Behind the Name: Celebrating the Woman Scientist Behind NERSC’s Cori System

National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center’s (NERSC) supercomputing systems aren’t only recognized for what they help accomplish, but also, what they represent from the past. NERSC named their Cray XC series supercomputer after Gerty Cori.

Gerty Cori (Cori) helped pave the way for women in science during the first half of the 1900s. Originally from Prague, Cori found an interest in math and science at an early age and eventually she and her husband, Carl, were hired on at Washington University in St. Louis. Carl was hired as a full professor, and Cori, his research assistant.

After 16 years of working at Washington University, the Coris received a Nobel Prize in 1947 for discovering the course of catalytic conversions of glycogen, what was later named “The Cori Cycle.” This was the same year Gerty Cori was promoted to a full faculty position.

Cori overcame many challenges as a woman scientist with her pay, status, and recognition all being well below her male peers. Waiting almost a decade and a half to become a full professor, despite having the same credentials as her husband, was another of the many struggles she faced.

Despite the challenges, Cori remained resilient.

Cori was the third woman ever to win a Nobel Prize, and the first American woman to do so. Thanks to STEM pioneers like Cori, scientific discovery — and the world — will forever benefit.

The Cori system at NERSC has around 7,000 users and enables research in many areas — from the desalinization of seawater, to the production of energy using nuclear fusion reactions. A visual of Cori is featured on the machine in her natural state of research.

NERSC’s Cori supercomputer is still busy at work and is set to work side by side with the new addition to NERSC’s system family. Late in 2018, NERSC was announced as the first customer for Cray’s Shasta platform. Named after Saul Perlmutter, “Perlmutter” and Cori will work together upon Perlmutter’s delivery.

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