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Spotlight on Clare Gryce

28 March 2012

Clare Gryce

This week the spotlight is on Clare Gryce, Research Computing Services Group Manager, Information Services Division.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m responsible for the operation and development of services within UCL’s Information Services Division (ISD) to support computationally intensive research across UCL.

Our ‘flagship’ service is the High Performance Computing (HPC) Cluster Legion, equivalent to about 3000 desktop machines. Information about all our services is available on the Research Computing Services webpage.

Legion is generally ‘full’ 24/7, 365 days per year, running a diverse mix of jobs from across the Faculties, with particularly large usage from materials science, astrophysics and genomics.

UCL has a very mature computational science research base; our researchers use ~ 25% of the UK’s national supercomputing service, HECToR, between them - access to which is peer reviewed. It’s both challenging and rewarding to be providing a service to such a dynamic and world-leading community.

My team colleagues provide technical specialist services including analysing and optimising individual research ‘pipelines’ and investigating and evaluating new HPC technologies that might be used to develop new services – it’s a very rapidly changing area.

The team all have backgrounds in scientific applications and/or computational science, and work closely with researchers to help them meet their research objectives. They are supported in this by a team of specialist systems administrators.

Next year, we’ll be expanding our operation and establishing new services as part of Smart IT, the major change programme underway in ISD.

We’ll be establishing a scientific software development service that is part of a larger academic initiative within UCL, involving colleagues who are engaged in research in related areas of algorithm design and numerical methods.

We’re also looking to increase significantly the level of advisory and outreach services that we provide for IT services that support their research.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

My first degree was in Natural Sciences, and I came to UCL in 2002 to study for an MSc in Computer Science as a mature student.

I then spent two years working on an EU 'Grid' project, before moving on to manage the UCL e-Science Centre of Excellence in Networked Systems, based in the Computer Science Department.

Around this time, the seeds of what is now UCL Research Computing were sown, I moved to ISD, and I haven't looked back. My current role draws very much on my previous experience in consumer-focused, service-based businesses.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

The last project my team completed – to double the capacity of the Legion service – was completed on time and within budget and I’m pretty pleased about that. In particular, we wanted to be able to implement the project without a break in service and, owing to careful planning by the technical team, we were able to achieve this.

Most recently, we have been involved in a collaborative project with Southampton, Oxford and Bristol to establish a regional ‘Tier 2’ HPC facility and have been successful in gaining £3.7million of funding from EPSRC.

The ‘Centre for Innovation’ facilities will be a real boost to UCL’s HPC community, and there are new challenges for ISD as well in designing a service intended for shared use.

More generally, I feel very privileged to have led the development of the ISD Research Computing Services group from its beginning. It’s not always been an easy journey, but it’s been tremendously fulfilling to have the opportunity to build something from the ground up.

In this respect, I am most proud of the team that I have grown, who have been very much a part of this. Their expertise in computational science and scientific applications, and deep understanding of the research process are the core of the services that we provide.

What is your life like outside UCL?

I live near Blackheath in south-east London with my husband (a professional illustrator) and our seven-year-old daughter.

Weekends are mostly spent enjoying simple domestic pleasures; enjoying our lovely garden (regrettably not my green fingers) and cooking for family and friends. A favourite day out is to take the Thames Clipper up the river to see what’s on at Tate Britain.

I took up Iyengar yoga a few years ago and, though I don't practise as often as I know I should, this is a very important part of my life. I have a great teacher and my weekly classes are a valuable 'pause' in an otherwise hectic weekday schedule.

I am a slow reader so every book that I read has to really count and I read mostly non-fiction these days. I have just finished Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine which was terribly sobering.

For laughs, nothing in the world is funnier than Curb Your Enthusiasm.