Press Archive

SDSC Cyberinfrastructure Sister Center NCSA gets new Director

Published 10/16/2004

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced today that Thom H. Dunning Jr. will be the new director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), pending the approval of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Dunning will officially assume his new position shortly after Jan. 1, 2005. He will also hold an endowed position as Distinguished Chair for Research Excellence in Chemistry and professor in the department of chemistry.

"I have enjoyed working with Thom on TeraGrid and believe that he will provide strong and capable leadership for NCSA," said SDSC Director Fran Berman. "SDSC staff and I look together to working closely with him to build and deliver a new era of Cyberinfrastructure-enabled Cyber-science and engineering."

"One of the exciting aspects of directing NCSA is the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with Fran Berman and her team at SDSC to build the cyberinfrastructure needed by the nation's scientists and engineers," Dunning said.

"By leveraging the talents of our two outstanding research centers and working closely with research communities, we will develop the cyberenvironments that will be the work environments of tomorrow's scientists and engineers and used by them to advance scientific discovery and the state-of-the-art in engineering."

"As an accomplished, respected discipline scientist, Thom Dunning has developed research and leadership skills that are well-suited to achieving NCSA's mission of enabling scientific discovery," said Charles Zukoski, vice chancellor for research at the University's Urbana-Champaign campus, home to NCSA. "Thom is a great addition to the university's research leadership."

Dunning comes to NCSA from Tennessee, where he was the director of the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences in Oak Ridge, a distinguished professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and a distinguished scientist in computing and computational sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Before that, Dunning was responsible for supercomputing and networking for the University of North Carolina System and was a professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Before going to North Carolina, Dunning was assistant director for scientific simulation in the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy, on leave from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In that position, he was instrumental in creating DOE's new scientific computing program, Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC). SciDAC is the federal government's first comprehensive program aimed at developing the software infrastructure needed for scientific computing.

Dunning is the former leader of the Theoretical and Computational Chemistry Group at Argonne National Laboratory and was associate director for theory, modeling, and simulation in the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as well as EMSL director. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as a member of the American Chemical Society. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1965 from the University of Missouri-Rolla and his Ph.D. in chemical physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1970.

Dunning has authored nearly 150 scientific publications on topics ranging from advanced computational techniques for molecular calculations to computational studies of the spectroscopy of high power lasers and the chemical reactions involved in combustion. Five of his papers are "Citation Classics" with over 1,000 citations each (one has over 5,000 citations, another over 4,000). Dunning was the scientific leader of DOE's first "Grand Challenge" in computational chemistry, which, along with the EMSL Project, led to the development of NWCHEM. He has received numerous awards, including the E. O. Lawrence Award from DOE's Office of Science.

"NCSA has spent nearly 20 years enabling advances in science and engineering through high-performance computing and advanced cyberinfrastructure," said Peter Freeman, head of the National Science Foundation's Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate. "With Thom Dunning at the helm, the center is in the most capable hands. Thom has the vision and stamina to build on NCSA's outstanding reputation and take it to new heights."

"I am looking forward to being part of the NCSA legacy of innovation and achievement," Dunning said. "As a scientist, my goal is to add to the sum of human knowledge, and the past decade's extraordinary advances in computing technology mean that NCSA is positioned to make key contributions to our knowledge base. But real advancement means more than providing big computers and new technologies. As NCSA's director, I will lead a new effort to integrate the processing power of high-end computers; the codes used to model physical, chemical, and biological systems; and visualization, data analysis, and other services into comprehensive, innovative systems for discovery. To achieve this goal, we will work closely with scientists and engineers, for only by working together can we make the dramatic improvements in high-end computing and cyberinfrastructure needed to solve our nation's most challenging problems."

Print-quality image of Thom Dunning:

About NCSA

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is a high-performance computing center that develops and deploys cutting-edge computing, networking and information technologies for the nation's scientists and engineers. Located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, NCSA is funded by the National Science Foundation. Additional support comes from the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, private sector partners and other federal agencies. For more information, see