International Interns at the Steinbuch Centre for Computing

Rached Chaaben from Tunisia, who is completing his master's degree with an internship abroad, and Stefano Maurogiovanni, an ERASMUS+ intern from the EuroHPC partner university Pavia in Italy, talk about their first impressions at SCC in this interview.

International interns Rached Chaaben (left) and Stefano Maurogiovanni (right) in front of the SCC building at North Campus. (Photo: Yu-Hisang Mike Tsai)

In spring 2022, we have two international interns at the Steinbuch Centre for Computing: Rached Chaaben from Tunesia who completes his Master's studies with an international internship, and Stefano Maurogiovanni, an ERASMUS+ intern from the EuroHPC partner University of Pavia in Italy. Coming from very different scientific and cultural backgrounds, we wanted to learn more about how Stefano and Rached came to SCC, their first impressions of their new home, and their biggest challenges getting here.

Where are you from, originally?
Rached: Sfax, Tunisia
Stefano: Bari, Italy
Can you summarize your educational background?
Rached: I joined the preparatory cycle for engineering study (French equivalent to CPGE: Classe Préparatoire pour les Grandes Ecoles) where I had an intensive study cycle of 2 years focused on Mathematics and Physics. I then passed the national engineering schools entry exam and got ranked 13 out of more than 1000 candidates. This allowed me to join the Ecole Polytechnique de Tunisie, where now I am a general engineering student, track Signals and Systems (eq to M.S degree). 
Stefano: I started as a bachelor's student in Bioengineering at the University of Pavia (UNIPV). During that time, I worked as a student tutor and focused on Deep Learning applications in Bioinformatics. Afterward, I enrolled for a master's degree in Computer Engineering - namely Data Science - also at UNIPV, where I spent time working as a laboratory assistant. Currently, I am in the last semester of my master's.
How did you find out about SCC, and how did you end up here?
Rached: At the start of this academic year, I started looking for a graduation internship that is mandatory for my studies. I was looking for a research topic that brings HPC and mathematics together. I was lucky to find Dr. Hartwig Anzt and I was amazed by the work he is doing in his group. Another man that I have known during my period of search helped me in contacting Hartwig who was open to having a meeting and fortunately accepted me to join the group as an intern.
Stefano: Both the KIT and UNIPV are among the partners of the EuroHPC MICROCARD project, which I’ll hopefully be able to contribute to with my master’s thesis. As such, Dr. Hartwig Anzt and my local supervisors agreed on me to spend the summer semester of 2021/22 as a research student at the SCC.
What are you working on?
Rached: I am working on the implementation of a Sparse Matrix-Matrix multiplication algorithm which is an important kernel in high performance computing that is heavily used in different applications. We are planning in this internship to implement this kernel for multicore CPUs and GPUs. We also aim to contribute with this work to the Ginkgo project, a high-performance linear algebra library that is currently under active development within our research group.
Stefano: I am working on implementing a distributed solver based on Algebraic Multigrid (AMG) methods for cardiac electrophysiology simulations. The code will be entirely written in C++ and heavily rely on MPI and Ginkgo, a sparse linear algebra library currently under active development within Dr. Anzt’s research group.
What are your interests outside work?
Rached: As sports, I was used to spending much time on Table Tennis and Volleyball. And after joining Hartwig’s group, I grew fond of Hiking. Also, I am a person that loves cooking and also enjoys giving haircuts. 
Stefano: I have a thing for sci-fi novels and movies. I also enjoy basketball - which I have been playing for more than ten years - hiking, tinkering, and cooking for my friends.
What was the biggest challenge in getting here?
Rached: The VISA process, accommodation, that I am still dealing with it,  and all the paperwork were complex processes that Hartwig and I had to go through. I can say that it required too much effort from Hartwig’s side and I am really thankful for that.
Stefano: Looking for a place to stay in Karlsruhe and enrolling at the KIT as a student were processes I could carry out quite smoothly. Probably the most time-demanding task consisted in registering my place of residence at the local city office.
And your best experience so far?
Rached: After more than two months with the group, I can say that I couldn’t have a more comfortable environment and teammates to work with. It’s both an enjoyable and rewarding experience. 
Stefano: In honesty, working as a member of a group of skilled, motivated, and passionate people who I can learn a lot from is a great opportunity. Also, we usually come up with different activities on the weekend - most of them consist of hikes - which I appreciate as a way to bond and share something that is not just our workplace.
What are your plans for the future? What will you do after this internship?
Rached: I am aiming to continue in research and thus applying for a PhD position is my Plan A. That will depend on the quality of my work during this internship. Also, looking for a job could work as plan B. 
Stefano: I am still figuring out whether to apply for a job or a Ph.D. position, depending on which goals I will be able to achieve within my thesis project and the feedback I will receive from the rest of the group members.