Computer scientist Marek Nowicki was inspired to join IBM Research after discovering the “cool” work being done at the lab in Zurich. After applying for the IBM Great Minds Challenge, he got his opportunity. The Smarter Planet blog caught up with Marek recently to learn a little more about him, and check on his progress.
You’re doing some interesting academic work around Java and HPC. Tell us about it.
I’m a computer science PhD student studying at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland. My thesis is about building a library called Parallel Computing in Java (PCJ). It enables Java to run successful on high performance computers (HPC). My goal is to make Java ubiquitous in High Performance Computing, which is challenging from both a technical and cultural perspective.
And what are you working on at IBM Research, Zurich?
I am helping to develop middleware for an internal Big Data analytics tool for IBM sellers. The middleware handles all of the process requests for the data, and we want to make this as fast as possible for the sales team. So I’m installing and configuring the servers and developing sophisticated cache mechanisms and algorithms. Eventually it will be used by thousands of IBM sellers, which I find gratifying.
Last December my research supervisor and mentor, Professor Piotr Bała, encouraged me to apply for the IBM Great Minds Challenge at their labs in Zurich and Haifa. I took his advice and prepared my CV and position paper, not thinking that I would win. A few weeks later I received a call with the exciting news that I was selected.
And your opinion of the Greater Minds competition?
This challenge is different than others because it is focused on the individual — his or her knowledge and experience. There is no task or problem to solve and no questionnaire from a recruiter. I am proud to be only one of eight winners this year.
What about social media; how did that play in your decision to join IBM?
I am an active Facebook user and I “friended” IBM Research so I can keep up with the news. Often there are posts about various projects at the labs and I remember watching a video that was recorded on the roof of the lab in Zurich showing something that resembled a satellite dish. The research was cool. But in addition to that, I had a great impression of the surrounding mountains, the nature and then I thought, now that’s a place where I want to work.
Around the time of watching that video, I had submitted my Great Minds application, and was soon after contacted by Dr. Abdel Labbi on the IBM analytics team with an offer of a six-month internship.
What tips do you have for other Greater Minds applicants?
My best pieces of advice are not to worry, to be open minded and to focus your application on what you do best. Then make it clear in your position paper what you can offer IBM. A strong recommendation letter from your university staff is also very helpful.
Connect with Marek Nowicki on LinkedIn.