Andy AyersBy Brian Grabowski • September 12, 2013
Andy Ayers is a principal software development specialist and team lead in Argonne’s Environmental Science division.
What role do you play at Argonne, and what kind of research and projects do you typically work on?
I’m a software developer in the Environmental Science (EVS) division and I am responsible for various systems that integrate Argonne’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with the Web. The systems are Web applications more than typical websites. They allow users to not only browse and query GIS information, but to also run dynamic analysis and environmental models.
One particular effort I’ve been significantly involved in is a project to develop a new online tool called the Energy Zones Mapping Tool that will help members of the Eastern Interconnection States’ Planning Council identify geographic areas suitable for the development of clean energy resources, such as solar, wind and biomass. I am the lead software developer for the project. It’s a big undertaking with collaboration among people from various disciplines and multiple organizations. This collaboration resulted in the scientific basis of the tool we are currently building.
I also lead EVS’s Environmental Data Integration Team. A main focus of this team is to guide and advance the technological capabilities of the division.
What attracted you to Argonne and how long have you been working here?
I started as a student, when I was attending Illinois Benedictine University in 1992, as part of the lab’s co-op student program. With this program, I worked half-time during the school year and full-time over the summer. I did programming and GIS work as a student and then grew into a full-time software development role. I spent about five years at the lab, then I went into the private sector. I spent about 12 years in the Chicago Internet start-up world, returning to the lab in 2010.
What really attracted me to the lab, as a student, was the opportunity to work at a prestigious place like Argonne and get some very valuable experience. In my job, every day I get the opportunity to collaborate with different scientists in different areas with different points of view on technology, and that always makes things interesting. I like the variety. Each day presents new challenges, and I feel fortunate for the freedom and flexibility EVS affords me in tackling projects. Argonne also definitely offers and encourages good work-life balance, which is another very positive aspect of working here.
What sorts of mentoring experiences have you had at Argonne?
When I first started as a college student, I worked with a number of good technology people, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn a lot of things on the job. And now that I’m in a more senior role, I’m mentoring other developers, which I enjoy as well.
What is the most exciting thing about the project work you’re currently involved in?
I think the biggest thing is the opportunity to work with cutting edge open-source software. Taking different packages and pieces of software and orchestrating them into a new, cohesive system is very exciting. It’s also really interesting to be able to take the seed of an idea and a blank slate, and build something that pushes the envelope both in technology and the scientific domain.