Robin Long

Senior Research Associate, Department of Physics, Lancaster University


My interests are in particle physics and programming. I use my coding skills to solve research and development problems related to Physics and High-End Computing.  This involves working with a variety of people at different career stages in several disciplines which I enjoy.

My work

My background is as a Particle Physicist. During my PhD I did an end-to-end analysis of the high mass objects decaying to top - anti-top pairs in the ATLAS experiment. I spent a lot of my time coding and providing support to colleagues with their code. This lead me to my current role maintaining and developing the High End Computing cluster at Lancaster University alongside my colleagues. This is part local computing cluster and part Lancaster's contribution to the World Wide distributed computing grid used for Particle Physics.

Throughout my PhD I found that not only did I enjoy the challenge of programming as much as i enjoyed the physics, I also enjoyed helping people write better code.  In my current job I provide support to local users of the grid computing system, not only ensuring their code runs on the grid, but also in developing the code they need for their research.

My research is motivated by a talk I heard early on in my career about using virtual machines to allow us to preserve old programs, and re-run old analysis on long gone operating systems. This lead me to looking at the use of virtual machines and containers as a possibility for use in grid computing - it now drives my research where I investigate the possible benefits and performance problems of running virtual machines and containers on distributed computing systems.

I always try to promote automation and sustainability in my work. I am required to bring many different configurations of machines on line as part of our role as a grid site. I make these available in a generic form through Ansible (configuration management system) so that they can easily be used by others sites to quickly get up and running.

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