NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery Since 1974

What’s in a Name?

NERSC’s name and logos have changed over the decades, reflecting the center’s increasingly broad scientific mission

April 1, 2014

Founded in 1974 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as the Controlled Thermonuclear Research Computer Center, NERSC has evolved from its early days supporting magnetic fusion research at LLNL to providing supercomputing resources across a spectrum of scientific applications, including energy, astrophysics, biology and environmental sciences.

Over the years its public persona has changed as well. In 1976 the supercomputing facility was renamed the National Magnetic Fusion Energy Computer Center (NMFECC). The logo below was created by the Technical Information Department at LLNL and is in essence a series of arcs radiating out from Lake Tahoe to indicate how people from across the U.S. used the center. Some pundits also referred to it as “the earthquake logo”:

But Kirby Fong, who started at the NMFECC in 1976 in user support and software and went on to lead the consulting group, felt the original rendering was “inaccurate,” so he redrew it using only lines and filled polygons:

“We didn’t have drawing applications like Illustrator in those days,” he explained in February during the 2014 NERSC User Group annual meeting, which drew a number of former NERSC employees as part of the center’s 40th anniversary celebration. “This was in the days before JPEG files and layout applications like InDesign, so we could use the high quality logo only in two applications that understood the line and polygon description and could plot them to output devices.”

Fast forward to 1990, when the center was renamed NERSC—the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center.

In 1996 NERSC relocated to Berkeley Lab and changed its name just slightly, to the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. A year later, the lightning bolt logo was introduced. Its design represented the new energy the move to Berkeley Lab brought to the center.

It wasn’t until 2011 that the logo was updated to its current look. In this case, the design was meant to reflect NERSC’s three-pronged mission: science, computing and energy. The rays emanate from the “E” to evoke "energy." The logo also has an overall sense of movement intended to imply “the dynamic nature of people and organization," and the blue was chosen to harmonize with the UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab logos:And this year we created a special logo to commemorate NERSC’s 40th anniversary:

Here’s to 40 more years at the forefront!


About NERSC and Berkeley Lab
The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that serves as the primary high-performance computing center for scientific research sponsored by the Office of Science. Located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the NERSC Center serves more than 6,000 scientists at national laboratories and universities researching a wide range of problems in combustion, climate modeling, fusion energy, materials science, physics, chemistry, computational biology, and other disciplines. Berkeley Lab is a DOE national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California for the U.S. DOE Office of Science. »Learn more about computing sciences at Berkeley Lab.