As a young man, Jack Dongarra thought he would probably teach science to high school students. That was his plan when he enrolled at Chicago State College, which had become Chicago State University by the time he graduated in 1972. Over the course of his studies, he began to be fascinated by computers. In his senior year, physics professor Harvey Leff suggested he apply for an internship at nearby Argonne National Laboratory, where he could gain some computing experience.
There, Dongarra joined a group developing EISPACK, a software library for calculating eigenvalues, components of linear algebra that are important to performing simulations of chemistry and physics. It was a heady experience. "I wasn't really a terrific, outstanding student," Dongarra recalls. "I was thrown into a group of 40 or 50 people from around the country who came from top universities and I got to mix with them." Project leader Brian Smith became his mentor. "He was very, very patient with me. I didn't have a very extensive background in computing, and he gave me attention and guided me along."
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