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Faces of HPC: Cian Booth

Cian Booth came to HPC while studying Theoretical Physics at Trinity College Dublin. Now working for Oracle, testing the performance of multithreaded machines, Cian’s background in Physics provides him with a non-traditional HPC perspective.


Cian Booth completed his MSc in HPC in 2013, having come from a theoretical physics degree in HPC at Trinity College Dublin.


Tell a bit about yourself – where you’re from, what you’ve studied and where, and what some of your outside interests are.

I’m from, and currently living in, Ireland, and have studied in Theoretical Physics in Trinity College Dublin and the the HPC masters in University of Edinburgh. In my spare time I like to program games, eat and think about stuff.

What is your current job? Describe what you do in HPC. Is this your main interest, or something you fell into?

I currently work testing performance of multithreaded machines in Oracle. A lot of effort is put into ensuring that multithreaded behaviours can be utilised as well as possible.

How did you become interested in HPC? Briefly describe your path into HPC.

My final year project in Trinity was on Lattice Quantum Chromodynamics, which is a subsection of Quantum Field Theory, which is an evolution of Quantum Mechanics. It’s a pretty intense field, and a lot of simulations are required to get a sense of what is and isn’t occurring in complex fields. I was working on some Markov Chains and started to really appreciate how complex the coding must be, to utilise the full power of the massive machines. In some of my coding courses I also found it incredibly satisfying to write efficient and clean code. I discussed with my lecturer, and he recommended the Masters in Edinburgh. I looked it up and knew it would be a good fit for me.

As part of this project we want to celebrate the diversity of HPC, in particular to promote equality across the nine “protected” characteristics of the UK Equality Act, which are replicated in world-wide equality legislation. Do you feel an affiliation with this matter, and if so how has this interacted with or impacted your job in the HPC community?’

I suspect I am in the majority for most  of the protected characteristics of the UK Equality Act. However, I can’t think of anything worse than trying to broaden your mind with something as excellent as HPC, only to lose any  of the benefits that come with meeting a full spectrum of minds. I’d love to see more variety in the education and work places, it’s clearly to everyone’s benefit.

Is there something about you that’s given you a unique or creative approach to what you do?

I wouldn’t call it unique, but I have experiences from both the academic and industrial sides of HPC, and specifically the industrial prototypes and pre-releases.

Were there any challenges when you first entered the field? How have you overcome these, or do they continue to challenge you?

I hadn’t come from a computer science background, so my familiarity with important tools, e.g. git/mercurial were somewhat lacking. The EPCC MSc in HPC was great at getting me up to speed, along with a general interest to improve my own efficiency as well as my codes.

What’s the best thing about working in HPC?

It’s deeply, deeply satisfying to eek out those last few bits of efficiency.

If there’s one thing about HPC you could change, what would it be?

I think it might be basically impossible at this point, but I’d love to see more efficiency as applied to computer games and other GUI applications.

What’s next for you in HPC – where does your career lead you?

Anywhere I like, it’s a great springboard, and I feel like the opportunities are endless.

Last updated: 28 Nov 2016 at 18:21