Article: Building a Community of Leaders
Building a Community of Leaders:
The Department of Energy’s Computational Science Graduate Fellowship
This article was written in 2004 and revised in 2009 to illustrate the national importance of the DOE CSGF program.
DOE CSGF fellow Kathleen King explains her research to fellow Brian Levine during the 2009 annual conference poster session
The DOE CSGF
When created in the early 1990s, the Department of Energy’s Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE CSGF) was a bold experiment — a unique multidisciplinary program focused on nurturing leading computational scientists. Nearly two decades later, it’s clear the Fellowship was, and is, a visionary program: a pivotal strategic investment in attracting and training our nation’s foremost computational scientists.
The DOE Office of Science launched the fellowship because of the critical importance of computational science to DOE’s core missions and a profound recognition of our nation’s growing and continuing need for broadly trained advanced computational scientists in government laboratories, academia and industry.
Indeed, computational simulation is now science and engineering’s “third leg,” along with experimentation and theory. It’s crucial to the success of projects from the development of next-generation automobiles to the quest for fusion energy.
Above, polymer-tethered nanoparticles have self-assembled into a Double Gyroid (polymers not shown). The two intertwining lattices have been colored red and white, but are chemically identical. This feat of self-organization occurs only at a particular system density, a suitably low temperature, and for nanoparticles manufactured to a sufficiently high tolerance. (Carolyn Phillips, fellow)
Critically, the fellowship recognizes that the national academic environment is still working to develop graduate programs with the required mix of skills and knowledge for training leading computational scientists. This process needs focused external support to succeed.
Thus, the DOE CSGF provides more than a traditional academic grant. It’s a fellowship with a mission, providing more than 250 outstanding graduate students with guidance, support and community in preparing themselves as computational scientists.
The fellowship — now jointly supported by the Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration — requires that graduate students plan and follow a course of study that transcends the bounds of traditional academic disciplines. It requires substantive graduate work in each of a scientific or engineering discipline, computer science and applied mathematics. Fellows receive guidance and assistance to help them become scientists and engineers able to comfortably communicate across disciplines. Fellows also participate in a 12-week research experience at a DOE lab. In keeping with the DOE CSGF’s interdisciplinary emphasis, this practicum must be in an area of research outside of the student’s dissertation subject.
The DOE CSGF is doing more than training individual leaders in computational science. It’s also helping create a nationwide interdisciplinary community. Currently it supports around 70 students at more than 30 universities in around 20 states. Since its inception, more than 250 students at more than 50 U.S. universities have trained as fellows. (The demand is only growing. In 2009, around 350 high-quality applicants from across the United States applied for the 16 available fellowships.)
The program actively builds this community of leaders. The Krell Institute brings together fellows for an annual three-day meeting in Washington, D.C., where they report on their research results and listen to plenary speakers highlight important new research results. The meeting also acquaints fellows with opportunities at DOE laboratories and serves as a tangible, public measure of the quality of the participants. DOE CSGF alumni and current fellows now form a core group of computational science leaders that joins industry, academia and DOE and other government labs in a range of more than 30 critical disciplines from bioinformatics to nuclear engineering and astrophysics.
DOE CSGF fellow Alex Rodriguez explains his research during the 2009 annual conference poster session
These alumni are bringing their diverse, top-level skills and knowledge to research teams at DOE labs, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories. In 2009, a DOE CSGF alumnus received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PCASE).
In industry, alumni are helping push the traditional boundaries of high-performance computing. They are helping companies such as Lockheed Martin and Intel further excel in using computational simulation, and they are bringing the competitive advantages of advanced computational science to businesses like Procter & Gamble and Medtronics.
As faculty, they are sharing their expertise with students at universities from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the University of Michigan and Stanford University.
Together and individually, these computational scientists are critical links in our nation’s innovation chain — the human capital that is helping ensure that the enormous potential benefits of advanced computational science are applied to solving our nation’s most complex 21st century scientific and engineering challenges.