UCF researcher receives awards for work on computing, big data careers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for data scientists in the United States will grow by 28% by 2026. Understanding influences on this career path is essential to help fill the more than 1 million jobs that will be created – as well as the more than 190,000 estimated data science jobs that are in short supply.

Shafaq Chaudhry, Director of Research Technology at UCF’s Office of Research, explores this field and is part of a team that recently won two awards for a paper titled “Understanding Factors that Influence Research Computing and Data Careers in Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing.” The Association for Computing Machinery has awarded Chaudhry and her co-authors a Best Paper award in the Workforce Development, Training, Diversity and Education track for the upcoming Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing 2022 (PEARC’22) conference, as well as the PEARC22 Phil Andrews Award Named after the pioneer of advanced computing infrastructure, the Phil Andrews Prize is awarded to a manuscript considered the most impactful in research computing practice.

The paper is a detailed look at some of the key factors influencing career decisions for research computing and data (RCD) professionals. The study examines these factors from the organizational socialization stages of pre-arrival in this field; entry into the field; become an active member of an organization (such as role expansion or upward mobilization); and factors of disengagement. The researchers also looked at how different genders, career stages, and types of RCD roles affect to varying degrees these factors that influence hiring in RCD positions, promotions, transferring and leaving RCD jobs. Chaudhry will present this work at the upcoming PEARC22 conference in Boston July 10-14.

This work is part of a larger project through the Professionalization and Career Arcs effort of the Campus Research Computing Consortium to describe different paths for RCD roles, which differ from traditional IT roles. The consortium’s goal is to empower recruiters to better market these positions, improve recruiting efforts, and illuminate opportunities for their potential future workforce. Studying these patterns will also help existing RCD staff gain a better understanding of their future paths in the field and help them identify areas of growth, professional development and opportunities, improving staff retention, Chaudhry says.

Co-authors of the study also included Arman Pazouki, manager, Research Computing Support Services, Northwestern University; Patrick Schmitz, founder and principal advisor at Semper Cogito; Elizabett Hillery, deputy director, high performance computing, Purdue University; and Kerk Kee, an associate professor at Texas Tech University.

Chaudhry leads a team of cyber infrastructure facilitators and professionals at UCF and says she is passionate about gender equality in STEM careers. She is also the affiliate leader of Central Florida’s NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program with the goal of encouraging high school women to pursue careers in computer science and IT. She has a Ph.D. in computer engineering, and her research interests include human resource development in cyber infrastructure, public security communications, wireless networks, and software-defined networks.

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