Distinguished scientist, executive to lead SMU O'Donnell Data Science and Research Computing Institute

DALLAS (SMU) – Neena Imam has been named the inaugural Peter O’Donnell, Jr. Director of the O’Donnell Data Science and Research Computing Institute at SMU, a position key to the University’s commitment to data focused education and next-gen computational research.

Imam joins SMU on Oct. 9, 2023, from her current position as director of Strategic Researcher Engagement (North and Latin Americas) at NVIDIA, the accelerated computing leader that invented the GPU.

“Dr. Imam brings an exemplary depth of skills and experiences to SMU at a time of tremendous momentum around data science, high performance computing and artificial intelligence,” said SMU Provost Elizabeth G. Loboa. “We look forward to her leadership and partnership in our quest for even greater academic and research excellence.”

SMU’s Data Science Institute launched in 2020 to serve as the hub for interdisciplinary research teams and programs in data science across the university. Two years later the O’Donnell Foundation endowed a $2 million fund to support its leadership by establishing the Peter O’Donnell, Jr. director position. The Data Science Institute also serves as a gateway to SMU’s high performance computing environment and, this past spring, Provost Loboa consolidated SMU’s Center for Research Computing into the Data Science Institute. Just last month, SMU announced an additional $30 million gift from the O’Donnell Foundation, half of which will include endowment and operational funding for the O’Donnell Data Science and Research Computing Institute.

In her current role at NVIDIA, Imam works with academic researchers to enable the development of GPU-accelerated and AI/ML applications. Before NVIDIA, Imam served as a distinguished scientist and deputy director of research collaboration in the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where she performed research in high performance computing as well as next-generation microelectronics and Post Moore computing.

Imam has authored and co-authored more than 90 scientific publications in the field of high performance computing including journal articles, book chapters and conference papers, has served as a speaker and panelist in the areas of high-performance and quantum computing at many international and conferences, such as the International Conference on Data Science, International Symposium on Memory Systems, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Conference on Big Data, and is active in professional organizations to promote research and education in high performance computing and artificial intelligence.

She holds a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, with master's and bachelor's degrees in the same field from Case Western Reserve University and California Institute of Technology, respectively. She served as the Science and Technology Fellow for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in Washington D.C. (2010-2012), assisting the senator in the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act intended to promote U. S. competitiveness in STEM fields. She also assisted in the introduction of the first exascale computing legislation (S. 3459).

Imam is a senior member of IEEE, served as an IEEE officer for multiple years, and is the founding chair of the Accelerated Scalable Computing and Analytics chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (acm.org).


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