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Age and background are no barrier to a career in the supercomputing world

STFC’s Hartree Centre is an exciting world of supercomputing-powered projects that can have a significant positive impact on our lives, the economy and the world we live in. From assessing a prototype for a new aircraft wing, to using big data and Artificial Intelligence to improve how we monitor people with chronic diseases, there is no end to the variety of ground breaking research made possible through supercomputing.

Located at Daresbury Laboratory, the Hartree Centre is home to some of the most technically advanced high performance computing facilities and experts in the UK, attracting businesses from a broad range of sectors, whether they want to formulate a new shampoo or design our next generation of supercar. But did you know that supercomputing is an area that anyone can work in, regardless of age or background?

Meet our newest employees to join the Hartree Centre – Izzy Ainsworth from Widnes and Neil Runciman from Cheshire - who also happen to be the youngest and oldest members of the team! 

As Transformation Manager for the Hartree Centre, Neil Runciman, 71, is responsible for managing Hartree Centre projects from initiation and authorisation through to completion, ensuring that they run to maximum efficiency. In previous roles Neil, a Fellow of the Association for Project Management, has worked in mobile telecoms and managed secure mobile network rollouts for the Police, Fire and Ambulance emergency services, and has also managed the installation of the traffic management systems on buses.

Neil said: “I love to be challenged, and throughout my career I have always looked for the challenges that can make a positive difference, both to our lives and to a business. At the Hartree Centre this is the best of both worlds – the ground breaking research that it enables is definitely world changing, and my job is to ensure the maximum efficiency of any projects we undertake. Coming from a business and mobile technology background my experience is not in supercomputing, but the move into a different environment along with the need to grasp, but not fully understand in detail, exciting new technologies was a really attractive opportunity, and I’m still learning.

“For me, the key to a happy career is working out what you really want to do, find a job you like doing and persist to the best of your abilities.” added Neil. “I completed my first project in 1979 and am thrilled to be still managing projects now, in supercomputing.  In 54 years of work there are about six months where I didn’t enjoy what I was doing – that’s a really exciting thing to be able to say at the age of 71 and still loving what you do.”

At 19 years of age, Business Administration Apprentice Izzy Ainsworth is the youngest member of the Hartree Centre team. Isabel is very often the first point of contact when administrative issues arise at the Hartree Centre and is responsible for helping the workplace run smoothly.

“For me, the best thing about working here at the Hartree Centre is the sheer variety of tasks and meeting new people constantly. Most days are different, one day I could be setting up interviews for candidates, the next I could be organising a conference with external partners. Most recently I represented the Hartree Centre at the Big Bang Fair North West, a huge careers fair in Liverpool designed to encourage young people to think about jobs in Science and Technology, and I got to introduce many of them to Pepper, the Hartree Centre’s artificial intelligence robot.

I’m driven by a good challenge and love working in a team, so I’m particularly happy to be working in an environment where I can be constantly improving and picking up new skills from my colleagues.  I have always been interested in science and innovation so to be able to work in the business of supercomputing is a fantastic opportunity.”

Alison Kennedy, Director of STFC’s Hartree Centre said: “At the heart of STFC’s Hartree Centre are our people who are an absolutely essential ingredient for the Centre to run smoothly and to maximum efficiency as a leading supercomputing facility.  Whether you are a project manager, a PA, a business apprentice, work in Communications or Finance, there is an exciting range of career opportunities here, whether you are a scientist or not, and whatever your age or background.  It’s good to have a balance of people from both science and non-science backgrounds, which is one of the reasons why the Hartree Centre is such an inspirational place to work.”


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Last updated: 29 July 2019

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Science and Technology Facilities Council
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