Vicksburg, Miss. - The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) has chosen Dr. Jerrell “Jerry” Ballard Jr. as the new director of the High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP). With 33 years of experience at the ERDC, Ballard will lead the HPCMP, which leverages emerging state-of-the-art technologies, to support Department of Defense (DOD) services and agencies to meet their mission-critical objectives.
Ballard was a senior in high school in 1983 when his plans to pursue either a career in forestry or ecology changed course. “It was love at first sight,” Ballard said, remembering the first time he saw an Apple IIe computer that was donated to his school. “I wanted to learn everything about computers and the vast possibilities for their use.”
After this realization, he received a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in mathematics from Mississippi College. He then went on to earn his doctorate degree in computational engineering from Mississippi State University.
"The thing that motivates me is the vast potential of computational engineering to improve our daily lives, improve understanding of complex systems and help better protect our nation,” said Ballard.
His fascination for trees and the environment collided with his career path when he was hired as a research computer scientist in the Environmental Laboratory at the Waterways Experiment Station (WES), home to the future ERDC. Later, he served as the associate technical director for military engineering in the ERDC’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, from 2009 to 2015.
“These were challenging times where we were asked to accelerate and rapidly push force protection technologies into the hands of the warfighter,” said Ballard. “We learned how to be successful in delivering critical protection technologies to our Soldiers on time and within budget.”
Seven years ago, he joined the ERDC’s Information Technology Laboratory as the chief of the Computational Science and Engineering Division and then served as the associate director for software applications in the HPCMP.
“The High Performance Computing Modernization Program is important because it helps our nation develop superior weapon systems, on-time and on-budget,” Ballard said. “I cannot overemphasize this point — HPCMP has been a key part of some of the most important developments in DOD systems and capabilities.”
As director, Ballard’s three objectives to enable the HPCMP to achieve and provide outcomes that significantly impact DOD priorities are to increase utilization of the HPCMP’s resources by acquisition programs, grow the user base and develop systems and processes that drive accurate, timely and meaningful outcomes for the DOD.
“I am excited and humbled to be selected to lead the HPCMP. I had no idea when I started working at the Waterways Experiment Station in 1986 as a system administrator and computer programmer that I could end up leading a program like this,” Ballard said.
For more information and daily updates, be sure to connect with the High Performance Computing Modernization Program on LinkedIn. “You will be amazed by the variety and magnitude of the work we do,” Ballard said. “There is usually something new to look at every day.”