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Christopher M. Sullivan, IBM Champion for Power Systems

Christopher M. Sullivan
Chris poses for a photo in the server room at Oregon State University. Photo by Evan Kaufman

Name: Christopher M. Sullivan
Title: Assistant director for biocomputing and 2018 IBM Champion for Power Systems
Company Name: Oregon State University - Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing (CGRB)
Company’s Function: Research in the CGRB and faculty affiliate laboratories seeks to improve health, better utilize natural and agricultural resources, understand our global environment, and develop new bio-based products and energy sources.
Headquarters: Corvallis, Oregon
IT Experience: I have been working in scientific computing and computational science for over 20 years

How did you end up in IT? My background is in physics and computational science, where I built clusters in the mid- to late- 1990s using RS/6000 and other UNIX* technology-based hardware. At that time, we used tools like PVM to help stitch machines together and run simulations modeling helical magnetism in face center cubic superlattices. From that, I’ve moved through different computational positions where I directly work with fellow scientists to solve questions using bleeding-edge hardware.

What IBM product could your company not function without? Right now, using the AC922 and S822LC servers have increased performance on many of our deep learning algorithms that just doesn’t exist on other hardware.

Who’s been your greatest mentor? What role has that person played in your life or career? The current director of the CGRB, Brett M. Tyler, has been the greatest mentor within my career.

What’s your favorite part of your day? I work every day to change the world using computational science and that has always been the best part of my day.

What trends are affecting your work? Right now, we’re seeing a drop in federal funding that supports many scientific areas, and this affects access to future discoveries. We need to increase the dialogue around scientific research and bring the public into the discussion to ensure future invention.

If money were no object, what would you purchase and why? I would start personally funding scientific projects I feel are needed but are going underfunded.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment? I measure my accomplishments through the scientific papers I have published with other incredible scientists around the world. I currently have over 30 co-authored publications that can be found online.

What’s your favorite sound? The hum of electrons moving. I got into physics because I love how the electron has changed the world we live in.

What’s your favorite activity outside of work? My son and I like to build technologies at home. My son and I do lots of 3-D printing, including building our own Raspberry Pi laptop. I do play golf when I have time and have built my own simulator at home to play rounds when time is short.

Claire Walling is the managing editor of IBM Systems Magazine, Power Systems edition.

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