People of SGCI: John Gentle
Research Engineering Scientist Associate II
Texas Advanced Computing Center
What is your role within SGCI and what do you do?
My primary role within SGCI is as an EDS (Extended Developer Support) consultant in which I assist project teams that are developing web-portals to serve as an interface for utilizing high-performance computing systems by researchers, scientists and various members of the SGCI community.
How did you come to be a part of SGCI, and why were you intrigued by the opportunity?
I was invited to become part of the SGCI community after several years of working at TACC (Texas Advanced Computing Center) where I have contributed to multiple web portal projects that are similar to the efforts I assist under SGCI. I am particularly interested in web-based technologies and see them as an opportunity to level the computational playing field by facilitating access to systems that would be otherwise too complex or arcane for researchers to utilize effectively on their own. It is also very fulfilling working with amazing teams like the VC3 (Virtual Clusters for Community Computation) project which provide me new levels of insight into how other organizations are solving the problems associated with access to HPC systems and what technologies are selected to provide the scaffolding for their efforts. Working with the SGCI community is a fantastic way to stay current on emerging technology trends and platforms within the greater domain of science as a whole.
What is the most challenging part of your work for SGCI?
The most difficult aspect of providing EDS support is understanding the goals of the project from the perspective of the team I am supporting. Each project is unique and has its own criteria for success which can vary wildly depending on the domain being addressed. Sometimes that challenge is straightforward, such as choosing the correct technology stack to solve a set of well-defined goals, but there are often greater communication challenges, both in terms of understanding the lingua franca of the domain the project is contextualized in as well as coordinating with team members who are often distributed around the globe and constitute a diverse array of nationalities and native tongues as well as time zones and scheduling availability.
How else are you involved in the technology or gateway community?
In my work at TACC, I contribute to several scientific web-portals that are used by a variety of communities for their work. I help to maintain the Wrangler web portal for allocating and instantiating HPC based resources for use in executing various applications and analytics, and similarly for the SD2E (Synergistic Discovery and Design Environment) DARPA project web portal. In addition to those, I help maintain and enhance several scientific portals used by researchers to house and expose large specimen collections online (http://fishesoftexas.org/, http://paleocentral.org/).
What do you most like to do in your free time?
I am a proud father of two amazing kids and am also married to a very talented artist and actress, so much of my free time is devoted to raising and supporting my family in their endeavors. However, whenever possible, I still pursue my previous career as a musician, write the occasional short story and play every video game I can get my hands on. I am also an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy (when I get to escape the tomes of technical manuals and documentation) and a perpetual student of philosophy and its influence on societies around the globe. I truly believe knowledge is power and relish our current age of information access.
If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have?
I think if I could have any power it would be a psychokinetic mentalist! The ability to instantly communicate (and empathize) with anything I choose, anywhere at any time while also manipulating the physical world around me at will. Our modern age is rife with conflict and division, which provide an infinitude of opportunities for conflict resolution, healing, and peace - a powerful mentalist could facilitate the rapid manifestation of these desired conditions on a global scale. Not to mention help usher in a new era of human cooperation and achievement wherein all individual potential is realized and we can truly explore the infinity of the cosmos as brothers and sisters. After all, we are all in this together!