The world of cyberinfrastructure may seem exotic and out of reach to students, but to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the high-performance computing (HPC) industry, or even if you’re just thinking about it, now is the time to check it out. The ACCESS Operations team is now accepting applications for the Student Training and Engagement Program (STEP). This one-of-a-kind program puts students right in the thick of things. Embedded on a team at one of the premier supercomputing centers in the U.S. National Science Foundation’s ACCESS program, students will get hands-on, real-world experience with cyberinfrastructure. Whether you’re interested in cybersecurity, networking and data, operations or anything in between, the STEP program will pair you with a team of mentors with years of experience. You don’t have to take it from us – students who’ve been through the program will tell you in their own words how great an opportunity this was for them.
Megha M. Moncy entered the program as a graduate student at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. Her background spans healthcare and technology, and she was interested in trying something new. “The field of cybersecurity has been a fascination for me long before I decided to embark on [my] health informatics journey,” Moncy said. “My early exposure to data breaches while practicing as a general dentist in India acted as the catalyst in my pursuit to safeguard clinical data.”
Because of Moncy’s interest in cybersecurity, she was selected to be part of the cybersecurity team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and spoke very highly of the opportunities afforded to her there.
Speaking on the experience, Moncy was excited about her future in HPC. “The journey has been incredibly rewarding, particularly due to the supportive and experienced supervisors and colleagues, who’ve constantly had my back, despite our diverse academic backgrounds,” Moncy said. “Today, I stand at the intersection of health and technology, eager to forge a path that leverages my unique blend of experiences to contribute meaningfully to the field of health informatics and cybersecurity.”
Megan Oelgoetz was a first-year graduate student in the predictive analytics concentration of the computer science and quantitative methods masters program at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN when she joined STEP. Before beginning graduate school, her educational background was in studio art and history. She, too, was interested in exploring new areas where her career journey could flourish. “My goal is to work in the realm of data science or data engineering, so the STEP program was a natural fit for me,” she said.
She found working with the mentors to be an extremely rewarding experience. “I have been welcomed into the ACCESS community, which has supported me generously through my continued learning.”
Oelgoetz also spoke specifically about one of the important facets of the STEP program. “ACCESS’ STEP program puts a high emphasis on potential and inclusivity, and this was evident in my experience. I think for all of us, this program has been so incredibly inclusive, both in the selection of candidates for the program, but also in our day-to-day interactions with everyone at the centers we’ve visited and those managing the program.”
Nowshin Anber was an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science at Florida International University when she applied. As a STEP intern, she worked on developing shared web apps to be able to use in the ACCESS Operations portal and other websites. When asked about her experience in the program, she responded plainly: “I would say one word – awesome.”
Yuying Zhang, a Ph.D. student at Syracuse University’s BioInspired Institute, is pursuing a doctoral degree in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on finite element simulation. Zhang was embedded with the data networking team during phase two of the STEP program. “This work is really very new for me,” she said. “Data networking is much deeper than what I’m familiar with. I was shown what the daily work was like for technicians that work in this field. Cables and switches – I think this is really fun. I truly began to understand how all of this stuff works. I also loved the coursework and learned so much.”
Zhang heaped praise on her mentors: Blade Pickering, a network engineer at NCSA and Dave Wheeler, a senior technical program manager at NCSA. Her mentors were why she felt she had the courage to try new things. “The data networking team is very patient with me despite my newness with the subject. The job is really complex, but my mentor was always saying, ‘Try this!’ and they were always encouraging me to try it.”