2017 Award Winners
On June 5, 2017, seven Compute Canada team members were recognized for their exceptional contributions and outstanding support or service. Read the news release.
Outstanding Achievement Award
Université Laval, Calcul Québec
Delving into the world of advanced research computing can be an intimidating leap for some researchers, especially those without a background in computer science. This is where Julie Faure-Lacroix has made the biggest impact, say her multiple nominators. She has been influential at building bridges and welcoming new users to the Compute Canada community.
The Scientific Liaison Officer at Calcul Québec is credited with single-handedly recruiting a significant portion of the forestry and ecology research community to register for Compute Canada accounts and integrate ARC into their research. Her talent for breaking down barriers and translating jargon won her the admiration of new users like Julian Wittische, a PhD candidate at the Université de Montréal.
“Julie Faure-Lacroix helped my laboratory beyond our expectations. She introduced us to the opportunity offered by Calcul Québec, explained in detail how to use the services offered, and helped us to use and adapt the software we needed,” says Wittische. “She was able to make all of her technical explanations accessible and was very patient with us. We will always be grateful for it.”
In addition to her support role at Calcul Québec, Faure-Lacroix is also a researcher, currently in the midst of completing a doctoral thesis in biology. She’s also an active advocate for ARC, masterminding a fun #batman4compute Twitter drive to complement Compute Canada’s recent #Tuques4Compute outreach campaign.
“Through her creativity and initiative, Julie demonstrates every day her relevance in the organization and contributes greatly to its influence,” says Calcul Québec colleague, Félix-Antoine Fortin.
Ultimately, say her nominators, it’s Faure-Lacroix’s willingness to help and ability to solve problems that has made the most impact with anyone she helps.
“Julie’s exceptional support has allowed me to overcome several programming barriers to using Compute Canada services,” says Paul Mayrand, Masters student at Université de Montréal. “The exchanges with her were always very fast and effective. When a problem presented itself, Julie knew to approach it by asking me the right questions and immediately identifying the solution. In short, it was through these cordial and effective exchanges that I was able to complete my project and use the computing resources well beyond my original objectives.”
Award of Excellence
Awarded to individuals who embody the spirit of excellence.
Simon Fraser University, WestGrid
When the Research Computing Group was formed at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in 1999, Martin Siegert was its inaugural member. He has since worked tirelessly to build the group in both size and expertise.
In recent years, Martin has led the group to host one of Compute Canada’s new national systems at SFU.
“He never shies away from tackling complex projects,” says Mark Roman, SFU’s Chief Information Officer. “From day one, the project of installing Cedar was designed to be a cross-Canada collaboration, and as the Site Lead, Martin invited people from across the country to work with him and his team at SFU with open arms.”
With a background in theoretical and computational condensed matter physics and a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, Siegert brings valuable expertise to the Compute Canada team. His key motivation: to help researchers achieve more.
“The driving force for Martin is to provide researchers with a system and support structure that will allow them to solve problems that they couldn’t solve before and this emanates in every aspect of his work,” says Roman.
Memorial University, ACENET
Craig Squires isn’t your typical system administrator. Few people can effortlessly cite theorists to underscore important points or use the term “desiderata” in a sentence and pull it off. But Squires’ training in classical philosophy is just one of the ways he thinks outside the box.
“Craig has been a member of the Compute Canada Humanities and Social Sciences National Team since its early days and has always set a high standard for participation,” says John Simpson, Compute Canada Humanities and Social Sciences Team Lead.
In 2016, Squires collaborated with Dalhousie University Professor Darren Abramson to co-author a submission to Compute Canada’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) scholarship program. Founded in 2001, the DHSI is the largest training event in the world for the digital humanities. Squires and Abramson’s project, “Creating a Home for User-Generated Content,” won one of the Compute Canada scholarships and the duo attended the two-week DHSI event at the University of Victoria.
Since then, Squires has jumped in with both feet. For example, he is designing and delivering a new course for DHSI 2017 on the Fedora Commons.
“It is important to note that Craig is co-designing and delivering this course with a member of the research community rather than going it alone or keeping it entirely in-house, again exemplifying the sort of relationship with researchers that Compute Canada should be achieving in the ideal,” says Simpson.
Did we mention he does all his work on a mechanical keyboard? (His keys of choice being “Cherry Browns.”) As we said, he’s not your typical system administrator.
McGill University, Calcul Québec
Bart Oldeman is a problem solver. His commitment to troubleshooting challenges and delivering solutions are qualities his nominators recognized and praised.
“Bart’s work over the past year will be the cornerstone of user experience for the new Compute Canada national systems,” says his Calcul Québec colleague, Maxime Boissonneault. “It will ensure that users see a coherent environment, whichever cluster they happen to be working on.”
Bart started the project in January 2016, adding layers and components like CVMFS, Nix, EasyBuild, and Lmod for functionality, performance and optimization. His back-end work will enable Compute Canada’s support team to automate the build of all software, and to easily replicate the software stack and optimize it for multiple processor architectures. Now, software can be compiled easily to run optimally both on legacy and cutting-edge hardware. In the end, Oldeman established himself as an internal Easybuild/Lmod expert; his work has caught the attention of an external audience as well.
“Not only does Compute Canada now contribute to both the EasyBuild project and Lmod, but Bart was invited to give a talk on our setup at an EasyBuild conference in Europe,” says Boissonneault.
Oldeman’s dedication to getting a job done is also unmatched. He’s been known to work beyond midnight to help prepare training workshops, he can be counted on to perform urgent sys-admin tasks, and has stepped-up to help support critical system incidents during evenings, on weekends, or even on his days off.
Outstanding Support Award
Awarded to individuals who provided outstanding support.
Université de Sherbrooke, Calcul Québec
When Catherine Lefebvre’s team at the Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre at INRS (Institut national de la recherche scientifique) needed help with developing a hybrid OpenMP-MPI code, they called upon HuiZhong LU. Little did they know, that initial support request would turn into a multi-year collaboration that has helped formed the foundation of their group’s future work.
“Dr. LU constantly helped implement new routines to make the code more versatile and optimized it to be more efficiently parallel,” says Lefebvre, noting the original code is still being used today.
LU’s work with the team didn’t stop there. The group has continued to perform major code development and Lu has been involved in nearly all of the steps.
“Thanks to the constant support of Dr. LU to optimize the code parallelization and some advice on the code output, the simulations have been running so efficiently that our first experiment successfully took place at the end of 2016. A second campaign, based on a new calculated optimized configuration, will start in May 2017. Some of the preliminary simulations results have been published in journals of the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, and the Optical Society of America, presented in international conferences and, in addition, a patent based on these results is being proposed.”
Lefebvre commended LU’s dedication to go above and beyond the call of duty, no matter how big or small the request.
“He is always attentive to our very specific needs and adequately answers our requests in a surprisingly short time,” says Lefebvre. “He is also a very warm, polite and kind person. Patiently supporting any members of the group, he definitively seems to enjoy each part of the work requested. His impressive competence leaves the impression for researchers like us that every step is easy and simple – although it is a very complex problem to solve.”
Simon Fraser University, WestGrid
Lixin Liu’s dedication to providing outstanding support to Canadian researchers is evident in everything he does. With a PhD in Applied and Computational Mathematics from Simon Fraser University (SFU) and more than 20 years experience in UNIX operating systems, storage and network administration, Liu brings a wealth of expertise to the Compute Canada team.
“In his over 14 years of supporting researchers at Simon Fraser University, he has developed a reputation of knowing exactly what needs to be done to provide researchers with the complex environments required to analyze data and being the go-to guy when you have a question about networking or storage,” says, Mark Roman, Chief Information Officer at SFU.
In addition to being a trusted expert, Liu’s passion for his job has seen him collaborate on and spearhead key projects to develop and expand Compute Canada’s support offerings. Over the last five years, Liu has made significant contributions to the team, including being a founding member of the Compute Canada networking team, designing the portal service for the Science Gateway (a platform to provide bioinformatics researchers a web-based interface to analyze data), and writing the original Compute Canada LDAP schema.
However, noted Roman, the project “that makes Lixin beam from ear-to-ear” has been the installation of Compute Canada’s new national system Cedar at the SFU Data Centre.
“His excitement about the entire process of this two-year project, including developing the specifications of the system, writing the RFPs, and working with new technology such as Intel’s Open Pass Architecture system and Nvidia’s P100 graphics processor, was evident at every meeting I attended.”
Team Choice Award
Awarded to an outstanding Compute Canada team member, as nominated by his/her peers.
For Eduardo Fuenmayor, going above and beyond the call of duty marks just another day’s work. Known for his positive attitude, detail-oriented project plans, and hard-working nature, the Science Project Manager at Compute Canada has repeatedly proven himself to be a tireless and dedicated member of the team.
“Eduardo goes above and beyond in every project he takes on,” says Erin Trifunov, Manager, Projects and Outreach, at WestGrid. “He has consistently put in 10-12 hour days yet remains positive, collaborative and always willing to respond to email or offer his help if needed.”
Fuenmayor has been with Compute Canada since 2014 and has helped drive the planning and implementation of multiple key projects and user services. He has also developed a close and productive working relationship with the Compute Canada Database (CCDB) developer team, playing the part of chief liaison to balance the needs of users with the abilities of the development team to deliver on those needs.
He has developed a reputation for remaining calm and effective under pressure, even when deadlines and challenges loom. He’s been spotted online sometimes at 4 am, plugging away at project tasks. When he takes a vacation, everyone notices his absence.
“Other team members feel an instant sense of relief when we hear that Eduardo is involved,” notes Trifunov. “He has proven time and again his ability to take charge, bring together, and lead unique groups of people and ultimately produce the end result required.”