ORNL’s Quantum Leap: New Director Gina Tourassi Aims for AI Leadership

Effective December 4th, Gina Tourassi will be assuming the role of Associate Laboratory Director for the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate (CCSD) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Department of Energy facility. This move marks a significant development in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) and computational sciences, as Tourassi takes the helm of a directorate housing over 500 research staff and the renowned Frontier supercomputer – the world’s most powerful high-performance computer dedicated to open science, and the first-ever exascale computing system.

The CCSD oversees Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s AI Initiative, founded in 2019 with the mission to advance the state of safe, trustworthy, and energy-efficient AI. Additionally, it is responsible for much of the laboratory’s quantum computing and networking research, including efforts involving the Quantum Science Center, headquartered at ORNL. In 2020, the Department of Energy established the National Quantum Information Science Research Center, with four sister centers, to expedite fundamental and applied research related to quantum computing and materials.

Tourassi expressed her honor in being entrusted with the future of CCSD, emphasizing the exciting prospects in quantum information science, AI research, and the post-exascale computing era. Moving forward, her priorities include solidifying ORNL’s position as a leader in AI across various forms, from computational science tools that enhance simulations to autonomous laboratory tools streamlining scientific experiments. She anticipates continued breakthroughs facilitated by the Quantum Science Center’s national network of 16 interconnected institutions dedicated to exploring unknown phenomena and advancing quantum technologies.

Tourassi’s goals encompass overseeing ongoing efforts, delivering the laboratory’s next supercomputer (currently known as OLCF-6), and driving innovation in computing for a sustainable future. Central to her strategy is the cultivation and maintenance of a dedicated workforce, comprising early, mid, and senior-level staff, contributing diverse expertise and perspectives.

Dr. Tourassi’s Leadership Odyssey at ORNL: Fostering Confidence in Exceptional Talent and Advancing Scientific Frontiers

She expressed confidence in the organization’s incredible talent and their ability to tackle scientific and technical challenges while responsibly stewarding federal investments. Tourassi’s journey at ORNL began in 2011 as the Director of the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Center. Since 2019, she has led the National Center for Computational Sciences, overseeing the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and playing a pivotal role in the success of the Frontier supercomputer.

Tourassi’s career path includes various positions at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Duke University. Her background in biomedical engineering, coupled with nearly two decades at Duke’s Department of Radiology, fueled her interest in computing, data science, and AI for biomedicine, shaping her expertise in these domains. Recognized for her computational research in cancer and COVID-19, Tourassi is a Fellow of several prestigious organizations, including the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

The management of ORNL is under UT-Battelle for DOE’s Office of Science, the primary supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is actively addressing pressing challenges of our time.

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