Berkeley lab and campus researchers honored for information technology innovation

Recipients of the Larry L. Sautter Award, including UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers, were honored for their innovative uses of information technology at a conference on Monday.

The winning projects were selected at the end of July by a selection committee based on criteria that looked at their innovation, collaboration and effectiveness in information technology, according to Robert Sams, director of communication services and information technology for the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“We looked for real innovation, things that were brand new and really made a fundamental difference in the picture of information technology at the University of California,” he said.

According to Sams, the award was established in 2000 by the UC Information Technology Leadership Council to honor Sautter’s IT contributions to the university and acknowledge similar advancements across the UC.

“We all know that information technology and application development are a critical part of our operational reality, especially as we’re trying to realize our goals of operational efficiency,” Sams said.

The winners of the award receive either a plaque or a certificate to commemorate their achievement, as well as honor and recognition, Sams said.

“It was a very difficult process to try and select a few for the awards,” Sams said. “The ones that we singled out made really extraordinary contributions in one area or another.”

One distinguished project was the campus’s Visiting Scholar and PostDoc Affairs Gateway, which turned paper applications for visiting scholars and postdoctoral researchers into an online process — saving over half a million dollars on an annual basis, according to Sam Castaneda, campus director of Visiting Scholar and Postdoctoral Affairs.

Castaneda said the program was released on a rolling basis to different departments and was eventually implemented as a standardized application process across the campus that has received widespread support.

“I had known in my heart that this was really a good tool,” Castaneda said. “Almost two weeks ago, we released another version with a dozen or more enhancements and didn’t get one email about them, which was another demonstration that this is working well.”

A Berkeley lab submission won an honorable mention for developing software that allows some Internet network users to reserve bandwidth and ensures timely data delivery.

Energy Sciences Network engineer Chin Guok said the program is especially valuable for researchers who have to produce, share and transfer large amounts of data and has since been adopted by other universities and institutes across the globe.

“The big commonality is that everybody faces the same problems, and since this actually solves some of their problems, folks look at this as a model, something they can use in their network as well,” Guok said.

According to David Ernst, associate vice president and chief information officer for information resources for the UC Office of the President, the chosen projects all demonstrated efficient and effective applications of technology that benefited university activities, and each one deserved recognition for its achievements.

“There’s a lot of big press given to large innovative systems where lots of money is spent and there’s a huge impact on the university, which are very important, but the cool thing about the Sautter Awards is that they recognize day-to-day activities, which are every bit as important,” Ernst said.