UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

February 2003

Random Profile: Pete Siemsen

Every other month, Staff Notes Monthly spotlights a stochastically chosen staff member. This month we profile Pete Siemsen, a network engineer in the Scientific Computing Division.

Love at first byte: Pete took his first computer science class about 20 years ago as an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California. He was hooked immediately. “I fell in love with it. I never looked back,” he says. “I loved the programming and the technology.”

Coming to the Rockies: A native of Los Angeles, Pete stayed in that area for eight years after graduating from USC, working as a consultant on VAX and VMS computer systems. But between his love of skiing and his first wife’s desire to leave Southern California, the Front Range emerged as a logical relocation destination. Pete accordingly spent a year building a nationwide frame-relay system for the Times-Mirror Company, which had an office in Denver. As luck would have it, he didn’t get hired in the Denver office—but in 1995 his wife noticed an ad for an NCAR network engineer position in the Denver Post. Pete didn’t know much about NCAR but thought, as he puts it, “At the least, I’ll go up and see this national research center, and that will be kind of cool.” The rest, as they say, is history.

An outstanding accomplishment: One of Pete’s signal accomplishments was helping to set up the Front Range GigaPOP, which is a consortium of 12 Colorado and Wyoming universities, nonprofit corporations, and government agencies that share Internet and other networking services. Pete served as lead engineer on the project for its first two years, and he continues to provide technical support. The system has allowed UCAR to cut its networking costs by about 75%. “It’s been a great success for all the participating institutions.” Pete and his colleagues on the project (SCD’s Marla Meehl and Scot Colburn) were honored in December with an Outstanding Accomplishment Award for Administrative Achievement for their work.

Man of many hats: In addition to his network engineering work on the Front Range GigaPop, Pete also serves as a programmer and Web designer. One of his principal responsibilities is to maintain the institution’s network monitoring system that tracks about 166 routers, switches, and servers. “Little things can go wrong,” he explains. “When one of the main networking devices goes down, it can look like all kinds of things are broken—and then you find out it’s just one little box that a lot of things connect through.”

To help keep the system running smoothly, Pete wrote a program that updates Web pages every day with information about each of the network’s switches. That way, a technician can quickly view critical details about a module or other piece of equipment, such as what it connects to and how many Ethernet ports it has. Pete also designed Web pages that enable technicians to find out the purpose of most of the institution’s networking devices. If something starts to malfunction in the middle of the night, the technician on duty will know whether it’s a key piece of equipment that has to be fixed immediately (even if that involves rousting an engineer out of bed) or a redundant router that can wait until the morning.

Much of this information is on the Web site of SCD’s Network Engineering and Telecommunications Section (NETS). Pete designed the site, and he serves as the ongoing Webmaster. The site doesn’t have much in the way of pictures, but it’s chock full of technical and administrative information. “I’m kind of a minimalist. The Web pages are kind of boring in terms of flash, but I think they’re very good in terms of content.”

A high school romance: Pete is married to his high school sweetheart, DeLynn. But their wooing hardly followed a traditional path. After going together to the prom, they parted ways and wound up in separate marriages. Almost two decades after their last communication, DeLynn ran into Pete’s mother outside a movie theater in Los Angeles. She decided to write to her old flame, and the romance was rekindled. Pete likes to say with a smile: “I married my high school sweetheart, but it wasn’t anywhere near high school.”

Downhill biker: Pete and DeLynn live in Lafayette with two dachshunds and one car. Pete takes the bus to work in the morning, then rides his bike home in the afternoon, starting with the descent from the Mesa Lab. Asked whether he’s considered commuting uphill as well, he says, “I’m getting there.” He also likes to do swim workouts with the Boulder Area Masters swimmers. •David Hosansky

Also in this issue...

Coming soon:
New Mesa Lab attractions

Mentoring talk offers tips for nonscientists

Understanding cloud systems:
Are researchers closing in on a general theory of convective cloud systems?

A SOARS pacesetter

From Asia and Africa

Delphi Questions

Still soaring high

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