Feature - Summer of learning: what's with all these grid schools?
It's that time of year again: the snow melts, the skies turn blue, and grid summer schools appear across the planet.
David Fergusson is something of an old hand when it comes to grid education: he has organised and attended numerous training events, workshops and summer schools; managed the NA3 Training Activity as part of EGEE; and is currently the deputy director for Training Outreach and Education at the National e-Science Centre, Edinburgh, UK, as well as the Manager of ICEAGE, a project dedicated to advanced grid education events. Fergusson found time between summer schools to chat with EGEE's Alison McCall.
Alison McCall: Why hold grid summer schools?
David Fergusson: Grid summer schools bring together experts from a wide variety of technologies and sciences, people who could not otherwise get together. For instance, a single university could not provide experts from all the middleware technologies, but we have such experts teaching at the summer schools. For example, at past schools we've had Ian Foster, Satoshi Matsuoka, Miron Livny, Erwin Laure and Malcolm Atkinson, all under one roof.
The schools also offer a chance for the best students to come together across disciplines to network in a self-supporting group that continues well after the school has finished.
AM:But why hold so many summer schools?
DF: Well, we have many different audiences to cater for. There are general summer schools, like the ISSGC, which teach a deep understanding of the distributed computing concepts behind grid computing.
We also have a variety of summer schools that focus on an understanding of technologies specific to a certain discipline or technology. GridKa and CERN summer schools focus on high energy physics, whereas the recent Biomed Summer School in Italy has its own focus.
Finally, it is also important to run summer schools locally for students who are unable to travel long distances, like the SeeGRID and BalticGrid summer schools.
AM: And what are the benefits of attending?
DF: As well as learning about grid computing and related technologies, students learn to work in groups, distribute tasks and work to tight deadlines. Students also have the opportunity to work with leaders in the field, and to form networks among peers with different backgrounds. Many students have found inspiration for future career choices, contacting potential research supervisors and networking with prospective employers. Projects and companies also benefit from being involved by finding some of the best candidates.
Some students have used their efforts at the summer schools to advance their progress in other courses, gaining credits using the European Transfer Credits System.
The ICEAGE project has been monitoring quality across the EGEE summer schools, and students have given an average 82 percent satisfaction rating in their feedback from the events.
AM: Finally, how do the grid community and research benefit from these summer school events?
DF: Intense teaching events such as summer schools allow young researchers to rapidly gain the knowledge they need to become active researchers, and to make a contribution to the grid community as a whole. The schools result in long-lasting networks that provide mutual support and encourage interdisciplinary collaborations.
- Alison McCall, EGEE
Check out the iSGTW calendar for more information on this year's summer school opportunities. Alternatively, take a look at schools listed by ICEAGE, as well as training events and workshops organized by EGEE, Open Science Grid and TeraGrid.