Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2015-09-01: From Student To Researcher II

After successfully defending my Master's Thesis, I accepted a position as a Graduate Research Assistant at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Library's Digital Library Research and Prototyping Team.  I now work directly for Herbert Van de Sompel, in collaboration with my advisor, Michael Nelson.

Up to this point, I worked for years as a software engineer, but then re-entered academia in 2010 to finish my Master's Degree.  I originally just wanted to be able to apply for jobs that required Master's Degrees in Computer Science, but during my time working on my thesis, I discovered that I had more of a passion for the research than I had expected, so I became a PhD student in Computer Science at Old Dominion University.  During the time of my Master's Degree, I had taken coursework that counts toward my PhD, so I am free to accept this current extended internship while I complete my PhD dissertation.

LANL is a fascinating place to work.  In my first week, we learned all about safety and security. We learned not only about office safety (don't trip over cables), but also nuclear and industrial safety (don't eat the radioactive material).  This was in preparation for the possibility that we might actually encounter an environment where these dangers existed. One of the more entertaining parts of the training was being aware of wildlife and natural dangers, such as rattlesnakes, falling rocks, flash floods, and tornadoes.  We also learned about the more mundane concepts like how to use our security badge and how to fill out timesheets.  I was fortunate to meet people from a variety of different disciplines.

We have nice, powerful computing equipment, good systems support, excellent collaboration areas, and very helpful staff. Everyone has been very conscientious and supportive as I have acquired access rights and equipment.

By the end of my first week, I had begun working with the Prototyping Team.  They shared their existing work with me, educating me on back-end technical aspects of Memento as well as other projects, such as Hiberlink. My team members Harihar Shankar and Lyudmila Balakireva have been nice enough to answer questions about the research work as well as general LANL processes.

I am already doing literature reviews and writing code for upcoming research projects.  We just released a new Python Memento Client library in collaboration with Wikipedia. I am also evaluating Jupyter for use in future data analysis and code collection.  I have learned so much in my first month here!

I know my friends and family miss me back in Virginia, but this time spent among some of the best and brightest in the world is already shaping up to be an enjoyable and exciting experience.

--Shawn M. Jones, Graduate Research Assistant, Los Alamos National Laboratory


  1. Im interested in finding out more about the different kinds of research done there. I don't normally think of computer scientist hiking through the wilderness. Im considering getting a masters in the near future, my biggest issue is deciding which displine.