David B. Thorud Leadership Award
Photograph of Chance Reschke

Chance Reschke

Bill & Melinda Gates Chair

Nominated by Henry M. Levy, Chairman and Wissner-Slivka Chair, Computer Science & Engineering

Awarded 2015

Dear Thorud Selection Committee,

It is with great pleasure and immense pride that I submit this nomination of Mr. Marshall (Chance) Reschke for a UW Thorud Leadership Award. In surveying the attributes of a Thorud winner and the selection criteria I was struck by fact that in every possible criterion Chance has and continues to exceed expectations. I have worked closely with Chance for the past 6 years (since I was a faculty candidate here at UW) and have observed him working with countless other individuals on campus. In my nominating letter, I will draw on my own experiences and observations as well as those of a few selected faculty who have worked with Chance. Attached to this nominating letter are support letters from Profs. Martin Savage (Nuclear Theory Institute // UW Physics) and Matt O’Donnell (former dean of engineering and professor of Bioengineering) and Kelli Trosvig (Vice President for UW IT). I hope to paint a picture that Chance is exactly the type of person who is most deserving of the Thorud Leadership Award and someone for whom it is in UW’s utmost interest to recognize, reward and retain.

In essence, Chance’s main job is a champion of researchers at UW. In his role as director of research computing he works as a liaison between administrators and IT staff and the faculty, students and staff who make use of UW’s investments in cyberinfrastructure (e.g., high performance computing or archival quality data storage). These investments currently take the form of two major instrumentation resources Hyak and Lolo. Hyak is a world-class research computer (currently with over 7,000 computing cores) used by dozens of research groups (and hundreds of users) across three colleges and two UW campuses. Lolo is data storage and transfer utility enabling many more users to tackle challenging issues ranging from Big Data research to managing and archiving experimental results in accordance with the standards expected by big national funding agencies (e.g., NSF’s recent focus on Data Management issues). It is difficult to convey just how disarrayed and disjointed UW’s cyberinfrastructure was before Chance’s leadership but Professor Vikki Meadows succinctly summarizes where we are now, “Chance’s efforts have now produced a very competitive institutional computing environment, that is attracting more participants across campus, and consolidating research from standalone, less capable systems, into a shared facility that is synergistically far more powerful. Hyak can serve many users with different codes and modes of operating, and it stands as an excellent example of the power of collaboration.” As Matt O’Donnell notes in his letter, Chance was the architect from the very beginning of these important cross-cutting research investments.

I would first like to address the criteria of quality work and inclusiveness. You will undoubtedly see from the three support letters that the quality of the Hyak and Lolo systems are unrivaled. Professor David Baker (HHMI, Biochemistry) notes that this is in part due to the recruitment and development of Chance’s team, “Chance showed considerable vision and leadership in his conception of Hyak and bringing it to fruition. His recruitment of a superb staff and the subsequent management of them allowed the development of a world-class facility that has changed the way we do computing on-campus”. I personally have seen firsthand how Chance works towards inclusiveness at all levels. Three years ago he approached me about co-teaching a graduate level seminar (it was on the books as CHEM E 599) about scientific computing capabilities on campus. The class was hugely successful. It achieved the dual goals of helping existing users do their work better as well as an outreach platform to potential users. However, Chance is not just effective working with students. He has been masterful in guiding the university level committee (Hyak Governance Board) in supporting and growing cyberinfrastructure efforts.

Second, the Thorud nomination criteria seeks candidates who value the respect and well-being of people in achieving large scale goals. In corresponding with various Hyak users and supporters of Chance, I was struck by the impact Chance made in helping Trisha Davis, chair of the Biochemistry department. The School of Medicine has pursued alternate funding mechanisms for cyberinfrastructure so, unlike an engineering or A&S department, an individual PI in an SOM department cannot simply purchase Hyak or Lolo capability. The mechanism exists, but it is more complicated. Chance worked tirelessly to support Trisha in helping several of her new facility gain access to Hyak and Lolo and she explains best just how well he approached the new faculty from a respectful and principled point of view, “Chance met with each of them (the junior faculty) to discuss Hyak’s capabilities. At first they were both skeptical and Chance participated in multiple email conversations to answer all their s on data storage and management for the microscopes and address their concerns about accessibility. We had no other options for providing the huge computational requirements for our EM (electron microscopy) facility. Chance worked with me to convince the prospective faculty members that Hyak could meet their computational needs. Chance deserves substantial credit for our success in hiring both prospective faculty members. Chance’s ability to problem solve and meet our needs with Hyak opened the door to boundless scientific discovery with our best method to study biological structures and thereby understand their functions. His impact extends far beyond our department as faculty in departments across campus will use the EM facility”. There are many more such success stores related to UW exercising leadership in cyberinfrastructure that start with Chance’s tireless efforts.

From a personal point of view, it was Chance who pushed me over the top to come here as a faculty member at UW. I interviewed across a broad spectrum of Chemical Engineering departments including places you would expect to have amazing computer facilities (MIT and Carnegie Melon). I was absolutely floored during my interview here at UW when Chance explained the Hyak and Lolo concepts. I literally walked out of my meeting with him and told the faculty in ChemE that I was ready to sign on the dotted line. Six years ago UW was lightyears ahead of peer institutions, and Chance’s vision has created an environment that allowed me personally to achieve far more than I would have at another institution. Last spring I was invited to give a talk in a UW IT Town Hall meeting and at the beginning, in front of all of UW IT, I recognized Chance for his contributions, leading the entire IT staff in a hearty round of applause for him and the Hyak/Lolo team. Simply put Chance has big vision, and he puts it to use helping people do their jobs better.

Finally, I will briefly address Chance’s leadership in new partnerships and expanding UW-IT’s tremendous investments in cyberinfrastructure. I have seen time and time again how Chance has worked with the Hyak Governance Board to bring new opportunities for bringing people into the fold. He is always open to new ideas and even if he doesn’t agree with you he will meet you half way — always with a respectful and principled argument and quantitative data to support his own point of view (which is usually right). Chance has helped the Board understand the benefits of partnering with UW Bothell and even helps us dream big, thinking about regional partnerships where UW could take the lessons we have learned in managing world class computing and make all of our neighboring institutions even better.

In closing, I hope I have convinced you that Chance Reschke is someone who is most deserving to be recognized with a Thorud Leadership Award. Most campuses and universities have entire centers devoted to high performance computing and cyberinfrastructure (in Utah where I served part of my postdoc, U of Utah President Michael Young (now our own president) created a fully staffed center for high performance computing (the CHPC). While the CHPC served its purpose and provided great infrastructure, I can say with confidence and by comparison that Chance is someone who has done much more with far less in a shorter amount of time. His work has and continues to make huge waves here at UW, making us all better and increasing our national prominence as a top research institution. He is truly someone who embodies the very best in a campus leader and I sincerely hope you select him for the award. He is most deserving.

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