I am a communicator. I can explain complex ideas
effectively to audiences ranging from school-children to university
professors. I enjoy creating and presenting talks and seminars. I am also
at ease in more formal situations such as courtrooms and live interviews
which demand a considered yet immediate response as a professional scientist.
I am a problem solver. I work well in a team, contributing
insights and developing new ideas. I also enjoy the challenge of setting my
own goals, and I possess the self-motivation to reach those goals.
I am a scientist. I have professional experience in
mathematics, astronomy, computing
and genomics. I take a delight in learning about new developments in all
areas of science and technology. I bring the rigour and discipline of the
scientific method to all aspects of my work.
1981-1984: University College London, B.Sc. (Honours)
Mathematics and Astronomy
1984-1987: University of Liverpool, Ph.D. in applied
mathematics, for research on satellite dynamics
2003-2006: The Open University, Postgraduate Diploma
in Computing for Commerce and Industry
2011-present: Senior database administrator at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge
1999-2010: Software developer at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge
Managing and monitoring 280 MySQL instances and 40 PostgreSQL clusters.
Designing and implementing strategies to ensure the high availability of databases which support mission-critical services such as 24x7 laboratory pipelines and high-profile public web sites.
Analysing and optimising the performance of the database servers, including tuning of the host operating system and back-end block storage.
Identifying performance bottlenecks in database client code and advising on optimisation of SQL queries.
Developing and implementing procedures to automate the monitoring and testing of daily backups.
Liaising with software development teams to advise them on best practices for database client software.
Creating and presenting training courses for colleagues to help them make effective use of databases.
Learning and applying new ideas and techniques in MySQL and PostgreSQL by studying best-practice blogs and attending conferences.
1996-1998: Astronomer and software developer in Her Majesty's Nautical
Almanac Office, Royal Greenwich Observatory
- Initiating and leading the development
of more robust and effective methods for managing large sets of genome
- Communicating new ideas to colleagues through seminars
and training courses.
- Solving data-management problems for members of the
- Installing and managing a set of
database servers for the assembly data management project.
- Analysing and improving the performance
of genome assembly software.
- Creating new software tools to visualise the progress
of pathogen genome assemblies.
1990-1996: Lecturer in the School of Mathematical Sciences,
Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London
- Communicating astronomical information to the general
public, government agencies, commercial organisations, specialists and
- Designing and creating graphical
representations of astronomical information, including a set of 160 star
charts for the publisher Dorling-Kindersley.
- Initiating and implementing projects
to improve the accessibility of the NAO's astronomical information and the
efficiency with which it is delivered.
- Innovating new computing strategies to make use of the
World Wide Web as a publishing medium.
- Researching and developing new
mathematical techniques to ensure the accuracy of the information which NAO
- Collaborating with colleagues from institutions in the
U.K. and the U.S. to maintain the standard and relevance of the NAO's
1987-1990: Computer Algebra Support Project, University of Liverpool
- Teaching mathematics, computing and astronomy.
- Innovating improved methods for teaching and assessment
of computing courses, moving away from the old-fashioned
"lectures and written exams" model.
- Successfully persuading two dozen academic
colleagues to write, check and mark graduate examination papers each year
during the summer vacation, a time when most of them would rather be doing
something more interesting.
- Organising training courses and conferences.
- Analysing and evaluating large sets of
data to determine satellite orbital parameters in support of NASA's
Cassini mission to Saturn.
- Innovating and improving strategies
to obtain new high-precision measurements of satellite positions.
- Evaluating and comparing software
- Advising clients on the choice of the best software for
- Developing new modules for existing software packages.
- Solving programming problems for clients across the U.K.
- Training colleagues and clients in the use of software.
- Communicating and reporting information
via seminars, newsletters, user guides and books.
My 1987 Ph.D. thesis The Dynamics of the Outer Satellites of Saturn is available
is a set of PDF files.
I have thirty publications, including
two books and eighteen papers in leading peer-reviewed journals.
- Genealogy (I can trace my family through ten generations to Suffolk,
Northampton and the Yorkshire Dales in the late 17th century)
- Listening to classical music
- America and its history
- Keeping my cats amused with ping-pong balls and old shoelaces
- Islay malt whisky, especially Lagavulin, Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain
- Good food
- The history of the calendar
[David Harper: Technical Profile]
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Last modified on 25 August 2015