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 IU Trident Indiana University

NCGAS Virtual Interns leverage XSEDE experience to gain industry employment

Project Lead: Bill Barnett, Rich Le Duc, Rich Knepper

Campus Bridging and Research Infrastructure, Systems Group, UITS Research Technologies

National Center for Genome Analysis Support, UITS Research Technologies

NSF Award # 1062432

REU Classroom Picture
Figure 1. Carrie Ganote lectures Clark State Community College and visiting Biology students about Bioinformatics and Genomic Assemblies during Clark State's visit to the Cyberinfrastructure Building.

Two recent graduates of Clark State University are employed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base as a result of their educational program at Clark State and their participation in a Research Experience for Undergraduates operated by the National Center for Genome Analysis Support (NCGAS).

Aaron Blizzard and Trevor Ferryman participated in the NCGAS REU Virtual Internship program at Indiana University during the latter half of 2013. Both cybersecurity majors at Clark State University in Ohio, Blizzard and Ferryman began working with NCGAS in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program organized by Indiana University staff in summer 2013. Blizzard and Ferryman applied for, and received, internships with NCGAS following their REU visits. These ‘virtual internships’ were conducted with Blizzard and Ferryman attending classes in Springfield OH and working on NCGAS and XSEDE (eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment) supercomputer clusters located at IU.

Internship responsibilities for Blizzard and Ferryman were remote and mainly involved software installation and work on several eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) resources, including Mason at Indiana University, Blacklight at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, and Gordon at San Diego Supercomputer Center. Their main focus was on installing and using a number of bioinformatics applications.

While both Blizzard and Ferryman participated in their internships in a virtual format, they were required to attend regular meetings with NCGAS staff they were working with. NCGAS Bioinformatics Analyst Carrie Ganote worked closely with Blizzard and Ferryman as their main internship supervisor.

Blizzard and Ferryman recently completed their degrees and accepted industry positions that will draw on skills they sharpened during their internships. Ferryman, who completed his degree in December 2013, is now employed by Lockheed-Martin in their supercomputing center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Blizzard has accepted a Level 3 Tech position with Edict Systems in Dayton, OH. The new employers of both students credited their work with NCGAS and IU as critical to the young men getting jobs at Wright-Patterson AFB.

When asked about her experience working with them, Ganote said, “My experience with the virtual interns was like reliving my undergrad studies - our students grappled with the same issues that I once struggled with, and I hope that our mentorship enabled them to gain a greater understanding. While the flavor of work was biology, the informatics will translate to any field. Installing software and understanding permissions and basic Unix functions will give them a more mature perspective on any system they encounter in the future.”

Rich Knepper, Carrie Ganote, Barbara Hallock, and Tom Doak provided initial instruction on Unix Systems, Bioinformatics Software, and Genomic Theory. Rich and Carrie provided day-to-day instruction and information about how to use the systems. Support for the Virtual Interns was provided as part of NSF's Research Exchange for Undergraduates Program

The Campus Bridging and Research Infrastructure (CBRI) group enables IU researchers, scholars, and artists to bridge easily and effectively from their personal and lab computing systems to IU’s advanced research cyberinfrastructure to national cyberinfrastructure resources such as XSEDE (the eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment). 

The National Center for Genome Analysis Support enables  the biological research community of the US to analyze, understand, and make use of the vast amount of genomic information now available. NCGAS focuses particularly on transcriptome- and genome-level assembly, phylogenetics, metagenomics/transcriptomics and community genomics.