Gropp named Siebel Chair

2/12/2013 11:07:00 AM

Computer Science Professor William Gropp has been appointed the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of only two such chairs in the United States. The chair is the result of a $2 million gift from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation.

William Gropp
William Gropp

Gropp, along with collaborators at Argonne National Laboratory, pioneered the design of the Message Passing Interface (MPI). This standard—and its software implementation, also developed by Gropp and company—is essential to the parallel processing at the heart of supercomputing today.

“There’s no better place than the University of Illinois to advance the revolution in computational science. You need people who understand computing, math, and the particular problem area you’re studying—whether its drugs interacting with our body or black holes interacting with each other. Illinois’ College of Engineering brings those people together, and they’re really ready to collaborate,” said Gropp.

“I’m lucky to be here, and it’s an honor to be Illinois’ first Thomas M. Siebel Chair in Computer Science.”

MPI allows large-scale computations to be run on thousand to millions of processor cores simultaneously and for the results of those computations to be efficiently shared as the overall computing job progresses.

“MPI is the glue that integrates thousands of parallel computing tasks. Scientific computing as we know it simply wouldn’t exist without Bill Gropp and MPI,” said Rob A. Rutenbar, head of the Department of Computer Science at Illinois. “Companies wouldn’t be designing airplanes or automobiles in the same way. Climate change wouldn’t be understood to the degree it is. Drug design would look very different. You name it.”

Gropp joined the University faculty in 2007 and is an accomplished scholar, having published more than 250 journal articles, books, chapters, and conference papers that have been cited more than 21,000 times. He the director of the Parallel Computing Institute in the Coordinated Science Laboratory at Illinois, and a is key member of the management team for Illinois’ Blue Waters petascale supercomputer, which is one of the world’s most powerful.

He’s also a great teacher.

“Bill understands just how high our students should be aiming when they’re among the world’s best. He opens his door to young undergraduates and PhD students alike, teaches them what they need to know, and connects them to state of the art research experiences,” Rutenbar said. (Example: “Illinois wins greenest self-built cluster.”)

“Illinois’ computer science program is remarkable—one of the top five in the world—and Bill Gropp has distinguished himself there. I’m very pleased to see someone of his stature help lead the way at Illinois, and it’s my pleasure to help support his success and the success of the program,” said Thomas Siebel.

Thomas M. Siebel serves on the College of Engineering’s Board of Visitors and has served as a director of the University of Illinois Foundation.

Contact: William Gropp, Blue Waters, 217-244-6720.

If you have any questions about the College of Engineering, or other story ideas, contact Rick Kubetz, editor, Engineering Communications Office, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 217/244-7716.