Feature Story | 5-Dec-2022

Hank Childs: Then and Now / 2012 Early Career Award Winner

Computer science professor Hank Childs develops new ways to manage the large data sets generated by supercomputers

DOE/US Department of Energy

I am incredibly grateful to have received an award from the Department of Energy Early Career Research Program (ECRP) for two primary reasons. First, it allowed me to carry out research that I was really excited to perform. Second, it helped my career in myriad ways.

My award enabled me to consider visualizing data sets from the world's largest supercomputers. Importantly, such machines have changed dramatically over the last decade, carrying out almost 1000 times more calculations per second.  

This increased computational ability, while a positive on its own, created problems that required new research. My ECRP award considered one of these problems: The ability to store and load data was not increasing commensurately, i.e., physics simulations would generate data sets that were so large that it was difficult to store them to disk and then later read them for visualization.

Our research team considered new approaches for performing this task. In particular, we looked at transforming simulation data to a much smaller form before it was written to disk and then performing visualization on this reduced data. The fundamental challenge for this workflow was the tension between data integrity and possible data reductions. The exciting research was on finding approaches that eased this tension.

I am particularly proud of our work demonstrating a Lagrangian-based approach for vector field data, as well as our demonstrations of wavelet-based compression. I am also proud of our contributions to in situ processing, i.e., visualizing data as it is generated by the simulation code, rather than storing it to disk.

The ECRP award has also played a profound part in my career success. First, I went up for tenure after receiving the award, and I felt much more confident with this major career award on my record.

Second, the ECRP award allowed me to publish 33 papers and also allowed me to expand into new areas where I continued publishing after the award was completed.

Third, this award funded five different Ph.D. students, all of whom successfully completed their dissertations (and four of which joined Department of Energy labs upon graduation).

Finally, this award helped me form new collaborations in the Department of Energy, which continue to this day.


Hank Childs is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oregon.


The Early Career Research Program provides financial support that is foundational to early career investigators, enabling them to define and direct independent research in areas important to DOE missions. The development of outstanding scientists and research leaders is of paramount importance to the Department of Energy Office of Science. By investing in the next generation of researchers, the Office of Science champions lifelong careers in discovery science.

For more information, please go to the Early Career Research Program.


Title: Data Exploration at the Exascale


This project explores important challenges related to preserving the ability of scientists to conduct exploratory analysis of data resulting from scientific simulations at the exascale. Because of severe constraints on the amount of data that can be saved from exascale supercomputers, it will be necessary to perform most of the data analysis during the run of a simulation and to sharply reduce the volume of the data that are stored, perhaps reducing the integrity of the data that are available for exploratory analysis after the simulation ends.

Empirical methods will be used to characterize various approaches to data reduction in terms of data integrity, providing guidelines for scientists. This project will also research ways to visually represent loss of data integrity and resulting uncertainty.


A Agranovsky, D Camp, C Garth, EW Bethel, KI Joy, and H Childs, “Improved Post Hoc Flow Analysis via Lagrangian Representations.” In Proceedings of the IEEE Symposium on Large Data Visualization and Analysis (LDAV), pp. 67–75 (2014). Best paper award. [DOI: 10.1109/LDAV.2014.7013206]

S Li, S Sane, L Orf, P Mininni, J Clyne, and H Childs, “Spatiotemporal Wavelet Compression for Visualization of Scientific Simulation Data.” In IEEE International Conference on Cluster Computing (CLUSTER), pp. 216–227 (2017). [DOI: 10.1109/CLUSTER.2017.15]

M Larsen, C Harrison, J Kress, D Pugmire, JS Meredith, and H Childs, “Performance Modeling of In Situ Rendering.” In Proceedings of the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis (SC16), pp. 24:1–24:12 (2016). [DOI: 10.1109/SC.2016.23]


Additional profiles of the Early Career Research Program award recipients can be found at /science/listings/early-career-program

The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit the Office Science website.

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