The VVRC Computer Module is directed by Frank Tong, Ph.D., and staffed by Darin Richardson, Computer Programmer/Analyst. The Computer Module provides VVRC researchers with a wide range of computer hardware and software support services in a continuous collaborative fashion.
The VVRC Computer Module provides computer technology support for research beyond the IT support provided by VUIT (Vanderbilt University) or VUMC-IT (Vanderbilt University Medical Center). Traditional IT support often operates on a ticketing system, with different IT groups dispatched to resolve specific, frequently occurring problems with computer hardware, operating systems, connectivity, or infrastructure. While the traditional IT support model can solve basic computer problems, there is no notion of shared goals or continuing collaboration that is needed to solve more complex computer technology challenges that face researchers.
In providing the next tier of research support, the VVRC Computer Module instead operates on a model called research Development and Operations (DevOps), a multidisciplinary approach to computer support focused on breaking down boundaries, fostering a collaborative culture, and seeking continuous improvement in computer technologies used in research. The VVRC DevOps team puts special emphasis on shared goals and continuing collaboration and support rather than case ticket management. The team’s goal is to establish a continuous feedback loop geared towards making continual improvements as required by the continual evolution of researcher needs. Researchers can initiate requests for the Computer Module DevOps team, but these will not be in the form of traditional IT tickets that are opened and closed.
Some of the Things We Do
Although not limited to this list, these are some examples of what the VVRC Computer Module can do for VVRC researchers:
- Hardware and Software Support: diagnose and resolve problems with research computers, working as a liaison with VUIT or VUMC-IT when appropriate
- Hardware and Software Purchasing Decisions: research and evaluate alternatives and make recommendations regarding mission-specific purchasing of computer hardware and software
- Computer Monitors for Vision Science: evaluate and configure computer displays and monitors for vision science research, timing and benchmarking of computer display hardware using validated calibration instruments
- Computerized Laboratory Experiments: help make decisions and implement solutions for computerized behavioral and physiological laboratory experiments with humans and animals, collaborate with VVRC Shop Module to interface with custom-built instruments for experiments
- Computerized Data Pipelines and Data Analyses: help implement solutions for data analyses, including automated data pipelines for data formatting, preprocessing, analyses, transport from laboratory instruments to servers, and online and offline storage
- Data Archiving, Data Management, and Open Science: implement solutions for data archiving, data management, data sharing, and implementing open science approaches
- Online Web-based Experiments: assist researchers in developing web-based experiments, whether on cloud platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk or on a custom laboratory web server
- Laboratory Web Sites: Build and configure custom laboratory web sites, perform custom scripting and programming according to research needs
- Laboratory Servers: consult on needs and make recommendations regarding laboratory file and web servers, purchase and set up laboratory servers, maintain servers running Linux, OS X, or Windows, configure servers with modern virtualization and container technology to improve security and simplify management and upgrades
- Data Storage and Backup Solutions: provide recommendations on storage and backup options, ranging from cloud storage, institutional storage, or departmental and local laboratory storage
- High Performance Computing: assist researchers in making effective use of high performance computing and big data solutions for research, act as a liaison between researchers and ACCRE when necessary
- System Security: assist researchers in ensuring that research computers and servers conform with industry standard security policies, obtain SSL certificates, provide secure authentication and authorization of users
- Interfacing with Research Instruments: purchasing, configuring, and upgrading software and hardware systems to work in conjunction with existing or new scientific instruments, preparing electronic prototype platforms such are Arduino and Raspberry Pi to interact with sensors and electronics
- Regulatory Compliance: assist researchers in ascertaining compliance with PHI, HIPPA, EAR, ITAR, and other regulations related to computer workflow and data storage
- Poster Printing: assist researchers in creating posters for conferences with VVRC templates on the VVRC poster printer
- 3D Printing: assist researchers in using the 3D printer