Mark Miller’s career has been fairly consistent. When he started at the Lab in 1995 as a computer scientist, he joined the Applications, Simulations & Quality Division (then called “B Section”) working on developing visualization and data analysis tools, which is what he still does.
“Visualization tools tend to be used by a lot of different types of users who are trying to do a lot of different things, so you wind up getting exposed to a wide variety of science. It’s very satisfying when we’re able to help make science easier,” he says.
But over the course of nearly 30 years, Miller witnessed big changes in the computing field. The scale of problems grew significantly, and processes evolved from serial to parallel to GPUs.
Beyond the changes in computer science, another major change happened for Miller around the mid-2010s: He became heavily interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), especially as it relates to computing.
“I started asking myself, ‘What am I doing to push the needle?’ And I decided to start taking an active role in addressing issues I see in the spaces where I operate,” Miller recalls. “I ought to have been doing that earlier in my life and career, and my message is to encourage others to.”
Miller now serves on Computing’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability (IDEA) committee and recently received the Director’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award in 2023 for his years of service supporting DEI at LLNL and in the broader computing community. In particular, Miller actively encourages the teams where he contributes to conduct inclusive moment exercises, and works to find ways to tie IDEA issues into computing and software development.
“A number of very pragmatic things about software projects benefit significantly from inclusive practices,” he says. “They come naturally to me now, but I used to be in the same boat of wondering, ‘how does this connect?’”
One connection in his work is considering users’ potential color vision deficiencies when designing visualization tools to help make products more accessible. Another is improving day-to-day practices within computer science, like eliminating the use of “master/slave” terminology—for an example, see the work spearheaded by Benjamin Liu at Lawrence Livermore and Gabriel de Frias at Sandia, which Miller has implemented in his own projects.
“If you don’t have your thinking cap on and realize that maybe your way of looking at something is not the only way of looking at it, you’re going to miss so many people. And when people don’t feel included or don’t feel like their opinion will be heard, the team is just not going to function at its full potential,” he explains. Miller says to him, “CI” stands for “Continuous Inclusion.”
Though Miller started off as an electrical engineer, the majority of his graduate work at UC Davis was software-focused, including signal processing with Fortran and managing a real-time terrain database, similar to gaming technology. This ultimately led him to the Lab.
“A lot of people considering working at a place like Livermore feel like if they don’t have a degree in physics or computer science, they can’t get here,” Miller notes. “You need to learn fast and be hands-on, but I’ve had the privilege of the Lab educating me—both formally and with on-the-job training—as a computer scientist throughout my career.”
In his free time, Miller enjoys cycling, baking pizza, and studying the history of computing, which helps inform his IDEA efforts.
“The more we know about our history, the less likely we are to engage in the behaviors and practices of the past that were problematic,” he says.
Learn more about IDEA at LLNL here.