CISL NET Section Boosting Women in Tech

By Marijke Unger
09/09/2015 - 12:00am

As the result of a partnership between the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) and the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER), five women will receive funding to participate in the 2015 Supercomputing Conference (SC15) while gaining valuable hands-on training in building one of the world’s premier IT networks.

The five awardees will join the volunteer workforce that puts together a dedicated high-performance research network known as SCinet. It comes to life for the duration of the Supercomputing Conference (SC) each year, and is critical to the conference’s information and communication flow. The network is among the fastest and most advanced in the world, often referred to as “the fastest network connecting the fastest computers” by SC organizers.

The new initiative is known as “Women in IT Networking at SC” –WINS for short– and it is an effort to expand the diversity of SCinet volunteer staff and provide professional development opportunities to highly qualified women in the field of networking.

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Marla Meehl, Head of CISL NET Section and PI for the RMCMOA and WINS grants, has been instrumental in obtaining funding to boost women in HPC and tech fields

The awardees are Sana Bellamine, CENIC, Measurement Team; Debbie Fligor, University of Illinois, Routing Team; Amy Liebowitz, University of Michigan, Commodity Team; Megan Sorensen, Idaho State University, Wireless Team; and Kyongseon (Kathy) West, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Network Security Team.

The women will gain valuable experience in network technology, while also “networking” in the professional sense, interacting with experts in the field. SCinet provides ideal access to cutting edge network hardware and software, and to the world’s leading network and software engineers and network technology vendors. Each awardee will be paired with a mentor for the duration of the SCinet setup, and will also participate in the conference program.

The WINS group at SC15 will develop skills in the following areas, among others:

  • Operating and maintaining traditional “IT” services for SCinet;
  • Installing fiber optic network connections;
  • Installing and configuring wireless access points;
  • Installing and configuring wired network devices for conference meeting rooms;
  • Managing internet routing protocols;
  • Configuring wide-area network connections to national telecom providers;
  • Supporting conference attendees, high-performance computing and high-performing network demonstrations;
  • Participating in cybersecurity activities focused on prevention, detection, and countermeasures to protect the resources of the conference.

The funding for WINS supplements an NSF grant that has enabled a series of collaboration workshops through the Rocky Mountain Cyberinfrastructure Mentoring and Outreach Alliance (RMCMOA). The goal of the workshops is to make high-performance computing (HPC) and networking accessible to smaller regional schools with limited resources and infrastructure. The supplemental grant funding for WINS is intended to increase the participation of women in HPC-related pursuits.

The RMCMOA recently held its second workshop in Boulder, Colorado, in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium (RMACC) Symposium. RMCMOA is funded under an NSF program intended to encourage campus-level data and networking infrastructure and integration activities that improve performance, reliability, and predictability for science applications and distributed research projects. 

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Photo by Marijke Unger
SCinet at SC14 in New Orleans. This network hub for the annual Supercomputing Conference is built each year for the event by a team of volunteer engineers and technicians.