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People of SGCI: Sandra Gesing

Sandra Gesing

Research Assistant Professor and Computational Scientist
University of Notre Dame


What is your role within SGCI and what do you do?

I’m part of both the Community Engagement and Exchange and Incubator service areas. My main responsibility is consulting with universities on building on-campus teams for developing and maintaining science gateways. Additionally, I reach out to communities via presentations and publications on the SGCI. I also spend some time consulting with gateway projects in their choice of technologies, and I am one of the instructors of the Science Gateways Bootcamp which will have its inaugural session at the end of April.

How did you come to be a part of SGCI, and why were you intrigued by the opportunity?

The director of the Notre Dame Center for Research Computing (CRC), Jarek Nabrzyski, was invited to the proposal because of the impressive growth he created of this centralized on-campus team (the team grew from 7 FTEs to 45 FTEs in 8 years). He asked me, as the science gateway specialist of the CRC, to join on his behalf. My research has focused on science gateways for over 10 years – mostly for bioinformatic applications – and I was honored and thrilled to join this much-needed institute and the opportunities its existence opens up.

What is the most challenging part of your work for SGCI?

The most challenging part is reaching the people for building on-campus teams who can see that such teams are highly beneficial for their home institution and who are also in the position to achieve such teams and be enthusiastic about building them. While these teams can efficiently support researchers so they can focus on their research, and also offer members a diverse set of roles and opportunities, the challenges are many-fold and include everything from locating a dedicated evangelist to finding the funding and maintaining an inspired work atmosphere.

How else are you involved in the technology or gateway community?

My research focuses on usability and sustainability aspects of science gateways as well as reproducibility via computational workflows. As a computational scientist, I design end-to-end solutions for projects at the CRC and collaborate on proposals. Wherever possible and sensible, the designs are based on existing science gateway frameworks and libraries. In the past, I have also implemented or contributed to solutions such as the Molecular Simulation Grid (MoSGrid) science gateway or contributed extensions to science gateway frameworks, e.g. Galaxy.

I’m the founder of the successful European workshop series International Workshop on Science Gateways (IWSG), which will take place for the ninth time June 19-21, 2017 in Poznan, Poland. (A kind reminder – its deadline for the submission of papers and abstracts is coming up on April 3rd!) The IWSG workshop series partners with SGCI’s Gateways conference series and the workshop series International Workshop on Science Gateways – Australia (IWSG-A). The importance of science gateways has also been recognized by IEEE and I coordinate and chair the IEEE Technical Area on Science Gateways. Furthermore, I am a member of the International Coalition on Science Gateways (ICSG), the Research Data Alliance Virtual Research Environment Interest Group (RDA VRE IG), and the Internet2 External Advisory Group “Toward a National Cyber-Engagement and Support Initiative”. I have chaired quite a few events and I served on dozens of program committees of international conferences and workshops around science gateways, workflows, and distributed computing.

What do you most like to do in your free time?

One of my favorite leisure time activities is listening to live music – from blues, jazz, and hard rock to classical music. My hometown Chicago is a fantastic city with live concerts and gigs on every day of the week. It does not work out for me timewise every day, but it is great to know that I can go whenever my time allows it. Another favorite activity is traveling to places all over the world. I love to get to know people, experience different cultures, and discover new places. Luckily I’m in the position to also combine work with traveling, which opens up many more possibilities for traveling.

If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have?

I would be able to beam myself, persons, and equipment in the same room in microseconds to another place – wherever on the globe. That would save so much time, would be so much more environmentally friendly, and could bring people and equipment to support in emergency and life-threatening situations so much faster. I would still join some meetings remotely, though – I like the possibility of hiding behind the no-video option wearing pajamas for early calls in the morning.