Intern gains valuable research experience in computational science Meet Brandon Kammerdiener

Growing up, Brandon Kammerdiener always enjoyed building things and watching them work. With computers, it was no different. When he was 14, his father introduced him to computer programming, and they worked together to create a text-based adventure game. 

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During an internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, doctoral student Brandon Kammerdiener contributed to research on compilers, or tools that translate a computer’s source code into something that real hardware can execute.

After that initial exposure to programming, Kammerdiener picked up new concepts quickly. By the time he was an upperclassman in high school, he was using programming as a part-time information technology worker for his city’s school system, writing scripts to automate some of the district’s scheduled maintenance.

Now a doctoral student studying computer science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Kammerdiener recently participated in the Computational Science & Technology Advanced Research Studies (C-STARS) internship program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), located just outside Knoxville. The C-STARS program offers graduate research opportunities in the computational sciences.

Under the mentorship of Jeffrey Vetter, Ph.D., head of the Future Technologies Group in ORNL’s Computer Science and Mathematics Division, Kammerdiener investigated ways to make compilers more intelligently manage a software application’s memory. A compiler is a tool that reads and understands a computer program’s source code and translates it into something that real hardware can execute.

As Kammerdiener explained, hardware devices that are supporting high-performance computing applications are changing and becoming more diverse. His goal was to improve how compilers direct a program's needs to individual devices.

“I have always loved research on compilers because I get to think about and connect two very different sides of computation: the high-level, abstract expression of thought by people in the code they write, and the low-level, detail-oriented mechanics of computer architectures,” Kammerdiener said. 

During a typical day, Kammerdiener would meet with Vetter, sketch out solution designs on his whiteboard and program the tools needed to achieve his research results.

Outside his day-to-day research activities, Kammerdiener enjoyed the opportunity to attend professional development seminars and scientific talks offered at the lab. 

After completing his doctoral degree, Kammerdiener intends to pursue a teaching position at a university. He highly recommends the C-STARS program to any graduate student interested in computational science.

“This is a great opportunity to dig in to some real independent research at an incredible location with many valuable resources,” he said.

The C-STARS program at ORNL is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.