Search Magazine December 01, 2010

5 Questions: An interview with Gregg TeHeneppe

Q: How did you get started in computing?

A: I got my B.A. in philosophy from Carleton College (Minnesota). Honestly, I had a campus job cooking breakfast, was late the first day, and ended up at the computing center to beg for a job there. After graduation I worked at Connecticut College in academic computing, then applied for a systems administrator job here in 1994 after my parents moved to Franklin (Maine).

Q: So you liked the area at first?

A: [Laughs] No, at first I had my doubts, but it turned out to be great for my wife and me. And while the Laboratory always provided me with a good job, its mission has taken on a more personal meaning. My wife was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory disease. A scientist here (Derry Roopenian) researches a gene associated with it, and being able to shake Derry's hand and thank him for his work made for a powerful connection to the mission for me.

Q: Did you have a sense of how quickly technology would progress?

A: It's grown faster than the mind can grasp sometimes. That [points to an iPhone] has more computing power than the main server for the whole Laboratory did 15 years ago.

Q: Any thoughts on where it's headed?

A: I'm now the liaison between research and the IT department. In 2006 I contributed to a white paper looking five years ahead, projecting computing power, bandwidth and storage needs that seemed ridiculous at the time. They ended up being pretty accurate. I'm involved in the process again, and I really have to put aside the limitation of my own imagination.

Q: What do you enjoy outside of work?

A: I play the Dobro [steel guitar] in a band, Blue Northern. No one in the band is a full-time musician—a couple of the guys are scientists—but we play live and have put out an album. Another hobby is beer brewing. I like draft beer, so now I brew beer in kegs.