Is the annual SC conference relevant for HPC professionals from outside the U.S.? Is the time commitment, plus the expense of traveling from Europe, Asia or elsewhere, worth it?
“Absolutely yes, to both questions,” says Dr. Bernd Mohr. And he should know, as the Germany-based scientist has attended SC on an almost annual basis since 1993’s event in Portland; he served as the first European on the SC Steering Committee in 2010 in New Orleans; and was the first person from outside the U.S. to be the conference’s General Chair, for SC17 in Denver.
“It’s THE conference on everything HPC,” says Bernd, who is a senior scientist at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre in Germany. “Everyone in the industry is there. When I go to SC22 in Dallas this year, I will meet more Europeans there than at any other HPC event, even those in Europe. It’s the best way to stay up to date on what’s happening in our industry.”
Clearly, plenty of other attendees based outside the U.S. agree. According to statistics from the most recent SC conferences, about 25% of attendees make the journey to the event from international locations.
Meeting Other HPC Professionals Is Invaluable
While acknowledging that international travel is expensive, Bernd believes the costs associated with attending SC are more investment than expense. “My organization has the most powerful supercomputer in Europe and we have been [exhibiting] at SC for more than 20 years. We have to be there to keep up to date and to share what we’re doing with the world.”
Beyond the panels, research presentations, exhibits, keynote speeches and tutorials, Bernd believes one of the most important benefits of attending SC for individuals is the opportunity to meet – face-to-face – with longtime colleagues as well as new acquaintances who may share common challenges and opportunities despite working on opposite sides of the globe.
“Yes, you learn about the latest science and discoveries at SC,” notes Bernd. “But having the chance to talk to people on the exhibit floor who you don’t know or typically don’t reach is an enormous opportunity. My feeling is that a lot of young people underestimate the importance of networking. We’ve missed that [since the pandemic] because it’s impossible to make those connections in a virtual world.”
While Bernd, who typically attends SC alongside 10 or 15 of his Jülich Supercomputing Centre colleagues, always looks forward to learning about the latest HPE advancements, this year’s event holds special meaning after enduring two pandemic-affected years.
“The big thing this year is to reunite with people I haven’t seen in two or three years. I hope to revive old connections and make new ones.” — Bernd Mohr
Advice for International Travelers
Based on his years of experience as both attendee and leader of the SC conference, Bernd has some advice for international travelers: Arrive a few days early and do some sightseeing (his favorite activity is hiking in national parks). “It’s fun and, if you do it before the conference, the fresh air and sunshine will help you with jet lag. Then, you’re ready to focus all of your attention on the conference.”
You May Need a Visa
SC22 attendees from most countries outside the United States are required to have a visa in order to enter the country. For guidance on how to apply for a visa, as well as other information and tips pertinent to international travelers: