For some people starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic would be a disheartening experience—not seeing or meeting any of your coworkers except via Zoom could be lonely and a bit depressing. But not so for Ivan Cao-Berg who hit the ground running on his first day. “I have been a PSC collaborator for years,” he says. “I have worked on projects that involved PSC—mostly with members of the Biomedical Applications team—so I felt comfortable joining the team and to be working with Phil Blood, Alex Ropelewski, Rozita Laghaei and Greg Hood.”
Ivan, who started over a year ago as a research software specialist, was immediately assigned to work on several projects—HuBMAP, Brain Image Library (BIL), MMBioS and NCGAS. “I’ve had the opportunity to lead, consult and host MMBioS workshop sessions, lead a BIL workshop and will be hosting another session this week,” says Ivan. “HuBMAP was the only project I was associated with where I didn’t know any staff. Joel Welling made me feel like a team member fairly quickly, and I really enjoy working with him and the rest of the HuBMAP team.”
Ivan says he really enjoys working with Alex (BIL) and Phil (NCGAS/HuBMAP). “We are very honest with each other about priorities and deadlines,” says Ivan. “This makes my job smoother, and I’d like to believe that in the short time working with them I have gained their trust, and this gives me the freedom to manage my schedule as I see fit.”
For nearly four years prior to starting at PSC, Ivan had been collaborating with Rozita on the MMBioS project. “Rozita and I work well together because we tend to see eye to eye,” states Ivan. “Even during times when we don’t agree, we can talk about our differences earnestly and productively. Our collaborations have led to organizing and managing very efficient workshops with Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh as well as other institutions.”
Ivan admits that he does have a hard time reaching out to staff members outside his project bubble. “I am the kind of person who pays attention to things like body language and tone to gauge situations,” relates Ivan. “I have never talked to nor seen some of my peers. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the times we’re living in, and I can’t wait to meet them in the near future.”
This past summer Ivan had the opportunity to supervise a student intern. “It was more of a mentoring experience than a supervising one,” says Ivan, who trained programmers for years in his previous job. “We met all of our goals and expectations. The trick is to make sure to create reasonable and attainable goals/milestones and spend time revising them and reprioritizing them if needed.”
Personal development is high on the list for Ivan. He attended training sessions at the PEARC20 conference, the Gateways Conference 2020 and will be (virtually) attending the SC21 conference in November. He is currently working on certifications to become a Matlab Associate and an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner.
Born in Argentina and raised in Puerto Rico, Ivan received funding through NIH for grad school and chose CMU. His desire to maintain strong ties to his roots, however, is evident in his volunteer work and community engagement. Ivan hosts a radio show on WRCT 88.3FM called “Barrio Latino,” a radio show in Spanish that has been on the air for more than 20 years. The show and Ivan’s involvement in the CMU and Pittsburgh Hispanic community was featured by CMU News.
In addition to the radio show, Ivan and some friends manage the Pittsburgh Spanish Meetup Group, a group that meets with non-native Spanish speakers to practice the language and connect with people who want to learn Spanish as well.
Ivan is part of the organizing team for the Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. This year is a collaboration between Pitt, CMU, CCAC, Robert Morris, Slippery Rock and Duquesne. He is also working with faculty at MCS to start a SACNAS chapter on campus.