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Dave Carmean

Dave Carmean goes above and beyond for biology department faculty and staff.

From lab bugs to computer bugs

February 4, 2010

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SFU’s annual staff achievement awards honours staffers’ exceptional personal and work-related accomplishments. Throughout this semester, SFU News will profile each of the 2009 winners, who will be recognized at SFU’s annual faculty and staff awards dinner March 10 at the Diamond Alumni Centre.

Dave Carmean has a PhD in entomology but a close examination of his résumé reveals a consistent interest in developing computer databases.

So it’s not so surprising that when funding ran out for his post-doctoral fellowship in biologist Bernie Crespi’s lab in 1996, Carmean gave up real bugs for computer bugs to become a computing systems consultant for the biology department.

Since then, Carmean has used his love of research and problem solving to take his computer-support job to new levels, earning him the staff achievement award for innovation.

"Dave’s ability to turn ideas into real products amazes me," says one nominator, referring to the host of special programs and databases Carmean has developed to help the department streamline work processes.

A new Filemaker database, for example, enables faculty members to enter and update information about their research online. It also lets undergrads find fitting research projects, a tool that has even attracted exchange students from other universities. Some systems, such as an online teaching-assistant application, are so useful that other departments have adopted them.

For Carmean, the fun of the job comes from understanding the needs of both scientists and staffers and finding new ways to accommodate them. He also enjoys the daily desktop support work and makes himself available for troubleshooting even on weekends and vacations.

"I’ve been really lucky to work here," he says. "I’ve had a lot of freedom and I’m able to use that to come up with new ideas and ways of doing things. IT Services and other people here with more computer experience have helped me turn ideas into working systems."

And there’s an added perk: the ‘pets’ that colleagues occasionally give him, including spider beetles, Venus fly traps and leeches.

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