Michael NorthBy Imelda Francis • June 16, 2015
Mike North is a Group Leader in Argonne’s Global Security Sciences division. He is also a senior fellow with the Computation Institute, a joint initiative between Argonne and The University of Chicago.
What role do you play at Argonne?
I lead the Integrated Analytics Group. Our team is responsible for developing analytical methods and tools that can be used to understand and manage complex systems. In an environment of ever-increasing computational capabilities, my research focuses on advancing state-of-the-art analytics, applied to finding better ways to manage complex systems. This involves intensive use of some of the most powerful computers in the world.
My work requires me to interact with experts in various fields and then I develop software that helps them answer questions that might otherwise be unanswerable without our tools and methods.
The software I develop helps reveal patterns in complex systems that might have been otherwise missed, and it enables scientists and researchers to model their theories as to how they think the domains they study operate.
I am also involved in open source software projects. I am the lead developer for the free and open source Repast agent-based modeling suite, copyrighted by Argonne.
What attracted you to work at Argonne?
I was drawn to Argonne by the diversity of the research opportunities, the world-renowned reputation of the staff, high-quality scientific facilities and state-of-the-art tools like Mira, one of the fastest supercomputers in the world. It is capable of 10 quadrillion calculations per second.
What sorts of positive mentoring experiences, formal or informal, have you had at Argonne?
I began my career at Argonne as an undergraduate co-op student and grew upward from there. I have had a variety of mentors during my time at the lab and have always appreciated my mentors’ ability to see things from my perspective while simultaneously encouraging me to think more broadly.
As someone who has had the opportunity to mentor others, I can say that giving people the time and space that they need to learn, while still remaining immediately available to help them, is essential to nurturing the analytical and leadership skills within.
What sorts of career development opportunities has Argonne provided you with?
Argonne has provided me with a large number of career development opportunities. My research is published regularly and I’ve received strong support when pursuing advanced degrees.
I just completed Argonne’s Strategic Laboratory Leadership Program (SLLP). The program is sponsored by UChicago Argonne, LLC, and it is designed to help people further develop their leadership skills. The UChicago Booth School of Business’s Executive Education Office developed the program with input from both Argonne and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
As part of the SLLP, I was also given the opportunity to complete the UChicago Booth School of Business’s Advanced Strategy Program. Both programs have helped me to better analyze my past strategies and have provided me with tools to form more effective future strategies.
Through these programs I have learned that there are only a few fundamental building blocks for any strategy, yet there are an infinite number of ways to assemble those blocks to form a unique strategy in any particular situation. Understanding these building blocks and knowing how to apply them will enable me to continue to grow as a leader and mentor.