Community Profile: Sarvani Chadalapaka

High-performance Computing Manager, University of California, Merced

What motivates you to get up and go to work each day?

I am excited to be part of the team at UC Merced Research Computing that  provides HPC resources and reduces the barriers for researchers to using HPC. 

My team recently moved our campus-wide HPC cluster, MERCED cluster to a brand-new computational research facility built so we have redundant power and cooling to ensure robust and continuous provision of services. This enables the provision of more consistent computing facilities to computational researchers on campus. 

UC Merced’s new NSF-MRI grant funded Pinnacles supercomputer will allow sustained research computing resources as MERCED supercomputer approaches the end of  its expected lifespan, while also introducing new capabilities that will advance science and serve our growing computational needs. 

The most inspiring aspect of my job is when I see researchers  – especially student researchers – using HPC systems. They’re trying to make sense of this world with their science and they use HPC machines to do so. I feel privileged to facilitate their research.  

Describe a current or recent project. How is it impactful to the Internet2 community?

Using a supercomputing cluster enables computational research work from almost anywhere with a reliable network connection. Computational Research is playing an increasingly central role in knowledge discovery and scientific advancement and is one of the few research activities that has been able to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thus, providing leading computational research facilities for UC Merced researchers is more critical now than ever before. 

The uptick in the usage of High Performance Computational Research post COVID shows the need for robust and consistent HPC, so that researchers can have excellence in computing while they can’t physically go in the lab.

The following strategic steps taken by the UC Merced Research Computing team enable us do just that:

I am the recipient of the Internet2 Inclusivity Initiative Award in recognition of Carrie Regenstein. 

Attending the 2017 Internet2 Technology Exchange in San Francisco was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Carrie Regenstein was an inspiring mentor – she helped me navigate the conference and forge meaningful connections.  

I saw tech leaders use TechEx as a platform to start meaningful discussions on diversity, equity, and inclusivity in technology. The conversations were thought-provoking and made me realize that I am not alone in the following ways: 

  1. I am not alone in thinking that the current technology field is not a level playground for women and minorities.
  2. I was not alone in my experiences facing micro-aggressions and in feeling like I don’t belong here (imposter syndrome). 

This knowledge is both powerful and freeing. Since the conference, I have been a part of the I2 community as a member of the Internet2 Inclusivity (I2I) steering committee, and I was one of the speakers at the 2019 TechEx in New Orleans.

It is interesting to see how cloud computing integrates with on-site HPC resources. I don’t expect to see research institutions taking the “cloud-only” or “cloud-first” approach, but I do see the appeal in “cloud + on-premise hybrid” models that tailor-fit researchers’ needs. 

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

I have had the utmost fortune of having a strong support system – my family.  My father instilled in me the courage to make my voice heard. My mother taught me empathy and gave me my sense of humor. She also cultivated my sense of curiosity toward life, teaching me how liberating knowledge can be. My younger sister is the biggest cheerleader I could ever ask for.

What are you proudest of?

I am proud to say that I have created the worldwide WHPC Mentoring Program and a webinar series for early-career HPC women with Women in HPC (WHPC). It has been about 18 months since the program launched. In that short time, this program has already helped 43 mentees receive mentoring!

The success of this program only goes to show how many mentors are willing to share their expertise with novices. A new webinar series that goes in parallel with the WHPC Mentoring Program invites speakers to share their insights on important topics that are not necessarily taught in a classroom setting – like the art of self-promotion, how to write a resume, how to network effectively, and how to create work-life balance. Recently, one of the attendees of a conference recognized me and thanked me for sharing my path to HPC, and Mentoring Program origin story in Science Node’s Many Paths to HPC series. She told me she had almost given up on learning more about computation, thinking she was aiming too high, but my story gave her confidence. And that confidence propelled her to apply to pursue her master’s degree at universities in the U.S. 

I am so humbled and grateful for the impact this program has had on the HPC community.

Do you have any lessons learned from experiences you could share with others in the community?

Many women and minorities in IT have been told over and over again to be “likable” and to “put their head down and hope their hard work is noticed.” To get over imposter syndrome and unlearn these internalized notions, you need to channel your best cheerleader. By advocating for yourself, you are speaking up for not only you but for others who share your identity. It is key to draw strength from the fact that your voice matters and your story matters.

What are your passions outside of the lab or office?

I have always loved to dance and sing along to music on the radio. In fact, I was trained in Indian classical music and dance forms. After coming to UC Merced, I started learning Polynesian dance.  I also love to watch TV shows and chill.

Which historical figure do you admire most and why?

I admire Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s emphasis on the importance of the means over the ends.

Also, I like to think of Mark Twain’s philosophy: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Please share a favorite quote:

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”  – Scarlett O’ Hara from Gone With the Wind.