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Philip Emeagwali wins 1989 Gordon Bell Supercomputing Prize


PHILIP EMEAGWALI, a graduate student in civil engineering and scientific computing, won first prize in the IEEE Gordon Bell Supercomputing Competition. Awarded at IEEE's CompCon conference in February, the prize recognizes outstanding achievement in using supercomputers to solve important scientific and engineering problems.


Philip Emeagwali and his Gordon Bell Prize plaque


The Gordon Bell Prize is a high honor in the field of supercomputing. The contest has been described as a "supercomputer Olympics," because each year's winner must break the record set the previous year, exceeding previous standards for speed, innovation, and application. Emeagwali's algorithm was judged to significantly exceed contest standards and expectations. All previous winning entries have been collaborative efforts; Emeagwali is the first sole investigator to win the award. His achievement represents another important milestone: he is the first individual from the University of Michigan to receive the honor.

Emeagwali won the contest with his algorithm for oil field simulation. His model for recovering more oil from petroleum reservoirs has far-reaching significance --- recovery of just one percent more oil can translate to one billion dollars in additional revenue for an oil company. Emeagwali spent 12 months programming his algorithm on a supercomputer workstation in the Laboratory for Scientific Computing (LaSC). Through NSFnet, he linked up with supercomputers at Argonne National Laboratory; Los Alamos National Laboratory; the National Supercomputing Center in Champaign. Illinois; and Thinking Machines, a supercomputing think tank in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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One judge called Emeagwali's paper the best-written entry he had ever seen. Emeagwali attributes his solid writing ability to the Technical Communication Program in the College of Engineering. "Technical Communication 610 was the most useful course I have ever taken," he said. "Professor Leslie Olsen, assisted by Eva Stahlheber and Anne Chapple, taught me how to think clearly and to develop and organize my ideas so that others can understand me. Every graduate student should take this course."

According to Professor Olsen, "It is quite an honor for anyone to win this award, but especially so for a student. We are all very proud of Emeagwali for this most outstanding achievement."



By Lisa Mooney for Michigan Engineer, (a University of Michigan publication) Spring 1990

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