating out algorithms and producing software.

He returned to Argonne right after finding his doctorate in 1980 and worked there as a senior scientist right until 1989, when he acquired the opportunity to satisfy his aspiration of training.

He was provided a joint situation educating computer science at the College of Tennessee and conducting investigation at the nearby Oak Ridge Countrywide Laboratory which, like Argonne, is a Division of Strength facility.

“It was time for me to attempt out some new factors,” he claims. “I was prepared to try my hand at academia.”

He states Oak Ridge operated in a equivalent way to Argonne, and the lifestyle there was extra or a lot less the very same.

“The challenge,” he states, “was getting a university professor.”

“The Turing Award is a recognition by the laptop science neighborhood that the contributions we are generating in superior-functionality computing are critical, and have an impression in the broader laptop or computer science local community and science in general.”

College culture is quite unique from that at a federal government laboratory, he states, but he promptly fell into the rhythm of the academic placing.

Though he loved training, he states, he also was attracted to the option the college gave its instructors to get the job done on technologies they are passionate about.

“You abide by your personal route and study course of exploration,” he states. “I’ve prospered in that surroundings. I interact with smart people, I have the ability to travel all-around the environment, and I have collaborations going on with folks in several countries.

“Academia gives you this independence to do issues and not be constrained by a company’s travel or its motivation. Fairly, I get to get the job done on what motivates me. That is why I have stayed in academia for so numerous a long time.”

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

Dongarra launched the university’s Impressive Computing Laboratory, whose mission is to provide instruments for superior-efficiency computing to the scientific group. He also directs the school’s Center for Facts Engineering Investigation.

He is now a distinguished researcher at Oak Ridge, which he phone calls “a fantastic position, with its point out-of-the-artwork tools and the latest desktops.”

Software package for Supercomputers

It was doing the job in innovative environments that led Dongarra to occur up with what lots of describe as environment-switching software libraries, which have contributed to the growth of large-overall performance computing in a lot of spots including synthetic intelligence, details analytics, genomics, and overall health care.

“The libraries we created have primary factors that are essential in lots of parts of science so that consumers can attract on those elements to aid them resolve their computational complications,” he suggests. “That software program is portable and efficient. It has all the characteristics that we want in conditions of becoming easy to understand and furnishing trustworthy final results.”

He’s at present functioning on building a software package library for the world’s swiftest supercomputer, Frontier, which lately was installed at the Oak Ridge lab. It is the to start with laptop or computer that can course of action far more than 1 quintillion functions per second.

Pc-Science Recognition

Dongarra has been an IEEE member for far more than 30 a long time.

“I appreciate interacting with the local community,” he states in detailing why he carries on to belong. “Also I enjoy looking at IEEE Spectrum and journals that are pertinent to my unique discipline.”

He has served as an editor for several IEEE journals which include Proceedings of the IEEE, IEEE Laptop or computer Architecture Letters, and IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Dispersed Methods.

Dongarra suggests he’s a big promoter of IEEE conferences and workshops, specially the International Conference for High Overall performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Evaluation, sponsored by ACM and the IEEE Personal computer Culture, of which he is a member. He’s been attending the celebration each and every calendar year considering that 1988. He has gained numerous awards at the conference for his papers.

“That convention is definitely a homecoming for the significant-efficiency computing neighborhood,” he claims, “and IEEE performs a major part.”

IEEE is very pleased of Dongarra’s contributions to computing and has honored him over the several years. In 2008 he gained the 1st IEEE Medal of Excellence in Scalable Computing. He also acquired the 2020 Laptop Pioneer Award, the 2013 ACM/IEEE Ken Kennedy Award, the 2011 IEEE Charles Babbage Award and the 2003 Sidney Fernbach Award.

“I’m incredibly pleased and proud to be a member of IEEE,” he suggests. “I believe it delivers a useful company to the local community.”

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