July 06, 2016

Simon Fraser University physics professor Dugan O’Neil is the recipient of Compute Canada’s inaugural Trailblazer Award.

O’Neil, Compute Canada’s chief scientific officer, is credited for bringing the power of advanced research computing (ARC) to more than 10,000 Canadian researchers. He is cited for integrating sophisticated digital infrastructure into a diverse scientific community that spans engineering, natural sciences, health, social sciences and humanities.

SFU Associate VP Research Norbert Haunerland says O’Neil helped to fuel his own passion for ARC. “Dugan was like an evangelist when he talked about the value of and potential for ARC at SFU and the rest of the country. Not only did he convince me, but he also met with the various communities, from physics and genomics to medicine and social sciences, and got a lot of buy-in for an expanded concept for Compute Canada.”

A particle physicist, O’Neil is also a member of the global ALTAS project. SFU physicists are contributing to large-scale computing and data-quality monitoring related to Canada’s participation in the world’s largest physics experiment, at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland.

Compute Canada supplies computing and storage infrastructure to ATLAS-CANADA, which has been one of Compute Canada’s early “big data” users. Within the Canadian ATLAS collaboration O’Neil has served as both physics coordinator and deputy spokesperson.

His involvement with Compute Canada began in 2003, as a beta tester of WestGrid resources at both SFU and UBC. His group has used WestGrid to process hundreds of terabytes of raw data from the DZero experiment at Fermilab, as well as the ATLAS experiment. Recently, they have been studying the elusive Higgs Boson,which gives mass to fundamental particles.

O’Neil, a recipient of a 2007 Young Innovator award from the B.C. Innovation Council, was also among SFU researchers to make a breakthrough discovery about the Higgs particle a year after its 2012 discovery.

Since January 2014 he has divided his time between Compute Canada and ATLAS. He also supervises graduate students and continues his research related to the Higgs boson.

A co-leader of SFU’s high-energy physics group, O’Neil also led Compute Canada’s Sustainable Planning for ARC consultations to map ARC users’future needs. He has engaged digital humanities communities and workedto develop new common services for researchers.