Student Receives NVIDIA Fellowship

Sana Damani has won a 2021 NVIDIA Graduate Fellowship for her research on compiler optimizations for GPU hardware.

The School of Computer Science (SCS) Ph.D. student received one of five fellowships for 2021-2022 from a pool of more than 350 applicants. The fellowship includes $50,000 in research funding, a NVIDIA graphics processing unit (GPU), and a guaranteed summer internship.

“The fellowship is a great honor,” Damani said. “I am very excited about the opportunity to go back to NVIDIA, and further my research on GPU compiler optimizations.”

This is not Damani’s first experience with the company. She was an engineer at NVIDIA for five years before starting her Ph.D. at Georgia Tech in 2017. Her work enables programmers to exploit GPU hardware features to improve performance. She specifically works on compiler optimization, which transforms a program to run with improved performance on a specific architecture.

GPUs are used to accelerate deep learning, gaming, visual effects, and high-performance computing applications. They also power 40 percent of the TOP500 supercomputers. As a result, compiler optimizations for GPUs can speed up a wide range of applications.

One thread in her research has been to redesign classical compiler optimizations so that they can be applied to the unique hardware characteristics of GPUs. As an example, Damani redesigned common subexpression elimination, a well-known compiler transformation, so that it can be used to identify duplicate code across diverged threads in GPUs and instead execute them in a converged parallel code region. This optimization results in a reduced execution time.

Another project she has worked on is speculative reconvergence. This programmer-guided compiler optimization improves performance by maximizing parallelism within time-consuming code blocks.

Damani’s research has also been used to accelerate real-time ray tracing, a computer graphics technique for creating realistic lighting in video games, as well as Monte Carlo simulations used in physics, finance, and medicine. She is advised by SCS Chair Vivek Sarkar and is a member of the Habanero Extreme Scale Software Research Lab.

“I was delighted to hear that Sana had been selected for this highly competitive fellowship award,” Sarkar said.  “It is well-deserved recognition of her accomplishments and future potential.”

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