Greg Stazyk

Cancer widower becomes cancer fighter

May 31, 2007

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By Carol Thorbes

Greg Stazyk’s graduation from SFU this spring can never compensate for the loss of his beloved partner of 11 years and wife of four years, but it is helping him cope.

Two years ago, Stazyk left a successful career as the manager of PMC-Sierra’s computer service group to pursue an undergraduate degree in molecular biology and biochemistry (MBB) at SFU.

The Surrey resident, who had an undergraduate degree in computing science from McMaster University, returned to school a year after his 33-year-old wife Kirsten died of cervical cancer.

"When something like this happens," says Stazyk, "you need a reason to get up in the morning and keep going. I had a great job and it was fulfilling before all of this happened but I knew I needed to do more to bring some meaning out of all this."

Stazyk found meaning through knowledge in a discipline at the other end of the spectrum from his original degree. The two degrees combined make him invaluable to cancer researchers.

Less than a month after finishing his MBB degree, Stazyk is working as a computing systems coordinator at the Genome Sciences Centre at the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre.

"The background I gained from SFU gave me a unique understanding of computing techniques that cancer researchers use to gather data and the computing power needed to analyze it," explains Stazyk.

"As an example, a comparative analysis of the differences in genes and proteins expressed in a cancer cell versus a normal cell involves a tremendous amount of data from different experiments. This complex expression-profile analysis requires intelligent software and significant computing power."

During his seven years at PMC-Sierra, Stazyk became an expert at harnessing the computing power of hundreds of servers to run processing jobs that build semiconductors—specialized and complex computer chips.

Stazyk now manages the Genome Sciences Centre’s use of a 400-plus node computer cluster for ongoing, simultaneous analysis of several research projects, such as gene regulation, expression analysis, drug discovery and gene mapping.

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