Kathy Olsen

Deputy Director, National Science Foundation
PHOTO: Kate Olsen
	at the podium in Mellon Auditorium Pictured right.

First of all I want to thank Beverly and everyone for inviting NSF to help celebrate your hard work and accomplishments.

And one of the things that NSF does…and actually I would like to pause, one thing is, the President’s budget this year we got to 6 billion, and 3 days ago the House Appropriations Bill actually provided us the 6 billion so we’d like to say we’re on about the 40 yard line and we still have a little to go at the Senate and then passage of the bill.

But one of the things is we are the steward of the taxpayers money and I want to say that I’m proud to be here because when you think about the taxpayer’s money that has been give to the supercomputing center here, you know that it has been very very well spent and it is something, as you say, for the region, but this is really for the nation. So I really want to thank you all.

I’m also happy to be here to recognize our very successful 20-year partnership. And I think that we have provided the research community with some of the most advanced capabilities in the world. We’re talking about a regional partnership, your city, the state, industry .... provide invaluable in carrying out our mutual goals of keeping the United States at the frontier of high performance computing. And you’ve kind of talked about the science, but when you think about the science that can be done, biomedical, environmental, energy, and just down to really fundamental questions on sort of a nanoparticle that we don’t know what’s going to happen. This is what this center’s about. It’s really advancing significant results and knowledge, which is going to put this nation forward.

NSF is committed to the continued growth of the cyber infrastructure tools and services essential for research and education. We know that for continued progress, it’s always important to focus simultaneously on three things: funding the research, providing the infrastructure needed for the research and development, and producing a highly skilled and diverse work force. As you know, NSF’s research and education portfolio extends to the frontiers of discovery and innovation. And last summer, Dr. Bement, who does consider himself a Pittsburgher, even if it is New Castle, was here to dedicate Big Ben, the powerful new Cray system that offers researchers the advanced terascale capabilities.

And I really like the name because it does bring in my two loves, football, more specifically, Steeler football, and also science. So being named after the other Big Ben and Ben Franklin I thought was really really incredibly appropriate. But the rate of change in science and scientific capabilities is astounding. My colleague from Westinghouse sort of talked about what it was in his time period. And at NSF we always look forward, and this year from now on, we’re going to be looking forward to receiving proposals, that will advance our research portfolio to a whole new level, we’re talking the petascale.

We know it’s not going to happen tomorrow but hopefully if we set the stage, it will happen in five years. The President’s budget request for FY 2007 proposes NSF funding of a high performance, petascale computing system, designed for high funcuality across a wide spectrum of scientific questions. And I hope that you guys are looking forward to that competition. The solicitation for the system was released almost 2 weeks ago. Next Monday at NSF we’re holding a forum for institutions and vendors interested in responding to this challenge. Of course the details of what petascale systems will look like won’t be determined for some time, but we need to start now for the future.

Again we’re looking at the past 20 years, but we’re also looking at our future 20 years. What we can say for certainty is that the world of computing technology and the research it ables is advancing rapidly. Those of us who want to maintain a position of leadership, must do more than just keep up with the changes, we have to be out in the front, we have to be out in the frontier. And it’s something that’s good here in Pittsburgh, and staying in front of the pack, and where it’s like on the 1 yard line are in the software department, again, we’re your leaders. And from the first visualization of the beating heart, which was actually done here at the Supercomputing Center, to stimulating cosmic collisions, to analyzing the property of nano particles, we’ve felt that you’ve scored some noteworth touchdowns. And they put this in here in terms of touchdowns because when I was at CMU celebration women in computing in November, I talked about Big Ben, and I said it’s the most amazing and advanced Cray system. The peak performance of nearly 10 teraflops, 10 trillion calculations per seconds, I mean that’s pretty impressive.

But then I’m a neuroscientist, and we have to put it in the other Ben, so Ben Rotenburger, this fall, in terms of his computational power of the brain. And in nanoseconds, this individual had to decide, then, whether to hand off to Bettis or Parker, or basically throw it to Hines Ward or Randle El. And all of that was done, and I think probably faster than our 10 teraflops and 10 trillion calculations per second. So we have a lot of calculations. But I want to say that your Big Ben is on the teragrid, our other Ben is on the gridiron, so we’ve got our two grids going. But what we hope, is that we are going to continue, and my best friend from Pittsburgh said you have to celebrate by saying that we want both of them to continue for seasons and seasons and seasons. And that we hope they’ll always be upgrading our scales and our capacity in terms of learning. And that’s what I really hope for our future here in Pittsburgh. As always, NSF will continute to rely on those in the field for our eyes and our ears.

We’re a bottom-up organization. And so where the next frontier lies and how we get there is really coming from ideas from you, from Ralph, from Mike, from the team. Computers by themselves can’t do anything except what they’re told, so we also want to hear your proposals for training the next generation of people to run them. And as part of the infrastructure, the training and our future is also critical, and at an university this actually goes hand in hand in the integration of research and education. As Beverly noted, the NSF just opened up the Office of Cyberinfrastructure, and in fact we had our first advisory committee meeting yesterday and today, and I already see that they’re thinking of directorates and way more money than what we have at the time being.

But we’re really eager to work with the research and education communities to determine how we can prepare a diverse, cybersuavy, science and engineering workforce. And one of the reasons why we actually organized an Office of Cyberinfrastructure is because today, every science discipline really can be capitalized and enhanced by supercomputing and cyberinfrastructure. From social and behavioral sciences, to biology, to already know, the climate change models, to earthquake simulations. But almost every field of science now that’s funded by the NSF relies upon cyberinfrastructure. We need your help in expanding the workforce to be more representative also of the population. We especially appreciate your ideas on increasing the retention of women, who account for only about 30% of the IT workforce.

And as I’ve noted, I was in Carnegie Mellon to talk about women and IT in November. We’re also counting on the NSF funding computing centers and network facilities, to continue building the national cyberinfrastructure from its teragrid core to the outpolls to the farthest horizons. The Office of Cyberinfrastructure is deeply committed, and I would say, the Office of the Director is deeply committed to the development of hardware, software, middleware, and capabilities and compatible connections that will keep the United States at the forefront of global research networks.

And again, as always, we welcome your feedback on how we can strengthen our partnerships to persue our mutual goals. We’ve come a long way in 20 years, but we look forward to the next 20 years, and so on behalf on the National Science Foundation, I extend my heartfelt congratulations for your many accomplishments over the last 20 years and my wishes for a future full of astounding discoveries and innovation.

And I want to end by what Arden Bement actually said at the dedication of Big Ben. And he said, “We celebrate a significant leap in science and engineering research and education capacity. Richness of data combined with powerful computing facilities and innovative people promises a multitude of scientific breakthroughs. Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center has all of these.”

Congratulations, and we look forward to the years ahead.

Thank you very much.