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Researcher earns prestigious Fernbach award

Robert Harrison
ORNL photo by Fred Strohl

Robert Harrison of the Computer Science and Mathematics Division of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been named recipient of the Sidney Fernbach Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The award recognizes outstanding contributions in the application of high-performance computers using innovative approaches. It was established in 1992 in memory of Sidney Fernbach, one of the pioneers in the development and application of high-performance computers for the solution of large computational problems.

The award is in recognition of Harrison's lead role in the development of the NWChem computational chemistry package while working at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

NWChem is the first large-scale effort to produce a computational chemistry code that was designed from its inception to be used on massively parallel computers to solve "grand challenge" problems.

"Dr. Harrison has displayed outstanding scientific and leadership skills as the principal architect of NWChem—the first large-scale quantum chemistry software package for a wide range of platforms including massively parallel supercomputers," said Raymond L. Orbach, director of DOE's Office of Science. "He also developed many of the algorithms and computational strategies now being applied throughout the Office of Science programs. We are delighted that Dr. Harrison is being recognized for his outstanding contributions to quantum chemistry and to the field of high-performance computing."

DOE's Office of Science oversees 10 world-class laboratories. In addition, the Office of Science's Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program promotes the discovery and development of computational and networking tools that enable scientific researchers to analyze, model, simulate and predict complex physical, chemical and biological phenomena important to DOE. This research is changing the ways in which modern science is conducted.

Harrison has a joint faculty appointment through ORNL and the University of Tennessee's chemistry and math departments. He started his current position this past August after working as the technical group leader for molecular science software at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Harrison is a computational chemist with a particular interest in developing advanced computational methods for efficient and accurate determination of the electronic structure of molecules. This includes the development of new theoretical approaches, next-generation numerical methods and tools for easier and more effective use of massively parallel computers.

Harrison earned both his bachelor's degree in natural science and his doctorate in organic and theoretical chemistry from the University in Cambridge, England. He has authored many papers in computational chemistry and high-performance computing and is a co-recipient of the 1999 R&D 100 Award for molecular science software suite, which includes NWChem.

ORNL is a multiprogram science and technology laboratory managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.

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