Turing Award Winner On His Pioneering Algorithms

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

“I was rather good in math and science, but I was not a specifically great scholar,” Dongarra claims, laughing.

After he graduated higher college, there was only just one college he wished to attend: Chicago Point out. Which is mainly because, he claims, it was regarded for “churning out academics.” Chicago Point out recognized his application, and he resolved to key in mathematics.


His physics professor advised that Dongarra implement for an internship at the Argonne Countrywide Laboratory, in Lemont, Sick., a nearby U.S. Section of Power science and engineering study centre. For 16 weeks he worked with a group of researchers coming up with and establishing EISPACK, a package deal of Fortran routines that compute the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of matrices—calculations prevalent in scientific computing.

Dongarra acknowledges he didn’t have a history in or understanding of eigenvalues and eigenvectors—or of linear algebra—but he beloved what he was accomplishing. The knowledge at Argonne, he claims, was transformative. He experienced observed his enthusiasm.

“I thought it was a amazing thing to do,” he claims, “so I held pursuing it.”

About Jack Dongarra

Employer: University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Title: Professor emeritus, laptop science

Member grade: Daily life Fellow

Alma mater: Chicago Condition College

The IEEE Life Fellow has considering the fact that created groundbreaking contributions to numerical algorithms and libraries for linear algebra, which permitted computer software to make very good use of substantial-effectiveness hardware. His open-source application libraries are made use of in just about each laptop or computer, from laptops to the world’s fastest supercomputers.

The libraries involve primary linear algebra subprograms (BLAS), the linear-algebra package LAPACK, parallel virtual machines (PVMs), automatically tuned linear algebra software package (ATLAS), and the higher-efficiency conjugate gradient (HPCG) benchmark.

For his function, he was honored this year with the 2021 A.M. Turing Award from the Affiliation for Computing Machinery. He gained US $1 million as component of the award, which is regarded as the Nobel Prize of computing.

“When I assume about prior Turing Award recipients, I’m humbled to assume about what I’ve acquired from their textbooks and papers,” Dongarra suggests. “Their programming languages, theorems, procedures, and standards have assisted me establish my algorithms.

“It’s a incredible honor to be this year’s receiver. The award is a recognition by the computer-science neighborhood that the contributions we are producing in large-efficiency computing are significant and have an impact in the broader laptop-science local community and science in basic.”

Dongarra didn’t close up teaching science to significant school college students. Alternatively, he became a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, wherever he taught for 33 several years. The university not too long ago named him professor emeritus.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

After graduating from Chicago Point out in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Dongarra went on to go after a master’s diploma in computer science at the Illinois Institute of Technologies, also in Chicago. Although there he labored just one day a week for Argonne with the similar workforce of researchers. Following he acquired his degree in 1973, the lab employed him complete time as a researcher.

With encouragement from his colleagues to pursue a Ph.D., he still left the lab to research used mathematics at the College of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He honed his know-how of linear algebra there and commenced doing the job out algorithms and crafting software package.

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

He was supplied a joint place instructing pc science at the College of Tennessee and conducting investigation at the nearby Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory which, like Argonne, is a Office of Strength facility.

“It was time for me to consider out some new issues,” he claims. “I was completely ready to attempt my hand at academia.”

He says Oak Ridge operated in a comparable way to Argonne, and the society there was a lot more or fewer the exact same.

“The problem,” he says, “was becoming a university professor.”

“The Turing Award is a recognition by the personal computer science group that the contributions we are making in large-overall performance computing are important, and have an effect in the broader pc science neighborhood and science in general.”

University culture is incredibly unique from that at a government laboratory, he claims, but he quickly fell into the rhythm of the academic environment.

While he beloved teaching, he suggests, he also was captivated to the possibility the university gave its instructors to get the job done on technological know-how they are passionate about.

“You follow your very own path and program of investigate,” he says. “I’ve prospered in that ecosystem. I interact with sensible folks, I have the ability to journey all-around the earth, and I have collaborations going on with people today in a lot of countries.

“Academia presents you this flexibility to do matters and not be constrained by a company’s generate or its enthusiasm. Somewhat, I get to operate on what motivates me. That is why I have stayed in academia for so quite a few 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 Nationwide Laboratory, in Lemont, Unwell.Jack Dongarra

Dongarra started the university’s Ground breaking Computing Laboratory, whose mission is to offer resources for high-functionality computing to the scientific neighborhood. He also directs the school’s Heart for Information and facts Engineering Investigate.

He is now a distinguished researcher at Oak Ridge, which he phone calls “a wonderful put, with its point out-of-the-artwork tools and the most recent computer systems.”

Software program for Supercomputers

It was functioning in creative environments that led Dongarra to come up with what lots of explain as entire world-shifting application libraries, which have contributed to the growth of large-general performance computing in numerous areas such as artificial intelligence, details analytics, genomics, and overall health treatment.

“The libraries we designed have essential elements that are required in quite a few places of science so that end users can draw on all those parts to enable them fix their computational complications,” he says. “That application is transportable and successful. It has all the characteristics that we want in terms of being comprehensible and offering trusted effects.”

He’s now doing the job on making a software package library for the world’s speediest supercomputer, Frontier, which not too long ago was put in at the Oak Ridge lab. It is the very first computer that can process a lot more than 1 quintillion functions for every next.

Laptop-Science Recognition

Dongarra has been an IEEE member for extra than 30 many years.

“I appreciate interacting with the community,” he states in detailing why he continues to belong. “Also I delight in reading through IEEE Spectrum and journals that are appropriate to my specific subject.”

He has served as an editor for many IEEE journals together with Proceedings of the IEEE, IEEE Laptop or computer Architecture Letters, and IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Devices.

Dongarra states he’s a major promoter of IEEE conferences and workshops, particularly the Global Meeting for Higher Efficiency Computing, Networking, Storage, and Examination, sponsored by ACM and the IEEE Laptop Modern society, of which he is a member. He’s been attending the occasion every single year because 1988. He has received many awards at the convention for his papers.

“That convention is really a homecoming for the higher-efficiency computing local community,” he states, “and IEEE plays a main part.”

IEEE is very pleased of Dongarra’s contributions to computing and has honored him about the a long time. In 2008 he obtained the initial IEEE Medal of Excellence in Scalable Computing. He also gained the 2020 Computer Pioneer Award, the 2013 ACM/IEEE Ken Kennedy Award, the 2011 IEEE Charles Babbage Award and the 2003 Sidney Fernbach Award.

“I’m extremely delighted and proud to be a member of IEEE,” he states. “I believe it gives a beneficial company to the neighborhood.”

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