Faces of HPC: Craig Morris
In June 2015, Craig returned as a systems developer for EPCC in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. He is currently working on two projects for EPCC - addressing the challenge of energy-efficient use of parallel technologies in HPC within the ADEPT project and developing a highly secure medical research HPC system for the Farr Institute.
Craig earned his BEng in Electrical and Electronics from the University of Edinburgh and his PGDip in System Level Integrations (SLI) at the ISLI – in collaboration with the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot Watt and Strathclyde. Finishing his studies he started working on the QCDOC project for EPCC until 2010. After spending four years in the IT support team of the school, he returned fulltime to EPCC in June 2015 working on the Farr Institute and ADEPT projects.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am originally from Jamaica, spent two years in New Jersey (USA), but lived in Scotland most of my life.
I went to Edinburgh University to study Computing & Electronics. I focused on Computer Science and Electronics for the first two years, but the Computer Science wasn’t what I expected so I switched to Electrical & Electronics for the rest of my degree. I was more interested in the electronics side of computers, so I went on to do a masters in chip design at the ISLI in ‘Silicon Glen’ Livingston.
After my degree, I applied for jobs and saw a vacancy for a computing officer at Edinburgh University and thought ‘computing officer' that must have some electronics in it! During the interview, I heard about the QCDOC project, which was a custom designed supercomputer for quantum chromodynamics being built at BNL in New York. When asked if I would be willing to work at BNL for a couple of months to build, configure and test it, I quickly replied ‘Yes’. After my successful application I started working for EPCC.
Besides my interest in HPC, I play basketball in the University intra-mural league and organise weekly recreational basketball sessions. I also joined the local basketball league 'Edinburgh Lothian Basketball League' which I played in for several years. Recently, I took up snowboarding and found it to be more fun and enjoyable than skiing. I also enjoy travelling and have visited 27 countries so far - still a lot more left to explore, though!
What is your current job?
For the past 3 months I have been working as a systems developer on the Farr Institute project to develop and provide a secure windows desktop environment with state-of-the-art statistical analysis software to researchers for medical research in the UK. Getting back into HPC after 4 years out, I found this task interesting, but very, very challenging. Part of my time is also spent on the ADEPT project working with some of the latest processors and technologies to addresses the challenge of energy-efficient use of parallel technologies.
Coming from a different background, I believe I have a distinctive way of approaching and seeing things from other people. Educational environments can vary a lot between countries and that can also influence the way you approach things. Attending a Jamaican private school where they push you harder than in public schools, I learnt a lot quicker and I also made more of an effort knowing the more wrong answers I got in my test = the more hits with the cane I would get… :(
Since I was young I have always been intrigued with electronic gadgets, taking them apart, fixing them, modifying them, such as taking my remote control cars and adding more electronic parts to them.
What is the best thing about working in HPC?
There are a lot of interesting and challenging HPC projects out there which is nice, in particular, there are a lot of different high-profile projects in EPCC that you can get involved in. For example, the QCDOC project was a big investment with a high risk of failure, but being involved in making the QCDOC project a success, providing an HPC service to researchers to advance science has made it very rewarding and worth every bit of the 6 years I had been involved in it. My main project ‘The Farr institute’ at the moment has so far been very complex and challenging using commercial software and applications with a lot of new hardware technologies that I am not familiar with, this has given me a very, very steep learning curve - The best thing about this project will be making it another successful project in providing another HPC service to researchers to advance science, this one will be very rewarding once we get it working!
If there was one thing about HPC that you could change, what would it be?
There is so much state-of-the-art technology out there and it changes so quickly which makes it hard to keep on top of it, but I would not want to change that.
What’s next for you in HPC – where does your career lead you?
Now 3 months in my new career, enjoying the challenge and some sleepless nights, I see more interesting and challenging projects ahead and a bright future...
Craig was interviewed by Vivian Uhlir in September 2015.