Jessica Micallef wins Association for Computing Machinery Fellowship

  • Nov 14, 2017
  • computation, Physics, Students, Felowships
  • Homepage News, Faculty & Staff, Research, Students, CMSE, Physics & Astronomy

Jessica Micallef

Jessica Micallef

Jessica Micallef, a Michigan State University physics and computational science doctoral student, is the recipient of the 2017 Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing (ACM SIGHPC)/Intel Computational and Data Science Fellowship.

The highly competitive fellowship provides $15,000 a year for up to five years to support graduate research in computational and data science. Micallef was one of 12 students from universities around the world recognized for her excellence in computational science and her potential to serve as a leader and role model for other students of diverse backgrounds in the field.

“The award is exciting because it’s a computation award, and I have done my primary academic work as a physics student,” Micallef said. “Its’s now an opportunity to network and connect with people in the High Performance Computing (HPC) community and industry.

“I am mostly self-taught in programming, so I feel a little displaced when I go into computational classes,” she continued. “The ACM award is a confidence booster and will make it possible to pour all my time into making sure I have everything I need to do my research and studies as a graduate student at MSU.”

Micallef’s ACM SIGHPC/Intel fellowship will support her doctoral research focusing on nearly massless fundamental particles of the universe called neutrinos. These “ghost particles” carry important information about some of the most powerful astrophysical events in the universe such as galactic supernovae and extragalactic black holes.

Micallef is studying these neutrinos using a particle detector at the South Pole made of a cubic kilometer of ice—the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. As neutrinos travel through space, they undergo very strong quantum oscillations scientists describe as “flavor” oscillations. Scientists are still working to understand why neutrinos oscillate more than other fundamental particles. Using computational data analysis, Micallef will measure and model the neutrinos’ flavor changes as they pass through earth to arrive at the massive particle detector.

“I was delighted to hear that Jessie received this fellowship,” said Tyce DeYoung, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the MSU College of Natural Science and Micallef’s mentor. “She is a very promising student who is already making important contributions to our project, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, and it’s wonderful that she received this recognition.  I’m really looking forward to working with her as she pursues her Ph.D. in physics and computational science.

“Jessie is doing a lot of work with undergraduates by volunteering to create software tutorials that help them with programming and data analysis and is also involved in our Women and Minorities in the Physical Sciences (WaMPS) program,” DeYoung added.

Micallef will receive recognition for her leadership and research at the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis being held this week in Denver, Colo.

Photo courtesy of Ice Cube.