Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

Interview with STSci's Perry Greenfield

Today's interview is with Dr. Perry Greenfield of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Tell us a bit about your organization and its goals.

We run the Hubble Space Telescope, starting with soliciting and gathering proposals from astronomers that want to use it, to scheduling the selected proposals, generating and uploading telescope commands, processing the downloaded data from raw telemetry to calibrated science images and spectra and providing the results in an archive to the astronomical community. The general goal is to maximize the scientific potential of HST. We are also helping develop the systems needed to run the next large space telescope planned, the James Webb Space Telescope. STScI employs approximately 500 people and is located on the Johns Hopkins University Campus in Baltimore, MD.

Tell us a bit about the software your group uses.

Python and scientific packages for Python such as numpy and matplotlib. We use nose for testing, subversion for version control, sphinx for documentation.

Tell us a bit about what software your group develops.

We build software for in-house use, both for operations such as automatic calibration pipelines and for staff astronomer use. We also distribute our tools to the general astronomical community. We have a mix of tools, from modules to read and write standard data files to instrument-specific data reduction and analysis routines.

Who are you hoping Software Carpentry will help?

Our staff astronomers, who could benefit from use of software tools that they are not really aware of.

How do you hope the course will help them?

To learn some good practices that will make their scripts more reliable, easier to repeat and less brittle. We frequently have to adopt the algorithms that they develop into more production-quality code, and the better they do the job the first time, the easier it will be for us.

How will you tell what impact the course has had?

We see better code in scripts given to us to include into production quality code.


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