Doug Kothe has been named associate laboratory director of the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, effective June 6.
Jeff Nichols, the current associate lab director for computer and computational sciences, will retire July 1 after 13 years in the position, according to a press release.
“It is truly an honor and a privilege. I can’t think of a better job and a better place to have it,” Kothe said. “I’m thrilled to join the best computing organization in the world, and CCSD is the best thanks to Jeff Nichols who did an incredible job leading the directorate with vision, passion and dedication to be the best. And he certainly delivered. Jeff is a friend, mentor and role model for effective leadership with a can-do attitude.”
Kothe has held his current role as Director of the Exascale Computing Project since 2017 and has over 37 years of experience working in DOE national labs. He joined ORNL in 2006 as Scientific Director of CCSD’s National Center for Computational Sciences. From 2010 to 2015, Kothe led the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, DOE’s first Energy Innovation Hub.
Before joining ORNL, Kothe spent 20 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from Purdue University.
The Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate is home to the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a DOE Office of Science user facility that houses Frontier, the world’s fastest supercomputer and first exascale computer. Frontier is capable of calculating more than a trillion floating point operations per second, or flops, which is a measure of how many calculations a computer can complete in one second, according to a press release.
A priority for Kothe is to further expand and improve the use of high-performance computing and computational science at ORNL in key DOE mission areas such as clean energy production, energy security, biology and biosecurity, national security, isotope production, manufacturing and terrestrial systems, to to name a few. CCSD personnel, tools and technologies are key to successful outcomes for ORNL, so close, co-dependent collaboration with all other mission directorates at ORNL is essential.
“In computational science and engineering, there are also many opportunities to extend and accelerate our current application workflows by more closely integrating data-driven models based on different AI and machine learning approaches,” said Kothe.
The board is also actively engaged in research and development in the fields of data science, applied mathematics, artificial intelligence and quantum information science. ORNL leads the Quantum Science Center, a DOE National Quantum Information Science Research Center that conducts groundbreaking research to overcome major obstacles in the development of quantum technologies.
Kothe hopes to increase collaboration between ORNL’s computing resources and other user facilities, such as the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, the Spallation Neutron Source, the High Isotope Flux Reactor, and the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, and expand research into microelectronics.
Microelectronics, such as computer chips and microprocessors, can be designed for specific computational and data science functions. Amid nationwide demand for new microelectronics, Kothe hopes CCSD will lead the way in the design and development of devices designed to optimize certain computational operations, such as chips specifically made for use on trained neural networks.
“We have the skill, staff and leadership here in the lab to lead a major microelectronics initiative,” Kothe said.
Amid celebrations of Frontier’s debut as the world’s fastest on the Top500 list, Kothe is already thinking ahead to the next generation of leadership-class supercomputers.
“This is typical supercomputing: you don’t let the grass grow under your feet. You have to keep moving,” he said. – Alexandra DeMarco