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Training Scholarship Winner Nam Pho Uses Linux for Science

As a first-generation Vietnamese-American, Nam Pho says he learned to make the most of limited resources and opportunities in many facets of his life. When it came to computing, this meant dealing with secondhand hardware. He built his Linux skills through frustrating, but educational, attempts to get old computers up and working again.

Nam Pho Linux scholarship winner“With a bit of hacking I was ecstatic to see that Linux would give the machine second life in my hands,” said Pho, who was one of five Linux Foundation Training scholarship winners announced at LinuxCon in New Orleans. “Linux would continue to be a part of my life to varying degrees until today.”

Today Pho is a research computing scientist on the Linux High Performance Computing team at a large, nonprofit medical research university in the Boston area.  Inspired by the Human Genome Project in the late 1990’s, he chose to study genomics in college and combined it with his interest in computers.

“At the time before big data tools existed, mountains of genetics data from the automated processing of samples and other improvements in technology led to a sudden and large need in compute to process it,” Pho said. “The explosion of HPC running Linux applied to genetics (i.e. bioinformatics) was where I found a niche.”

He works with system administrators to help biologists and physicians from hundreds of labs across the university’s campus and affiliate hospitals to develop and run open source code on their HPC Linux machines.  But because he’s learned about Linux and computing mostly through experience and not study, he felt there were gaps in his knowledge that prevent him from using Linux to its full potential or contributing to the community.

He applied for the training scholarship to help him fill in those gaps and, he hopes, improve the quality and stability of the research tools he’s building. Such software has a meaningful effect on the lives of the patients who depend on new discoveries for treatment

“With funding for training provided by the Linux Foundation I could have an immediate impact on the quality and stability of many innovative and cutting-edge scientific tools for Linux, further increasing its attractiveness as a platform for research and enterprise in clinical medicine,” Pho said.

Pho was chosen for a training scholarship in the “Developer Do-Gooder” category. Congratulations Nam Pho! For a full list of Linux training courses available, visit http://training.linuxfoundation.org.

Where are you from?

I'm from Ellicott City, Maryland, but recently I work/live in the Boston, Massachusetts area.

Tell us something few people know about you.

I was a volunteer firefighter and EMT back in Maryland for several years. 

What inspires you about Linux?

I've been using Linux for a long time and I'm both inspired and amazed at how much it has grown and matured over the years. It's incredible that a completely open sourced project has become a viable alternative to commercially developed rivals.

 

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