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Thomas Sterling named first recipient of HPC Vanguard Award

CREST leader commended by peers for efforts to improve high performance computing education, awareness

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. and DENVER, Colo. — Indiana University computer scientist Thomas Sterling has been named the first recipient of The Exascale Report’s HPC Vanguard Award. Mike Bernhardt, publisher of The Exascale Report and creator of the award, made the announcement yesterday at the Supercomputing 2013 conference in Denver. Sterling’s peers in the high performance computing (HPC) and emerging exascale communities selected him for the award.

"As one of the HPC community’s most recognized and respected luminaries, Thomas Sterling exemplifies this award and is well deserving of this recognition," said Bernhardt. "The HPC Vanguard Award acknowledges his unquestioned leadership position at the forefront of the HPC community and his tireless efforts to improve education and awareness – always striving to drive the high-end, technical computing community forward. We are thrilled and honored to bestow Thomas with this recognition."

At Indiana University, Sterling is chief scientist and executive associate director of the Center for Research in Extreme Scale Technologies (CREST) and a professor in the IU School of Informatics and Computing. Through the years, Sterling’s research has contributed to revolutionary developments in HPC, making supercomputers cheaper and more accessible than ever before. He holds six patents, has co-authored six books and is considered a giant in the field of extreme scale computing.

Exascale computing, which refers to the ability to perform a quintillion (or a billion billion) calculations per second, has become a milestone which the United States, China, Japan, India and other nations are seeking to achieve by the end of the decade. Exascale computing is widely viewed as a critical strategic capability that supports national security, energy exploration, economic innovation and medical discovery and treatment.

"We are lucky as a community to have someone like Thomas, who has been so energetically pushing the envelope in high performance computing," said Andrew Lumsdaine, CREST director and professor in the IU School of Informatics and Computing. "His work in exascale computing is more than just his latest work – it is built upon the pioneering foundation he has established over the last three decades. And there is more to come. I am thrilled that he is being recognized with the inaugural HPC Vanguard Award."

Brad Wheeler, IU vice president for IT and CIO, said, "This is an extremely appropriate acknowledgement of Professor Sterling’s many contributions to leading edge work. IU is delighted to be the home of CREST as it works on the scale of computing that will soon become essential for some of the world’s most vexing scientific and health problems. Selection by his peers doubly affirms this prestigious honor."

"The set of finalists for the inaugural HPC Vanguard Award was a who’s who in the field of high performance computing, and Thomas’ selection shows the impact of his past and current research and the regard in which he is held in the HPC community," said IU School of Informatics and Computing Dean Bobby Schnabel. "Thomas is a great contributor to the School of Informatics and Computing as well, and we are delighted to see him gain this highly deserved recognition."

Sterling developed groundbreaking research that dramatically reduced the cost and increased the accessibility of supercomputers, earning him the moniker "the father of Beowulf clusters." He has performed applied research in parallel computing system structures, semantics and operation -- in industry, government labs and higher education. In 1997, he and his collaborators received the Gordon Bell Prize, awarded each year to recognize outstanding achievement in high performance computing.

Currently, Sterling's research focuses on the ParalleX execution model for extreme scale computing, with the goal of devising a new model of computation to guide the development of next-generation exascale computing systems. ParalleX is the conceptual centerpiece of the XPRESS project, sponsored by the US Department of Energy Office of Science X-Stack program.

At CREST, a research center affiliated with the IU Pervasive Technology Institute, Sterling has been instrumental in garnering millions of dollars in new research funding from federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Defense. Learn more about CREST at