Almost all of us have benefitted from the dedicated expertise offered the Lunenfeld’s Computer Support Team. Together, the team responds promptly to approximately 30 requests daily, and their office is a virtual flurry of activity to support the Lunenfeld’s 8th, 9th and 10th floors at 600 University Avenue, as well as the labs at 60 Murray/25 Orde Street and the data centre at 200 Elm Street.
At the front lines are Tony Jovanovski and Maria Minakakis, System Administrators who have been a team since the get-go, having both started at the Lunenfeld on the same day 10 years ago.
Tony manages computer software with a focus on hardware including iPhones, Blackberries, and printers, and also offers consulting and troubleshooting support. “I enjoy the variety and challenges that the job brings on a daily basis,” says Tony. “We have an amazing team here, and it’s really like a second family to us.”
Maria offers software support and training for packages such as MS Office and Photoshop, conducts installations and handles user accounts, and is also embarking to virtualize some of the servers (i.e., in which one server can act as many to save energy and time).
“Walk-in tech support is a large part of what we do daily, and people seem to benefit from the direct face-to-face communication that we have,” says Maria. “Being able to juggle many different, ongoing time-limited tasks is challenging, but also rewarding.”
Lawrence (Larry) Ng began as a summer student in 1992 and remembers the early days. “Back then, the Internet was still just a distraction for most people. Actually, that probably hasn’t changed!” says Larry, who overlaps in duties with the rest of the team but mostly handles special servers and computers on specialized equipment. “The scientists here were just getting their first email addresses, and grants were submitted only through multiple hard copies.
“Nowadays, our biggest threat is loss of confidential data, and the hackers or viruses that hit the firewalls every minute,” says Larry, noting that their antispam systems block over 13,000 spam daily, and adds that the Institute distributes over 3,000 emails daily. “It’s amazing how we’re extremely interconnected with the outside world,” says Larry.
Naveed Mohammad, the High Performance Computing Administrator, has a background in bioinformatics and proteomics and has been managing High Performance Computers for about 10 years. Currently, the Institute is in the process of acquiring over 1,000 computer cores, which are ‘clustered’ together to form a supercomputer, with applications including mass spectrometry data, statistical modeling and de-convolution microscopy.
“High Performance Computing is essential to research. Without it, answers to complex biological problems would take much longer to achieve,” says Naveed.
Jim Wei deals with the hidden part of our computing systems that few ever see—all the networking, security, storage, firewalls and servers that keep everything communicating and running. In effect, he designed the Lunenfeld’s IT ‘nervous system.’
Things have changed significantly since he started back in 1995. “If you think about it in terms of the storage offered by one DVD, we have about 32,000 DVDs worth of storage now, compared to only five DVDs in 1995,” says Jim.
Tony, Maria, Jim, Naveed and Larry—we thank you!