Alumnus Randall White on Changing the World with Informatics
“The informatic principles I am able to provide and assist a lot of our graduate students and our principal investigators with allow them to publish works that are pushing humanity forward.”
Randall White, ‘20 MS in Informatics
Computational Research Technical Consultant
Randall White is a computer and data science professional. As a proud graduate of the San José State University School of Information’s Master of Science in Informatics program, he now has the tools necessary to enhance his career as a university consultant and future faculty member. Randall’s drive and determination show that he has what it takes to succeed in the ever-expanding field of informatics.
Following the Passion
Developing the skills to become a computational system expert has been a long and fruitful journey for Randall. His educational background is rich and respectable, with an Associate’s degree in Computer Programming, a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics, and now a Master’s degree in Informatics.
The inspiration to become an informatics professional emerged during his undergraduate years, when he briefly studied bioinformatics. This course captivated Randall’s imagination and led him to look into local degree programs. After researching several university programs, Randall decided to apply to the iSchool’s MS in Informatics program. He was confident in his decision, as he knew the iSchool offered an affordable, convenient and quality program. He was admitted and managed to obtain his degree in only two years, graduating in December 2020.
Professional Background and Making a Change at Stanford
In the past, Randall maintained a lot of internships in the programming and IT fields, including a stint as an undergraduate researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs where he helped develop a simulator that showcased the workings of the human body over a 24-hour period. This simulator’s interface allowed researchers to look at the simulation in real time or post time, depending on the requirements of their research, and gather information. He also created a computer hardware and network infrastructure for the lab that facilitated this simulation in ways that would allow other researchers to observe and critique it from great distances. Although this lab is no longer active, the experience was just a stepping stone into Randall’s current role as a computational research technical consultant at Stanford University.
Randall’s consultant work primarily focuses on the university’s Sherlock Super Computing System (SRCC), which allows students and instructors to make computational calculations and simulations for scientific projects that focus on data extraction, geographic information systems, bioinformatics, and more. The system is continually growing, and Randall is responsible for the support of this system. The majority of his work is making sure that individual patrons of the system’s computer cluster are able to run their code, make suggestions on how to make their code run better, and also maintain the Stanford Earth Sciences information cluster. His days are full of busy yet meaningful work, and he knows that this experience has only enhanced his ability to move forward into his goal as a future instructor.
A Budding Instructor
Randall’s long-term career aspirations have been to become a faculty member at a reputable university, and now, as a fresh graduate of the MS in Informatics degree program, he is realizing his dream. Randall landed a job as a machine learning instructor at Holberton School, a coding school in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. His course begins in October 2021, and he’s eager to embark on this new chapter and see where it will take him.
Accomplishments and Challenges
Randall’s biggest accomplishment, thus far, has been his work at the SRCC, where he developed a digital asset management system, or database, of metadata to keep track of all of the system’s data. This works in partnership with the computer cluster system’s very advanced networking software, which is in charge of the interchange between the cluster and other computer systems, thus allowing outside users to access the system.
This system involves petabytes of data, which then allows an array of administrative efforts to take place so the system can be regularly cleaned out and kept up to date. Essentially, these are Big Data problems that are addressed using informatic principles, and with this system, researchers are able to streamline their research work on different platforms. Some researchers have even gone as far as to cite not only the system, but Randall himself as a major source in their journal publication. Needless to say, this digital asset management system has been a glowing achievement in Randall’s career!
His biggest challenge has undoubtedly been facing the COVID-19 pandemic while juggling full-time work, part-time schooling, and raising a young family.
“I was able to graduate with a Master’s in Informatics degree with a 3.9 GPA, but there was doubt in my mind. ‘Am I going to be able to do this?’ But my family and I managed to persevere and we got through it. We’re doing very well now, so I’m just really proud of that.”
His family had an at-home graduation ceremony for him, including a full photoshoot of him in his San José State University graduation regalia. It was a great moment for him, despite not being able to be on campus.
Inspirations and Advice
For his impressive list of accomplishments, Randall gives full credit to the women in his life. Specifically, his wife for her unwavering support, his daughter for her endless optimism and zest for life, and his mother, for her ambition to pursue higher education despite the odds. These women give him inspiration, hope and focus.
“At the end of the day, to see (my daughter) smile, to see her happy, and see her loving life, it just fills me with joy. Things may not go right every day, but once I see her, I know everything’s all right.”
He also acknowledges iSchool instructor Dr. Tonia San Nicolas-Rocca as a powerful mentor and example. Her professionalism and ability to effectively explain concepts, as well as her impressive qualifications, was very inspiring for him.
Advice for Students
His advice for students going into the field is, ultimately, persistence. Committing to the pursuit of his dreams has never faulted him in the past, and he knows the same is true for others: “Hang in there. You can do it, you can get a master’s degree. You will be able to do it, just continue on, and next thing you know, you will be done. It’s an amazing experience, and something I think everyone should do.”
Given his expanding resume and list of remarkable accomplishments, Randall has indeed proven his abilities as a remarkable informatics professional.