Francine Berman is the reigning teraflop queen. As director of the San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC), she’s the top executive in a 400-person organization housed at the University of California, San Diego, that programs and maintains a machine called DataStar.

Built by IBM, DataStar can whip through approximately 10 trillion calculations per second, ranking it among the 20 most powerful supercomputers in the world.

At present, Berman is the only woman on the planet in charge of a supercomputer facility. She’s also considered among the best in cutting-edge software design to make supercomputers run more reliably and faster.

That’s a rarefied neighborhood. In the info-tech geek hierarchy, supercomputer jocks are the equivalent of NASA rocket scientists. It’s one of the rare academic jobs that’s insanely cool. “For a lot of us, it’s like working at a Toys ‘R’ Us for scientists,” says Berman.

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