Tim Dyce – Head of Infrastructure Services
The big challenge right now for EMBL-EBI infrastructure is the rate of growth. We’re currently storing a lot of data and the speed of growth just keeps accelerating.
Q&A with Tim Dyce
The Systems Infrastructure team keeps the clusters, data center, network and storage at EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) running as it should. With an ever increasing amount of data to process, store and transmit it’s important that these foundational services remain secure and in good shape. Tim Dyce, the new Head of Infrastructure Services, recently joined EMBL-EBI from the sunny island of Okinawa. Here he shares some insights into the work of his team.
What is your professional background?
I started out as a physicist but got pneumonia halfway through my postgraduate degree. While waiting to restart my studies, I started doing IT on the side for the Physics department at the University of Melbourne. Things escalated from there and I moved to doing IT for the science faculty, and onto running the Australian Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG) site as part of the CERN ATLAS experiment.
I did this for a number of years until we decided to move to Japan, my wife’s home country. I started by running the then fledgeling high performance computing group at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), working my way up to Chief Information Officer (CIO), a role I’ve been in for the last seven years.
What does your role at EMBL-EBI entail?
I’ve recently started at EMBL-EBI as the Head of Infrastructure Services. My role is to support my team to maintain EMBL-EBI’s base IT infrastructure including compute, storage, network, data centres and IT security. These are very much the foundational services of everything that EMBL-EBI does.
EMBL-EBI is a great environment to work with some really interesting challenges. There is an enormous volume of data being managed here and some huge infrastructure problems EMBL-EBI will need to be one of the first to solve. What EMBL-EBI does is extremely positive and I wanted to be a part of that. Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to take on roles where I can go home in the evenings feeling I have done something to support an organisation that seeks to be altruistic. It’s this feeling that has kept me in academia my whole career, and it's part of what attracted me to EMBL-EBI.
What are some of the challenges in your new job?
The big challenge right now for EMBL-EBI infrastructure is the rate of growth. We’re currently storing a lot of data and the speed of growth just keeps accelerating. Our current infrastructure is in need of a radical update to keep up. It’s going to be a huge challenge but this is part of what attracted me to the job. The team is doing everything they can to keep things going, they have done an amazing job keeping our current infrastructure running smoothly under very challenging circumstances.
What is your approach as a manager?
I think being a manager is about understanding people and what they want to get out of their job – why they do what they do. It’s important to be able to bring people together and foster communication and collaboration. The Technical Services Cluster (TSC) is a big team and makes up a big section of EMBL-EBI. My team and all the other teams within the TSC are hugely interconnected and work alongside each other. My team is the base layer of all this. If the foundation is shaky then everything is shaky. So we need to be really good at communicating to all the other teams, and it’s really important for me to help foster those conversations.
What is one thing we couldn't find out about you from an online search?
I'm a mad cyclist. This seems to be endemic in EMBL-EBI. Cycling in Japan was just incredible. Friends and I cycled the main island many times, spending two weeks at a time driving around, cycling in different places, and staying at different hot spring hotels. There's an amazing 70 kilometer route crossing between Imabari in Shikoku back to the mainland, crossing a series of bridges and islands, with cycle paths the whole way. There are udon restaurants with bike racks throughout Shikoku, so you chill out and then keep riding. I also love kayaking but it’s been a while since I've done it, I really want to get back into whitewater now that we’ve moved to Cambridge.