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Alumna helped develop Summit, IBM's new supercomputer

6/28/2018

Joseph Park, ECE ILLINOIS

According to a report by CNBC, IBM's new Summit supercomputer runs on 185 miles of high-speed cable, weighs more than a commercial aircraft, spans two tennis courts, and occupies 5,600 square feet of a lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Summit is also currently the world's most powerful supercomputer and it's thanks to ECE ILLINOIS alumna Hillery Hunter (BSEE '99, MS '02, PhD '04) that this supercomputer is capable of running an estimated 200,000 trillion calculations per second with stunning accuracy. At Illinois, Hunter was advised by AMD Jerry Sanders Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering [profile:w-hwu].

Hunter, an IBM Fellow and the director of accelerated cognitive infrastructure, helped develop Summit's memory and computing speed through focusing on the computing capabilities of Summit. With the concurrent rise of artificial intelligence, Summit's power is ideal for applications implementing artificial intelligence since it is capable of processing massive amounts of data rapidly. 

"When you create AI faster, it's not just that you get an answer or a model for AI more quickly," Hunter said in an interview with CNBC. "It's that it really unleashes the creativity of the AI scientists because they can explore more options."

Hunter credits her interdisciplinary balance of math, science, and music for her ability to work on four separate teams "from physical components to memory capacity to computing acceleration"  and her "orchestration of different pieces" during her 13 years at IBM. 

"Everyone kind of has their own language," she said of the various IBM teams working on the project. "There's a lot of uniqueness to each discipline."

 

Read more about Hunter and the supercomputer at CNBC