STEM Focus | New Computing System Developed in Partnership with NCI

"The significance of the platform is that it allows students to gain experience with the Bioinformatic processing systems that they would typically find when working for places such as NCI and NIH"

Robert Jones, Computer Science & Information Technology


  • Computer Science (M.S.)
  • Information Technology (M.S.)
  • Biomedical Science (M.S.)
  • Bioinformatics (M.S.)
  • Biology (B.A.)


  • Computer Science & Information Technology

Rob Jones, System Analyst in Hood's Computer Science & IT department, recently collaborated with the National Cancer Institute to architect, configure and deploy a computing system platform/pipeline modeled after a system that is deployed at NCI. Hood students in bioinformatics and the computing cluster programs now have access to a sophisticated distributed computing system and a mini, private cloud. The system is already used in several Hood graduate courses. 

Could you please share your educational and professional background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Networking and I am working on finishing my Master's in Information Systems.

My IT career started when I was 19 years old. I was lucky enough to get a job with AT&T with very little computer experience. From there, I learned hardware, software, networking, etc. After years of experience, I became a systems engineer for Lucent, Alcatel, LGS, and Legato supporting Federal Government customers.

I've worked at Hood for just over a year as a dedicated IT Systems Administrator/Analyst for the Cybersecurity and Biology departments.

Could you tell us more about your recent collaboration with NCI and the computing system platform/pipeline you configured and deployed on campus?

Miranda Darby, Director of the Bioinformatics program, put me in touch with colleagues at Ft. Detrick NCI to implement a Bioinformatics processing system here at Hood similar to what they use.

Bioinformatic data sets for DNA/RNA sequencing are usually large and require intense processing to turn into information. The system we built includes a head server for users to log into, and once there they can utilize a Workload Manager called SLURM to distribute the processing data to one, or both of the associated high-powered compute nodes within the network.

What is the significance of this platform? How does it affect current students in our STEM graduate programs?

The significance of the platform is that it allows for better usage of compute resources in order speed up the processing of the data. It also allows students to gain experience with the Bioinformatic processing systems that they would typically find when working for places such as NCI and NIH.

Do you have any advice for our current graduate students? Anything else you would like to add?

Never give up!

I came to Hood College with no background in Biology and very little in R/Python scripting languages. I was a little apprehensive at first, but through research and persistence I was able to learn and help others. Using Linux and writing R/Python scripts can be quite frustrating at times, but are valuable essential skills to have. 

Inspired by this story and ready to #GOFURTHER in your education and career? Learn about Hood College's Bioinformatics and other STEM graduate program by clicking here.