Thom H. Dunning, Jr., Ph.D.

Director, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Driving Discovery and Competitiveness through Next-Generation High Performance Computing

Advances in computing technologies are continuing at a breathtaking pace. Although physical factors have limited the computational power of a single microprocessor core, computer vendors are continuing to increase computing power by adding an increasing number of compute cores to its microprocessors—state-of-the-art chips now have eight cores and that number will continue to increase. In fact, the use of innovative computing technologies based on many-core chips, e.g., NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs) or Intel's Many Integrated Core (MIC) chips, is now being seriously explored in many areas of scientific computing.

High performance computers based on these technologies offer unlimited possibilities for advancing scientific discovery and enhancing industrial competitiveness—predicting the behavior of complex biological systems, understanding the production of heavy elements in supernovae, designing catalysts at the atomic level, predicting changes in the earth's climate and ecosystems, and designing complex engineered systems from nanodevices to solar cells to airplanes. But, the shift to multi-core and many-core chips presents a challenge for computational science and engineering—parallelism must be fully exploited if the potential of these systems is to be realized. Further, high performance computers are increasingly complex systems, built from 10,000s of chips each with multiple or many cores, 100s of terabytes to petabytes of memory, and 10,000s of disk drives. The architecture of these computers has significant implications for the design of the next generation of science and engineering applications.

In this presentation, we will provide an overview of the directions in computing technologies as well as describe the deployment and use of large computing systems in the U.S. and elsewhere.


Thom Dunning is the director of the Institute for Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also holds an endowed position as Distinguished Chair for Research Excellence in Chemistry and professor in the Department of Chemistry.

As leader of IACAT/NCSA, Dunning leads a staff of approximately 300 technologists and scientists who:

Dunning previously held leadership positions at the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of North Carolina System, the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was instrumental in creating DOE's Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program, the federal government's first comprehensive program aimed at developing the software infrastructure needed for leadership-class scientific computing.

He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as a member of the American Chemical Society. Dunning received DOE's E. O. Lawrence Award in 1997 and its Distinguished Associate Award in 2001; he will receive the American Chemical Society's Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research Award in March 2011.

Workshop Program
updated: 2011-10-19