Meet the RC Staff- Joel Frahm

            Joel Frahm came to CU Boulder in the 1980s to study and ski. While earning his degree, he worked for the Office of Information Technology and the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics. While working at JILA with long-term visitors, postdocs, and other researchers, Frahm learned how research was supported at campuses and institutions around the world. He became skilled with computers and networking, and decided to pursue computing support in a research environment as a career. When Research Computing was created, Frahm says, “I was offered an opportunity to participate, and for me it was a good time for a new challenge and to help shape what we all felt was a great need for greater support for the specific needs of researchers.”

            Frahm’s current position entails “a great deal of front-line support for questions, guidance and help.” He also works extensively with time allocations on the Janus supercomputer. Frahm says, “This is not really fun for anyone, but we feel it is critical that our users be able to understand and describe the computational cost of their work.” It is also critical that Research Computing be able to plan and budget around users’ real-world needs. During the compute time allocation process, Frahm has found that he can greatly increase efficiency through relatively small efforts. His most exciting experience has been “accidentally dumping all the jobs on Janus when struggling with a non-responsive scheduler.”

            The best experience Frahm has had in his current position was standing up Janus for the first time in the new High Performance Data Center. He explains that “all the noise and the heat of over 1,400 powerful computers was really something.” In the future, Frahm hopes to deploy teaching and training resources which are easier for new users to access and use. Because Research Computing resources are high-performance, they are nuanced and complicated, creating difficulties for those who try to learn the system while using it. Frahm explains, “Learning the basics on RC resources is like teaching someone to drive, but in a race car on a race track with all that entails, rather than teaching the basics without all the risk and distractions and complications.” Frahm hopes that future outreach will result in a more positive and ultimately successful experience as more researchers on campus learn to take advantage of the powerful tools available through Research Computing.


            Frahm enjoyed the best meal of his life on a small island north of the Arctic Circle off the coast of Norway. He and his group had caught cod earlier in the day, using hand-held lines off of a small open boat. They made Ceviche by cutting the raw fish into small bites and tossing them in lime juice, celery leaves, and hot peppers that “came in small packages of three that looked like car air fresheners.” Frahm says, “It was fantastic. I’d finished the dishes and was just starting to relax when I learned we all had to go down to the icy dock at 10:30pm to unload supplies from an arriving boat. The whole population, all 13 of us, turned up for this task.”