Catlett directs the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD), which brings scientists from mathematics and computing together with social, behavioral, economic, policy, education, and health scientists to better understand cities. Major UrbanCCD initiatives include making urban data discoverable and explorable through platforms such as Plenario and OpenGrid and developing technologies for instrumenting cities through projects such as the Array of Things.
From 2007-2011 he was Chief Information Officer and director of the Computing and Information Systems Division at Argonne National Laboratory. From 2004-2007 he was Director of the TeraGrid Project.
Prior to joining Argonne in 2000, Catlett was Chief Technology Officer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). He was part of the original team that established NCSA in 1985 and his early work there included participation on the team that deployed and managed the NSFNet. In the early 1990s Catlett participated in the DARPA/NSF Gigabit Testbeds Initiative, coordinated by the Corporation for National Research Initiatives.
Catlett was the founding chair of the Global Grid Forum (GGF, now Open Grid Forum) from 1999 through 2004. During this same period he designed and deployed one of the first regional optical networks dedicated to academic and research use – I-WIRE, funded by the State of Illinois.
He has been involved in Grid (distributed) computing since the early 1990s, when he co-authored (with Larry Smarr) a seminal paper “Metacomputing” in the Communications of the ACM, which outlined many of the high-level goals of what is today called Grid computing.