PSC Staff Profile - Greg Foss (with PSC since 1993)

need a foss photo

Greg Foss, our resident Scientific Visualization Artist, pushes pixels to create extreme visuals of scientific research here at PSC. We asked him to take a moment away from his moving pictures to reflect with us on PSC's 25 years.

PSC: What brought you to the PSC?

Greg: Immediately before PSC, I was working as an animator at a video production company in Cincinnati and could tell from the start commercial work wasn't going to interest me much. I made lots of flying logos — chrome, gold, brushed aluminum, marble, etc, and sometimes it was fun. My favorite was a fly-through-assembling Proctor and Gamble logo (man in the moon with stars) in silver with crystal stars. I learned a lot because it was the sort of place, like this one, where everyone ends up working multiple areas. A tight budget so you learn to be cheap and improvise.

What finally motivated me out of there was that the founder-owner, who was my boss, maintained somewhat (very) suspect business practices and was making enemies out of practically all our clients. I really liked working with him — he was a great storyteller, extremely funny, prone to dramatic emotional outbursts, and gave me rides in his Mercedes 560 SL, but figured I'd better get out before my work reputation was tied to his.

When thinking about what to do next it occurred to me that my preferred breakfast and bedtime reading material was an eclectic mix of science subjects – books generally chosen at the library if they had lots of colorful illustrations. I wondered if I could make computer graphics about scientific information and started in on an extensive process of many phone calls and letters (pre-email and internet). It was a call to one of my favorite grad school colleagues that had me call another alumni that looked at her Rolodex and came up with Dr. Joel Welling. I called Dr. Welling and he said PSC was looking for an animator because theirs just left. I assembled an overnight package of resume and slides that very day and started here in October 1993.

PSC: What is your most compelling memory at PSC over the years?

Greg: The memories that always come to mind regard my special talent for breaking technology. Several staff would readily testify that no services, software or devices are safe to operate correctly, maybe not at all, if I'm at close proximity. Here's an example:

I found myself getting a ride back to Pittsburgh from TeraGrid at Washington DC — in a car with 3 young whippersnappers who actually ventured to DC with a portable GPS instead of a map. Apparently none of us knew the city's layout so we were at the mercy of the GPS's female Voice. The Voice immediately got us lost and we spent maybe 45 minutes touring the DC area. Georgetown and seemingly every other neighborhood, most of the monuments, many different sites until the Voice insisted we had to go up a one lane, one way street the wrong way. Our incredibly patient, accommodating driver, who was doing her very best, instead rebelled and turned a different way. I think we all felt great satisfaction from disobeying that Voice, probably our driver most of all who I found out later wasn't feeling so great to begin with.

The Voice initially, calmly recalculated and directed us around several blocks, but back to the same street, now a right turn. So now we resolved to mutiny and ignore the Voice completely, who really seemed to grow more angry each time we rejected her commands. She furiously wanted to take control of the car, but haha couldn't because she was just a stupid Voice who didn't have a map either, and didn't know the area any better than we. And she couldn't read signs. Eventually we found our way, and the Voice recalculated one more time and agreed we were on the right path, the freeway that ran alongside our hotel.

PSC: We're glad you made it back, have you considered a career in way-finding?

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