HPC Innovators - Dr Steven Newhouse, EMBL-EBI

Dr Steven Newhouse is the Head of Technical Services at EMBL's European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). He has previously held roles in the leadership of European Grid Infrastructure activities and was a Program Manager in the High Performance Computing (HPC) group in the Windows server division at Microsoft. Dr Newhouse’s role today involves managing teams that bring both new innovations and established technology services from Europe and around the world to further develop and support the life sciences.

Part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, EMBL-EBI helps scientists realise the potential of big data in biology by making the world’s public biological data freely available to the scientific community via a range of services, tools, research and training. Dr Newhouse agreed to sit down with the team at Kao Data to discuss his career, where he thinks the future of HPC is headed, and the impact of COVID-19 on data science.

1. How did you get started in your career?

I started off doing my doctoral studies in computational acoustics at Imperial College in London in the 1990s. One of the main problems we ran into at the time was the lack of computing power that was available to us, so my PhD focused on how we could cleverly make use of the limited computing power we had access to. About the same time, high performance computing started to become more readily available, so my postdoctoral work focused on ways to parallelise our code and algorithms so we could solve much bigger problems more effectively using the available HPC machines. A few years later, I moved from being a researcher to being a provider of research computing services, with a focus on how they can be used effectively by scientists, which is the path I am still on today.

2. What are the three most important problems you are trying to solve in your current role?

As Head of Technical Services at EMBL-EBI, I lead the teams that provide a scalable data infrastructure and analysis environment, as well as related services for the data we collect globally. The data management issue is challenging in itself, but the main reason to store the data is to enable further analysis. We have a variety of internal private cloud and computational clusters to help us analyse data and this on-premise infrastructure is increasingly being complimented by public cloud infrastructure. Over the next 10 years this hybrid cloud infrastructure will become commonplace - how we govern and secure our data and our services will be critical.

3. How has HPC evolved to help solve these problems?

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