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Chris Ramirez Helps Keep SSRL Connected

Chris Ramirez stands in front of a tower of cables that connect SSRL to the network. (Photo by Calla Cofield. Click for larger image.)

In 1997 Chris Ramirez had the opportunity to work for SLAC as a summer student through the Woodside High School Technology Program. Sorting nuts and bolts with the SLAC electronics group, he says, he never anticipated that the summer job would lead to a career in computer networking at a science laboratory.

More than ten years later, Ramirez's view has changed. He has moved through the ranks to become a full-time technician with the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory Computer and Networking Group. "[Working at SLAC] has changed my ambitions and goals," he says. "No one in my family ever worked in science. But working to support scientists from all over the world has been an incredible life experience."

Ramirez and the group administer, upgrade and contribute to the design of the SSRL network. They are in charge of everything from installation of new copper and fiber optics cables, to network configuration and management of all network equipment. They ensure that data stored on the SSRL servers is always accessible to remote users around the world.

Many of the technologies and instruments used at SSRL require an uninterrupted connection to the network. Ramirez says he and the group pay meticulous attention to detail to ensure that the network runs smoothly, fast and free of errors. Despite these efforts, problems can still arise, and he has been called in on Super Bowl Sunday and during the winter holidays to attend to problems caused by power outages or equipment failure.

Ramirez grew up in Redwood City, and is the youngest of six children. He dedicates a significant portion of his free time to his family, which includes five nieces and nephews. "I think we're going to have to celebrate all the birthdays twice a year now," he says. "With so many people it feels like we celebrate something every month." Ramirez mountain bikes in the area, plays volleyball with his family and does a little bit of DJing with his brothers. "I've had a 7:00 a.m. start time for a while, and DJ events run kind of late," he says with a smile. "So I can't make a lot of those."

To keep up with the unique needs of the SSRL staff, scientists and users, Ramirez says he is constantly learning. He and the rest of the members of the Computer and Networking Group are encouraged by the group's manager to take classes, attend seminars and tutorials, and keep abreast of the ever-changing technologies in their field.

"These people are pioneers in the world of science and it's incredibly rewarding to work with them," says Ramirez of the SSRL community. "There's an international feelówe have users from all over the worldóbut despite any cultural or language barriers we come together to get the science done."

óCalla Cofield
SLAC Today, October 8, 2008