SRU grad uses networking to land job at Berkeley National Lab
From left, Elizabeth Bautista, manager for the Operations Technology Group at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing; Adam Schultz, a 2022 Slippery Rock University graduate; and Nitin Sukhija, SRU associate professor of computer science; stand near the Perlmutter Supercomputer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. Schultz was recently hired as a site reliability engineer at Berkeley Lab.
Sept. 9, 2022
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Networking is always touted as a great way to land a job after graduating. One Slippery Rock University graduate took this advice to heart, just not in the way others typically do. He landed his first job by tapping into one of the most powerful networks in the world - and not a super exclusive club or fraternity, but the supercomputers at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing facility at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. This is where Adam Schultz, a 2022 SRU graduate with degrees in computer science and philosophy, was recently hired as a site reliability engineer within the Operations Technology Group at NERSC.
Known as Berkeley Lab, his new employer is a multiprogram science lab charged with conducting unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. As one of the largest facilities in the world devoted to providing computational resources and expertise for basic scientific research, NERSC is a world leader in accelerating scientific discovery through computation.
"The whole culture around Berkeley Lab is centered around innovation," Schultz said. "Being part of a team that values personal development and constantly learning new things is really impactful. Getting my foot in the door like this opens up so many new opportunities within the research and academic fields by making connections with other researchers who are affiliated with lab from all around the world."
Schultz didn't simply knock on that door. He worked on a yearlong research project with an SRU professor affiliated with the lab, which led to a summer internship, and subsequently a full-time job. Beginning in the spring of 2021, Schultz was a research apprentice under Nitin Sukhija, SRU associate professor of computer science, which led to Schultz entering the XSEDE EMPOWER Program, a yearlong apprenticeship program funded by the National Science Foundation. For the apprenticeship, Schultz worked to analyze data provided by Berkeley Lab.
"This allowed me to get an introduction into Dr. Sukhija's research and enabled me to grow my connections with Berkeley Lab," Schultz said.
For his summer internship, Schultz also worked remotely reporting to Elizabeth Bautista, manager for the Operations Technology Group at the NERSC, to create an algorithm that would predict eminent hardware failures.
"Anyone conducting scientific research with large amounts of data needs powerful computing resources to be able to get the insights they're looking for," Schultz said. "You can't just use a personal computer. That would take forever. So people look to Berkeley Lab to get those results quickly and efficiently.
"Because there's such a high number of messages generated by these supercomputers, it's difficult to use a manual approach to solve a problem," Schultz said. "Imagine looking at an Excel spreadsheet and scrolling through thousands of lines to find one value that might be wrong or different from another document. We're automating that process and analyzing log messages to provide a detailed rundown of everything that's going on within an application at a given time."
In his full-time job as a site reliability engineer, Schultz works on site, overseeing and monitoring supercomputers so that the facility is able to provide 24/7 computational resources for more than 7,000 scientific users.
"One process is monitoring the network traffic because supercomputers aren't just one big machine - they are a series of interconnected computers that communicate with each other through a high-speed interconnect," Schultz said.
As a student at SRU, Schultz got a lot of experience communicating across multiple networks. In addition to his research, he was president of the Esports Club at SRU, for which he organized a State System-wide tournament, and he put SRU on the map in virtual world, creating a simulated environment of the campus within the video game Minecraft.
"I can't give enough praise for the University and Dr. Sukhija for giving me the opportunities, including the chance to network with all these amazing researchers and access to Berkeley National Lab," Schultz said. "It's great to be a part of an institution that is accepting of all these inclusive ideas of collaboration. Having that ecosystem for the past four years has been really beneficial for me."
More information about SRU's computer science programs is available on the department's webpage.
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