DEVELOPING KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS TO HARNESS HPC FOR RESEARCH
Ann Backhaus has a passion for lifelong learning. Ann lives this passion, as exampled by her doing a ‘refresher’ Teaching and Learning Graduate Certificate “for fun” before joining Pawsey in 2019, even though she already had previous degrees as well as 25 years of experience in training and talent development in private industry and academia. “I enjoy teaching and learning at all levels and in all forms, from designing programs to developing content across a range of platforms,” says Ann.
Since Pawsey exists to enable science and accelerate discovery, skill development and knowledge building is central to its vision and purpose. It develops the expertise Pawsey staff need to run its ever-evolving infrastructure, and builds the skills and confidence of its researchers to use Pawsey resources effectively to do more ambitious research, more quickly.
As a result, Ann works with everyone. She helps individual staff map out and plan their professional development, works with entire teams to upskill and strengthen capabilities, and implements Pawsey-wide educational programs supporting change management for new operations. Many learning opportunities have arisen this year due to the current Capital Refresh of Pawsey’s supercomputing systems.
Ann also collaborates with researchers and users from other organisations, creating learning journeys for them that are REAL (relevant, engaging, meaningful and learner-centred), to help them do the best research they can with Pawsey facilities. “I may not know the specifics of the many research domains and technologies that intersect at Pawsey,” explains Ann, “but I do know about teaching and learning, and I enjoy working closely with these individuals to work out what they’re trying to achieve and why. Then I can help them to build the skills and knowledge to use Pawsey to get there in the most direct and meaningful way possible”.
“There’s never enough time in the day to explore, develop, deliver or collaborate,” admits Ann. “My days are always varied and interesting. I work with colleagues to design learning events like webinars, hackathons and workshops, and work with Subject Matter Experts to develop training content and/or review for usability. I work with our new equipment vendors to design training programs for staff and Pawsey users, and help our project Principal Investigators develop learning outcomes for our Pawsey Summer Interns. Further afield, there’s collaborations with Pawsey partners to ignite interest in STEAM subjects in the next generation of students, and partnerships with national and international colleagues to develop content, programs and/or conference presentations and workshops.”
“I’ll never, ever, ever tire of the ‘aha!’ moments that happen with learning,” enthuses Ann. “I love seeing ‘learning’ progress, from the introduction of a topic all the way through to applying that learning in real life, whether it’s a researcher seeing first-hand a tenfold increase in productivity using a workflow manager or Graphics processing Unit (GPU), or an intern confidently presenting research outcomes about a topic they knew nothing about 10 weeks prior.”
Ann’s own learning journey is also continuing at Pawsey: “There’s never a dull moment. With all of the amazing people working and using the facilities here, every day I learn something new about a research domain or a technology, I try something new, or I think about things in a new way. Pawsey staff and users are figuratively (and sometimes literally) reaching for the stars, and that is inspiring each and every day.”