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Balaprakash was appointed director of ORNL’s Artificial Intelligence Initiative

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The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has appointed Prasanna Balaprakash to direct its artificial intelligence efforts.

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has appointed Prasanna Balaprakash to direct its artificial intelligence efforts.

The lab’s AI Initiative coordinates efforts across its various research directorates to harness the power of AI and data science in tackling some of the most complex scientific issues of interest to DOE and America’s economic and national security.

Over his more than 15-year career, Balaprakash has collaborated with teams across national laboratories, industry and academia to address a wide range of scientific and engineering challenges including materials research, climate change, fusion science, transportation and supercomputing.

To date he has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed research articles and given more than 100 research presentations, including 15 invited lectures. Prior to joining ORNL, he worked as a computer scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. While at Argonne, he won a DOE Early Career Award and ran a research group of more than 10 staff at various career levels focused on fundamental, applied, and scalable scientific artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“As director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory AI Initiative, I envision a future in which artificial general intelligence, machine learning, and high-performance computing play a critical role in advancing the boundaries of science, engineering, and national security,” said Balaprakash. “The focus of the AI ​​Initiative will be on developing basic, scalable and applied technologies and leveraging them to enable breakthroughs across a broad scientific spectrum including materials science, biological and health sciences, and nuclear engineering, to name a few.”

ORNL currently boasts more than 300 staff working on AI-assisted scientific challenges, an endeavor that has garnered two 100 R&D Awards and over 10 patents to date. The addition of Balaprakash is one of several steps for the laboratory to build on that foundation and shape the future of scientific research.

For example, the laboratory is home to Frontier, the world’s most powerful computer that is also referred to as the “smartest” or AI-ready high-performance computing system (HPC). Frontier is based on the new EX architecture from HPE Cray and HPE Slingshot interconnects with 3rd Gen AMD EPYC CPUs optimized for HPC and AI, and AMD Instinct 250X accelerator.

ORNL’s partnership with GPU manufacturer NVIDIA has resulted in a series of deep learning workshops aimed at assisting laboratory researchers in accelerating breakthroughs across the scientific spectrum.

And the lab has partnered with the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education at the University of Tennessee on a joint Data Science and Engineering doctoral program to bring expanded data expertise to some of DOE’s most pressing problems. The Bredesen Center is under the auspices of the UT-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, or UT-ORII.

Balaprakash replaces David Womble, who retired after being named the AI ​​Initiative’s first director in 2017.

“David has done an excellent job applying ORNL’s expertise and facilities to the advancement of artificial intelligence for science,” said Doug Kothe, director of ORNL’s associate laboratory for Computing and Computational Science. “I am confident that Prasanna’s vision, when combined with the laboratory’s capabilities, will ensure ORNL’s leadership in this critical area.”

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit https://energy.gov/science/.


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