Virtual 'toolset' frees researchers from IT stress

23 Feb 2016

The director of The University of Queensland’s Research Computing Centre has been named the iTnews Education Chief Information Officer of the Year.

Professor David Abramson won the award for the Genomics Virtual Lab, a cloud-based analysis toolset designed to allow scientists to focus on their research rather than on information technology.

“The infrastructure we build makes genomics and biology researchers more efficient because they can focus on their science,” Professor Abramson said.

“The award is really a tribute to the work of the Genomics Virtual Lab team. The project was initiated by Dr Mike Pheasant from the UQ’s Institute of Molecular Bioscience before I joined UQ in 2013.”

The Genomics Virtual Lab team comprises Dr Nicholas Hamilton, Dr Igor Makunin and Derek Benson at UQ, and a team headed by Professor Andrew Lonie at The University of Melbourne. 

“Some of the researchers who use GVL are working on cancer, some are working on infectious diseases and others on a whole raft of different things, but all use the same information technology,” Professor Abramson said.

The “successful and operating” Genomics Virtual Lab was backed by the Federal Government’s National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project (NeCTAR), he said.

iTnews said the lab enabled researchers to “quickly and easily access high-powered computing resources tailored to their field of study”.

“The GVL features everything a genomics researcher is likely to need to complete their data-heavy work, including a middleware layer of machine images, cloud management tools and the flexibility to spin up any sized compute clusters on demand, based on the task at hand.

“While many of the tools, and access to the NeCTAR computing pool, have for some time been available to genomics researchers separately, the process to piece together the necessary elements has been complex and time consuming.

“With the GVL, Abramson is seeking to ensure that scientists are not wasting their valuable time, meaning they can focus on potentially life-saving discoveries.

“Its success is evident in its rapid take up by the genomics research community. There is no doubt the team’s efforts are already injecting much-needed research into the life sciences field in Australia.”

iTnews said Professor Abramson had risen to the top of a diverse and exemplary field of education finalists.

Professor Abramson said: “At a time when Australians are being asked to spark an innovation boom, it's very rewarding to see research recognised."

Contact: Shannon Lindsay, +61 (0)420 524 392,