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Gropp Invested as First Thomas M. Siebel Chair in Computer Science

On April 3, as the department celebrated the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, CS Professor William D. Gropp was invested as the first Thomas M. Siebel Chair in Computer Science.

Thomas Siebel (left) and William Gropp
Thomas Siebel (left) and William Gropp

Thomas M. Siebel (BA History ’75, MBA ’83, MS CS ’85) is the chairman and CEO of C3 Energy, a software company that helps utility companies realize the full promise of their investments in smart grid technologies. He was the founder, chairman, and CEO of Siebel Systems, one of the world’s leading software companies, which merged with Oracle Corporation in January 2006.

“I want to thank the provost and the leadership of the university for being so thoughtful to grant this chair to such a distinguished and accomplished theoretician and academic leader in the field,” Siebel said at the investiture. “It’s a great honor to have my name associated with such a distinguished individual.”

Gropp is an expert in parallel computing, software for scientific computing, and numerical methods for partial differential equations. He played a major role in the development and popularization of the Message Passing Interface (MPI) and is coauthor of MPICH, one of the most widely used implementations of MPI. Gropp is the chief applications architect and co-PI on the Blue Waters sustained petascale computing facility on the University of Illinois campus. Since 2008, Gropp has also been deputy director for research for the Institute of Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies at the University of Illinois. In 2011, he became the founding director of the Parallel Computing Institute.

“I’m really honored to be recognized as the inaugural Thomas M. Siebel Chair in Computer Science,” said Gropp as he accepted the medallion marking his investiture. “Being a chair is not just an honor—it is an opportunity to explore, to challenge, and to change.”

Gropp went on to say that “The Siebel chair will help me explore the use of high-performance computing, and the use of the ideas and methods that have been developed in HPC to probe some data intensive computing that are beyond the reach of other systems. . . . I think we have a real opportunity here—as in nowhere else in the world—to attack [these problems].”

Among Gropp's initial plans to better help students engage with these types of problems is a new course he’s developing on advanced high-performance computing with an emphasis on performance analysis and modeling and on understanding. He also wants to encourage more undergraduates to participate in the high-performance computing opportunities available through such venues as the annual Supercomputing (SC) conference.

“There is no better place in the world to lead the next era in computer science than Illinois,” Gropp said. “I’m proud to be part of the Illinois family, and I’m looking forward to working with many of you as we blaze new trails in computing.”