Evan Von Oehsen Interviews Max Rose To Learn About His Experience with HPC Support
As a new hire in HPC Support, there is a lot to learn and catch up on. To help me gain a better understanding of HPC, and give me some insight into his experience, I interviewed a team member – Max Rose (PO ‘22).
Evan: What was your experience/interest with technology prior to working with HPC?
Max: Coming into HPC I had taken a class on Python, a few courses on EDX, and I was in the Science Math and Technology magnet at my high school–I had lots of tech in my background.
Evan: Why did you join HPC?
Max: I actually couldn’t get my computer to work, and Daziah [Turner], who was a student worker in ITS, helped me fix my PC. She ended up telling me all about HPC, and I applied the next day.
Evan: How long have you been a part of HPC and how has your experience been?
Max: I’ve been here since around early September. It’s a really cool job; there have been some fascinating projects coming through here for a lot of different departments. We’ve been doing stuff with geology, economics, even linguistics that I never would normally get to see, because I personally am very math and computer science oriented, and it’s really cool.
Evan: What projects have you worked on so far/plan on working on?
Max: I got to help set up a new server called the Epyc server. I basically shadowed, so that’s a good example of being able to participate in things you had no prior knowledge of, as I’d never set up a server before. I just watched, and although I didn’t have any experience with it going in, I came out of it having learned a lot. I watched some materials from an Intel conference on extreme performance. I went through the slides and made notes. Currently, I’m working with a modeling software called COMSOL with the geology department. The professor I’m working with is named Eric Grosfils, (Grosfils recently received a $450,000 grant from NASA). I met with him and we talked about how he can use HPC going forward. A lot of times, you get into a spot where you approach a professor and start talking about their project, and eventually you have to wait for them in order to move forward with it.
Evan: What are your favorite types of projects to work on and why?
Max: I like working with projects that are technical. Rather than writing, I like doing things that involve specifically technology, whether that be involving programming or numbers or software, rather than filming or writing. The good thing about our group is that we have people that like to do that, and aren’t as interested in the number side of things. It’s good that we have both because, if we only had people like me, we’d have nobody that would like to document. And if we only had people that liked to do things like filming projects, there would be nobody to do the more technical research projects.
Evan: Have you involved any knowledge gained in Pomona classes in your HPC projects?
Max: In my intro to Python class, while it wasn’t quite up to par with the skills we need for some of the projects, it definitely gave me a foundation for the basics such as arrays, lists, etc. A lot of the things we do here in HPC can be confusing if you don’t know the basics.
Evan: As a part of HPC, have you learned anything about other disciplines through any projects you’ve worked on?
Max: When working on research projects for different programs we do sometimes learn about them in the process, but it’s more so about making their software compile and run and produce results. If I’m working on a project with geology models, for example, it’s not necessarily my job to create a geology model–I’ll be focusing on making the software work well. Even if I took that geology class, I still would need to be focusing more on the technology aspect and making everything work smoothly for the research. That said, understanding the content never hurts–having that common understanding when you’re discussing a project can only be beneficial!
Evan: What are some of the challenges of working with HPC?
Max: Really the great thing about working at HPC is that you can shape it to work with you as much as necessary–if I’m going to have a busy week, I’ll take less jobs, but when I have more free time, I’m able to take on more projects and get them done. So thus far, I haven’t run into any challenges besides those that come with what we’re specifically working on in our projects.
Evan: What is your favorite part of working with HPC?
Max: Working at HPC allows me to utilize technologies that I wouldn’t normally have access to–like the computing power we have in there, we have a couple of servers which cost way more money than any student like myself could afford, and we have access to a lot of fancy VR equipment and VR laptops where I couldn’t spend $800 on a headset but I get to play with one in the lab. The same goes with other things like 360 cameras and 3D printers. It’s a plethora of really cool hardware that we’re very fortunate to have access to.
Evan: What has been your biggest takeaway from working at HPC so far?
Max: I’ve learned a lot technically–I’ve learned a lot more software and I’ve developed a much broader understanding of computers as a whole. Computer science can be really nitty-gritty and you might not know how to get big projects done after even a few years of classes. But with this job, I’ve learned to see the broader picture, how to actually do something you need to do rather than just know how to write code and not know how to deploy it. More abstractly, I’ve learned that technology jobs and computer science don’t necessarily go hand in hand; I think there’s a difference between information technology and computer science. You could take four years of computer science and have no idea what HPC is all about, or you could learn a lot about HPC and have no idea how to code. But I’ve learned how to connect that and realize I need to know all of these things if I want to be successful.