Showcasing women at the annual ISC High Performance Conference

By: Aiman Shaikh, UKRI STFC Hartree Centre

This year I have the honour of being part of the organizing committee for the WHPC workshop at the annual ISC High Performance conference that takes place in Germany every summer. I got involved after submitting a poster to the same workshop at last years ISC conference and was chosen to showcase my work and this year we want to showcase the talented women who contribute to the workshop beyond the walls of the workshop room.

My story – Aiman Shaikh
Like all other high-tech fields, I have been aware that HPC is a male dominated field. There are many amazing strong women that are making remarkable discoveries in this challenging sector of scientific research. Women scientists have built many HPC models for resolving complex problems and I feel truly honoured for being a part of this amazing, versatile field- always thriving on learning new methods and technologies. But women are still in a minority, and the women who are in the HPC field are often not as visible as they should be.

I started working in HPC back in 2015 during my Masters course which opened doors for me professionally in 2018 when I joined the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre. This also gave me the chance to attend Women in High Performance Computing (WHPC) workshop at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) conference. WHPC is a wonderful platform for women in HPC for learning and networking opportunities.

I attended the WHPC workshop in 2018 as my poster was selected for presentation. This was an amazing learning opportunity for all of us. Not only were we given a platform to present our work at ISC – but we also got a chance to speak with each other and share our ideas with each other. Through this platform I was able to showcase my work to different people from all over the world. The WHPC workshop not only increased my self-confidence but also helped me boost my enthusiasm. Through it, I was able to meet other female role models in HPC and take a closer look at their amazing work.

One of the best experiences of publishing my poster there was getting a mentor who guided and supported me everywhere throughout my poster designing period. I owe a big thanks to my mentor who had always been there to help me improve my poster. I’d like to share some of the thoughts of other WHPC poster presenters that discussed their experiences with me at the WHPC Workshop 2018.


  • Cristin Merritt from Alces Flight Limited presented a poster focused on cloud HPC adoption and best practices. Cristin works in Partnerships & Marketing for Alces Flight, with a key focus on new ways HPC can be adopted on-premises and in the cloud. Cristin said, “I am a major fan of creating a supportive and diverse environment where people feel safe to talk about their research and their work experiences! WHPC workshops at ISC promote that”.

  • Thi Bich Phuong Nguyen from the University of Tartu presented a poster explaining the password storage process and how HPC is used in password cracking. This work will help people have insights into information security, and allow them to choose safer passwords. Phuong is interested in and experienced in Computational Science. She works at the Intelligent and Materials Systems Lab (IMS) on a multidisciplinary project using 3D modelling of a novel yeast-based material.

She is also the leader of the University of Tartu team who will participate in the Student cluster competition at ISC19, ASC19 Student supercomputer challenge. At the WHPC workshop, Phuong noted, “My favourite session was “Skills to Thrive”. I learned quite a lot from their stories, especially how to determine the next step in your career. Additionally, I was impressed by ‘Solving the two body problem’ that nobody told me before, that gave a picture more clearly about academic life.”

Sally is a Technical Consultant at the Numerical Algorithms Group (NAG) and has been in the HPC group since 2015. She currently leads the team for the EU-funded Performance Optimisation and Productivity Centre of Excellence. Sally gained her Ph.D. in Computational Physics from the University of Warwick in 2014 and first-class MSci in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Bristol in 2010. Her main interests lie in code optimisation, molecular simulation and a wider enthusiasm for the use of HPC in science.

Sally loved ISC because she got a chance to meet the most amazing women in HPC and discuss experiences with each other.

Overall it is a wonderful opportunity to engage and network women in HPC.

About the author: Aiman Shaikh

  • Aiman Shaikh is a Research Software Engineer at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre. She applies her expertise to achieve innovative technological advancements and create value for industry through high performance computing (HPC), often within collaborative projects such as APC6 DYNAMO, which aims to improve fuel efficiency of vehicle powertrains.

Enjoying both research and practical elements of her role, Aiman is driven to make a positive impact within the field by applying technology to solve industry challenges and advocating for female participation in both underdeveloped and developing countries.

By presenting her work and being an active member of the HPC community, Aiman feels that her presence can encourage other female developers and software researchers to take up careers within the field.

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