Creating Pathways in Disadvantaged Communities Towards STEM and HPC

Elizabeth Bautista and Nitin Sukhija

Volume 14, Issue 2 (November 2023), pp. 2–5

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  author={Elizabeth Bautista and Nitin Sukhija},
  title={Creating Pathways in Disadvantaged Communities Towards STEM and HPC},
  journal={The Journal of Computational Science Education},
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Today's job market has its challenges in gaining proficient staff but more so in the High Performance Computing area and within a government lab. Competition from industry in terms of the type of perks they provide, being able to negotiate a higher salary and opportunities of remote work all play a part in losing candidates. At the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), a site reliability engineer manages the data center onsite 24x7. Further, the facility itself is a unique and complex ecosystem that uses evaporative cooling and recycling of hot air to keep the facility cool. This is in addition to the normal areas to be monitored like the computational systems, the three tier storage, as well as infrastructure and cybersecurity. To explore creating interest into HPC and STEM within the disadvantaged communities near the Laboratory, NERSC partnered with a community college during the pandemic to support high school seniors and freshmen students to provide an educational foundation. In collaboration with the community college, they created a program of specific classes that students needed to take to prepare them for an HPC and/or STEM internships. In certain demographics, students do not believe they can be successful in science or math and require support from the program such as tutors to help them through. With this type of support, students have successfully completed their classes with passing grades. As part of their recruitment process for site reliability engineers to continue to support diversity initiatives at the Laboratory, NERSC implemented an apprenticeship program. This paper describes the current work that includes partnering with a community college program and then NERSC provides a summer internship for the student so they can gain hands-on experience. The first cohort of students have graduated into their internship programs this summer. This paper demonstrates early results from this partnership and how it has impacted the diverse pool of candidates at NERSC.