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IT Fist Bump: Dan Runfola

Part of W&M Information Technology’s mission is to develop and nurture meaningful relationships and collaborations on campus and beyond. Our work would not be possible without the partnerships we have across campus, and so many of our colleagues deserve a thank you and a (virtual) fist bump! 

Dan RunfolaDan Runfola, assistant professor of applied science and director of graduate studies, has served as PI on over $2.5 million dollars of funded research at the nexus of machine learning, imagery analysis and climate change. His core expertise is in the applied use of machine learning to analyze spatial data - both for imagery classification and for causal attribution. In this work, Dan has worked closely with W&M IT’s Eric Walter, director of research computing and Phil Fenstermacher, manager of systems design & architecture.  

Aside from the number of projects Dan has collaborated on with IT staff, he is a gigantic proponent of high-performance computing (HPC) and research computing and has been instrumental in pushing data science at the university in a more modern direction. “Data Science does not do things the way traditional HPC people work, and Dan drives us to be able to support more of the data science needs,” said Walter. “He is responsible for a lot of the projects we work on, as well as for us moving from HPC to research computing because his work is not considered traditional HPC.” 

“Dan, along with other data science staff, are the main reasons we launched, a hosted Jupyter notebook solution for classroom use,” said Fenstermacher. “Eric is planning on hosting the scaled version meant for more serious research. It runs on the Kubernetes cluster in the cloud, provisioning servers on-demand to help manage cost while keeping up with unpredictable student demand.” 

“Kubernetes is used to support the data science group, along with other systems in central IT,” said Walter. “It’s a common thing that a lot of data scientists want to use that we had never done before, and never as a research tool. Dan has pushed us to take that to the scale of someone doing 1,000 calculations instead of one or two.” 

Thank you, Dan, for being such a wonderful campus partner for W&M IT and for pushing data science at the university in a more modern direction!