Graduate story: Jake Carroll

Jake Carroll

Jake Carroll
Senior ICT (Information and Communications Technology,
Manager of Research
Queensland Brain Institute
Bachelor of Information Technology with Honours

The Queensland Brain Institute is one of the largest neuroscience institutes in the world. It's not surprising then that its neuroscientists place huge demands on the IT team, headed by Jake Carroll.

"On a typical day researchers might tell me they're buying a new instrument to help with genetic mapping or one that might analyse DNA sequences that will probably generate 72 terabytes of data per run. I have to go away and dream up an architecture to cope with that.

"The research team will regularly find ways to overrun even the largest storage technologies or oversubscribe very large, high performance computers. My job entails figuring out ways of better dealing with these types of challenges.

"And before I go home, I might have to fix someone's printer. That's a typical day." 

Jake's role at QBI focuses on the strategic governance and oversight of information technology, including operational and research outcomes. He also presents at international conferences about the scale, challenges and demands of 'big science' on IT systems and staff.

"What I enjoy about the industry I'm in, which is effectively research computing, is the innovation. Everyday there is a multitude of challenges which no one has ever had an answer to before. There isn't yet a solution to deal with the things we deal with at the scale we deal with. What keeps me coming to work is finding solutions to problems might that have a big impact on humanity."

When Jake graduated with a Bachelor of Information Technology in 2004, the dotcom bubble had burst. With industry jobs scarce, he decided to complete his Honours year.

"As geeks and nerds, traditionally, IT people aren't typically painted as very social people. But one of the highlights of SCU for me was the comradery that was formed. Many of those guys I still keep in touch with today, in fact several of them now are senior leaders in technology in Queensland.

"Initially I had a bumpy start to my career. In my first job as a Unix administrator I made some mistakes, I broke some big things. Funnily enough, these days I've become a subject matter expert in those technologies that I broke when I first started out as a junior technology person. Now I help colleagues, peers and collaborators around the world with those technologies to make them better for everybody.

"A university degree is a bridge, a gateway. It's definitely a powerful means to an end. With knowledge comes opportunity and I believe you should take it with open arms.

"University, particularly the Honours year, taught me to research and to find out things for myself. It also taught me to think critically and creatively, and sometimes think way outside the box. This can cause people to perceive you strangely at times. In a research institute that becomes the way you have to think to come up with innovative solutions."