Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Meet two computer scientists

(Download Image) Kathleen Shoga (left) and Brian Gunney are two of many computer scientists working at LLNL.

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Asian Pacific American Council (APAC) and the Office of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are spotlighting a few employees of Asian heritage, focusing on educational background, work at the Lab and volunteer efforts.

This profile features two computer scientists at different points in their careers. Kathleen Shoga, a recent graduate who is just starting on her career path, and Brian Gunney, a longtime employee with more than 16 years’ experience in his field.


Kathleen Shoga

Job: Computer scientist

Educational background: Bachelor’s in computer science from the University of the Pacific (2015).

Shoga has been preparing for a career at the Laboratory for several years. She was a summer intern for two years and would work part time during the school year before joining the Laboratory as a full-time employee in 2015. Shoga, a computer scientist in the Computation Directorate, currently works for Livermore Computing in the Information Management, Graphics and Security Group. She came to the Lab as an intern after participating in Team Venus, the first all-women team to compete in the Student Cluster Challenge at the Supercomputing Conference (SC). "I was interested in working in high performance computing after my experiences at SC and decided that I wanted to work for the Lab after I graduated," she said.  

Shoga’s work at the Lab includes Linux kernel coding and software tool development. She is working on the Livermore Computing Monitoring project. She has a large role in setting up and deploying the monitoring infrastructure to multiple LC clusters, administering the database and connecting the two to collect system and application performance data for subsequent analysis. She also is part of the ProTools team working on utilities for understanding memory use within large applications. "I love being able to work on new things and work with fantastic people from different teams and groups and even people outside of the Lab,"  Shoga said.



Shoga has gained inspiration from many people throughout her life. "My parents, family, friends, teachers and mentors have all been inspirations," she said. "Robin Goldstone and Barry Rountree, two of my mentors at the Lab, have had a huge impact on me. Robin helped my team with the Student Cluster Challenge, and I thought that it was really cool work. She inspired me to pursue high performance computing at the Lab. Barry Rountree, my first mentor at the Lab, inspired and helped me to pursue a lot of diverse things. While I started out working for him in the Center for Applied Scientific Computing (CASC) as an intern, he encouraged me whenever I had interest in a new topic or area."

Shoga likes to inspire young minds toward careers in STEM. She has volunteered for the San Joaquin and Tri-Valley Expanding Your Horizons conferences multiple times and for various Lab events like the recent Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. She also likes helping and mentoring students who are at the Lab during the summer.

"My upbringing has greatly influenced who I am today," Shogan said. "I am very appreciative to my family, who worked so hard to give me opportunities and help me to grow. They always encouraged me to try my best, and supported me during the hard times. Because of them, I have become a hard-working and caring person. I saw the way that they tried to help others, and I think that is why I also like to help volunteer when I can."

Shoga describes herself as passionate, determined and open-minded. In her spare time she enjoys working out, practicing kung fu and playing basketball. She also enjoys cooking and playing video games.

Brian Gunney

Job: Computer scientist/math programmer

Educational background: Bachelor’s in aerospace engineering, San Diego State University (1988); master’s in aerospace engineering, San Diego State University (1992); Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and scientific computing, University of Michigan (1996) and post-doc at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications at the University of Minnesota (1997).

Gunney is a longtime employee, having worked at the Laboratory for 16 years. He has worked in large-scale simulation algorithms and performance analysis in the SAMRAI (Structured Adaptive Mesh Refinement Application Infrastructure) library and on the applications that use it. SAMRAI is an adaptive mesh framework for large, parallel, dynamically adaptive, multiscale and multiphysics simulations. Gunney developed the parallel mesh management data structures and algorithms that allowed SAMRAI to run at full scale on Sequoia, among many other high profile projects. He now works on information operations and analytics in the Global Security Directorate.

"I wanted to work at the Lab for several reasons," Gunney said. "There are a lot of great projects to work on, incredibly smart and dedicated people to work with and the fastest computers in the world. I like the long-term vision and commitment needed to really do cutting-edge research and bring it to application. Innovation is more than just a motto. Another thing that attracted me to the Lab is the dedication to work/life balance and all the amenities that are offered, such as the Children's Center, on-site exercise program and the plethora of activities offered through the Employee Resource Groups and networking groups sponsored by the Employee Services Association (LLESA)."



Gunney likes to help others by volunteering his time and sharing his love of the outdoors. He is an active trip leader for the San Francisco Chapter of the Sierra Club, where he co-leads backpacking trips each year, including a family trip to get families with young children involved in backpacking. "During the trip, we try to make sure everyone has a good time and returns in one piece," he said.

Gunney also has an interest in bringing people together, serving as a liaison and now as a support coordinator for AFS, a worldwide volunteer-driven high-school exchange program. Through these volunteer efforts, he has been able to bring these two passions together by organizing hiking, camping and backpacking trips for exchange students.

"My parents, who came to the U.S. as refugees from Vietnam in 1975, have been my greatest inspiration in life," Gunney said. "They faced a lot of hardship and uncertainty and sacrificed so much in order to give my siblings and I a good education and a better life. They never gave up, lost hope or looked back. They always looked forward. If I ever feel I'm facing a difficult challenge, I recall what they have been through, and I realize how fortunate I am because of the sacrifices they made for us. I still admire them."

Gunney describes himself as independent, creative and open-minded. In his spare time he enjoys backpacking, hiking, running, ballroom dancing, biking, audio books, writing, theater, travel, playing guitar and listening to music.