2018 Award Winners

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On June 20, 2018, seven Compute Canada team members were recognized for their exceptional contributions and outstanding support of the Canadian research community.

Outstanding Achievement Award

Michel Barrette
Université de Sherbrooke, Calcul Québec

“Michel Barrette is a truly outstanding analyst, whose passion is to make research possible,” says nominator David Sénéchal. Sénéchal is a professor at the Université de Sherbrooke and has worked with Barrette for several years. Sénéchal says Barrette has been “a lifeline” to his team — especially when they need to have a new library installed on a Compute Canada system.

“Even late-night requests were treated within a few hours, sometimes even less,” says Sénéchal. “In addition, I have asked Michel to provide me with bids and optimal configurations for small systems paid for by small to medium grants. He always did a wonderful job of selecting the best deals, with pros and cons, for the funds available, and managed to insert these small systems into the Compute Canada ecosystem.”

For his part, André-Marie Tremblay, professor and Chair of Research in the Theory of Quantum Materials, says Barrette has supported his research for about 20 years — even before Compute Canada existed.

“The experience he has gained has allowed him to be very helpful to Compute Canada from the beginning of his employment,” says Tremblay. “In his role of assisting researchers, Michel often answers questions within minutes, even outside working hours. Whether it’s a question of installing new software, connection problems or bugs in the system, Michel’s help is essential to the success of my research.”

Sénéchal believes this award is an excellent way to recognize Barrette’s “dedication to Canadian researchers and to high-powered computing in Canada.”

Career Achievement

Masao Fujinaga
University of Alberta, WestGrid

The “aftershocks” of Masao Fujinaga’s retirement from WestGrid “will be like no other before or after him.” That’s according to Lindsay Sill, CEO of WestGrid.

Fujinaga spent 17 years at the University of Alberta supporting users across Canada in research computing.

“I wish I had more data on what he accomplished in terms of how many users, in how many disciplines, how many hours of time he saved researchers and how many lives he changed through groundbreaking research discoveries he enabled,” Sill says. “The results in the past year alone are staggering. A snapshot in October 2017 showed him as the top Compute Canada ticket agent and in the 10-month timeframe, he responded to 635 tickets — 162 more than the next-highest responder.”

But it wasn’t just quantity that set him apart. The quality of his service was also well above average.

“He was a pleasure to work with. Tickets are already piling up and he’s only been gone for one day!”

Fellow nominator Maxime Boissonneault, ARC specialist at Université Laval, did have some numbers. He says Fujinaga answered more than 10 percent of all of the user-support requests that Compute Canada received over the past two years. He also installed nearly 35 percent of all the software packages of the Compute Canada software stack.

“Masao was also a great team player and he has made significant contributions and development to the helpdesk software itself (OTRS), implementing features that he might not even use himself. His retirement leaves big shoes to fill and he will for sure be missed.”

Awards of Excellence

Félix-Antoine Fortin
Université Laval, Calcul Québec

A look at the nominations for Félix-Antoine Fortin paints a picture of a dedicated Calcul Québec employee — one who will work at all hours when called upon and will come up with creative solutions to problems experienced by professors, professionals and colleagues alike.

When University of Laval Associate Professor Philippe Giguère was setting up a new course in computer science and software engineering, he called upon Fortin to fix a problem for him. He didn’t have enough computing power for the students enrolled so he thought he’d have to reduce the scope of the course.

“Félix-Antoine took the initiative to set up an infrastructure to run Jupyter notebook to offer all 50 students in the course access to GPU resources,” says Giguère and adds that Fortin showed great flexibility and agility in setting this up and even attended the first lab session to ensure everything was working properly.

Giguère adds that he works with “enthusiasm and an exemplary smile.”

Calcul Québec colleague Maxime Boissonneault agrees, saying Fortin has been the organization’s “go-to” person for helping non-traditional users.

“It is quite amazing how many he has helped,” Boissonneault says. “The domains covered range from arts and design rendering for a scientific exposition to users in politics and law, as well as forestry, digital humanities, big data and artificial intelligence.”

Fortin has also brought the organization numerous corporate and industrial partners over the years.

 

Richard Lefebvre
Université de Montréal, Calcul Québec

Even before pediatric medical professor Daniel Sinnett and his team knew there was a problem with their data analysis system, Calcul Québec’s Richard Lefebvre was flagging it to them.

“Richard is always proactive in supporting our research group. He regularly contacts us before a potential problem occurs and arrives with solutions adapted to our needs,” Sinnett says.

Lefebvre’s work also helped his group through a change of systems that could have been disruptive, but wasn’t because of his hard work.

“We are always very satisfied with the service obtained from the Calcul Québec team and Richard has been extremely effective supportive at any time or day of the week.”

Dan Spiegelman, a research assistant in the McGill University lab of human genetics professor Guy Rouleau. Had a similar assessment.

“Richard has tirelessly and very patiently supported the most critical aspects of our lab’s large workload of data analysis by consistently responding to our many requests for technical help,” Spiegelman says.

“He has stepped in to salvage analyses in danger of failing before we were even aware of a problem, and patiently guided myself and several members of our analysis team through the often painful process of learning how to function in a HPC environment. The job of a system administrator is most often hidden and thankless, noticed only when a problem arises, but his dedication is inspiring and his professionalism and attention-to-detail is the grease without which this complex machine simply would not run.”

 

Sergiy Khan
Saint Mary’s University,  ACENET

Sergiy Khan’s diligence and hard work got him through the migration of WestGrid, Calcul Québec and ACENET to the national help desk.

“With 65 different queues serving various external and internal needs, and with 25,000 tickets in two-and-a-half years of operation, overseeing Compute Canada’s national help desk is no easy task, but Sergiy’s diligence was up to the challenge,” says Maxime Boissonneault, ARC specialist with Calcul Québec. “Sergiy has been my right-hand in the research support national team since the beginning. Over the past 2 years, he has been managing Compute Canada’s help desk and ensuring that no tickets fall through the cracks.”

Khan has been coordinating the help desk with groups that have vastly different workflows, both within Compute Canada as well as with external, but related, organizations.

Khan also leads the infrastructure operations team, which keeps the most crucial and central pieces of Compute Canada’s infrastructure running.

Lev Tarasov, Associate Professor at Memorial University, says Khan has been “outstanding” in providing support for his team’s clusters within ACENET.

“Murphy’s law seems to prefer that my clusters break down late on Friday afternoons or evenings,” says Tarasov. “Sergiy has stood out in checking in on the weekends and, when possible, addressing problems right away. He has exhibited high technical competence in solving problems when solutions were far from self-evident.”

Khan is also very timely in addressing system support needs such as adding required libraries for new climate models and data analysis applications.

Oliver Stueker
Memorial University, ACENET

Oliver Stueker left no question in the minds of his trio of nominators that he was deserving of this award.

Professor R. Poirier, Associate Professor S. Bungay and Assistant Professor P. Warburton, all of Memorial University, jointly nominated Stueker for this award.

“Oliver has supported our research for about five years,” they say. “Since at ACENET, he has continued to support our research — often going beyond the call of duty.”

Stueker has provided — and continues to provide — significant training to their entire research group by introducing them to the concept of version control, helping them install and execute code on Compute Canada equipment and helping their students with software. He has also aided in the migration of their database to a Compute Canada machine at St. Francis Xavier University and he has set up a virtual machine for them in the West Cloud. Finally, he helped them with Globus and with shared file storage on Compute Canada’s system.

“He also continues to inform us about many tools or resources available that can assist us in our research and improve our efficiency and our end product. Oliver is, without any doubt, fully deserving of the award of excellence.”

Team Choice Award

Kamil Marcinkowski
University of Alberta, WestGrid

A System Analyst at WestGrid, Kamil Marcinkowski receives rave reviews from colleagues for his technical know-how, his attention to detail and his ability and patience in working with those who are less technologically inclined.

“Kamil single-handedly configured the SLURM scheduling policy for Cedar,” says Robert Fridman, System Administrator at WestGrid. “Given the diverse requirements, in both hardware and scheduling parameters, Kamil was able to create a SLURM scheduling policy and fair-share configuration that made the cluster work. His work is benefiting not only the researchers on Cedar, but scheduling on other Compute Canada clusters as well.”

Another colleague — Erin Trifunov, Manager of Projects and Outreach at WestGrid  — says Marcinkowski has “consistently gone above and beyond in his role with WestGrid and Compute Canada. He has been instrumental to the national scheduling team, RAC and in providing three-part online training sessions to WestGrid and other users on how to submit and schedule jobs,” Trifunov says. “He is so dedicated in ensuring all details are carefully considered.”

She describes him as passionate about helping others who are “not as technically [adept] or detail-oriented.” He has taught staff members and clients alike and is an advocate for meeting any gaps in needs, such as large shared memory systems.

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