Thomas Zacharia, associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has also been named University of Tennessee vice president for science and technology, UT President John Petersen announced.Petersen said the joint appointment — effective Oct. 1 — marks a new level of participation and integration for the UT-Oak Ridge partnership that enhances the capabilities of both institutions by sharing the expertise of key individuals.
"Dr. Zacharia’s appointment as UT vice president for science and technology also provides a unique opportunity for maximizing the extraordinary assets generated through this partnership," Petersen said.
In his role at ORNL, Zacharia leads the laboratory’s research agenda in high-performance computing, furthering the Department of Energy’s missions in advancing science, national security, energy security, and sustainable development. He serves as director of the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, housed in a UT-owned building on the ORNL campus.
ORNL Director Thom Mason said Zacharia’s new role "is a significant milestone, both for UT-Battelle’s management of the laboratory and for the growing research partnership between ORNL and UT."
"At the University of Tennessee, Dr. Zacharia will coordinate efforts to integrate supercomputing into our research programs at the university’s various campuses across the state," said UT Executive Vice President David Millhorn. "Supercomputing is an increasingly important tool used to solve problems as complex and diverse as those being studied in the fields of health care, engineering and climate change. Having Dr. Zacharia join UT’s senior leadership will strengthen the university’s goal of becoming a leader in high-performance computing."
Millhorn added that today ORNL is home to the world’s most powerful open-science computer, and that Zacharia’s leadership over the last five years has helped the laboratory move rapidly to the forefront of high-performance computing.
"This success in computing has greatly increased the capability of both UT and ORNL to support national priorities in areas such as nuclear energy, climate change, nanotechnology, and biotechnology," Millhorn said.
At ORNL, Zacharia has organized and built a computing directorate with a balanced portfolio of projects and funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Approximately 250 new staff have been hired into the computing directorate since 2002.
In 2004, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham awarded the National Leadership Computing Facility to a team led by Zacharia to "deliver major research breakthroughs, significant technological innovations, medical and health advances, enhanced economic competitiveness, and improved quality of life for the American people." Funded at approximately $500 million, the program will deliver in 2009 the world’s most powerful machine capable of 1,000 trillion calculations per second.
Under Zacharia’s leadership, UT and ORNL have established a partnership with the National Science Foundation focused upon computational research. Zacharia led the joint proposal for a $65-million award to build one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences. In August, the foundation notified the UT-ORNL team of approval for the grant that, if finalized, would further strengthen the UT-ORNL partnership among the ranks of the nation’s elite centers of high-performance computing.
The award would represent the largest research grant in the university’s history.
A member of the UT faculty, Zacharia is a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. At ORNL, he established a student outreach program that has trained more than 90 underrepresented and minority students in math and science. Over the last five years, the directorate has mentored more than 270 students and more than 130 postdoctoral fellows.
During Zacharia’s 20-year career at ORNL, he has actively supported the missions of the Department of Energy, Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the National Nuclear Security Administration as principal investigator and project lead. He holds two U.S. patents and is the author or co-author of more than 100 publications. In 2006, he was appointed by the Secretary of Energy to DOE’s Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee.
Zacharia received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from India’s Karnataka Regional Engineering College in 1980 and a master’s degree in materials science from the University of Mississippi in 1984. He was awarded a doctoral degree in engineering science from Clarkson University in 1987.
ORNL is the Department of Energy’s largest multipurpose science and energy laboratory and is managed by UT in partnership with Battelle for the DOE Office of Science.