|29 Aug 2019|
World Community Grid scientific liaison Viktors Berstis is retiring after a 42-year career with IBM. In this article, we look back at his work and forward to his plans for the next chapter of his life.
One of the founding team members of World Community Grid is getting ready to move on to a new phase: Viktors Berstis, the program's scientific liaison, will start a very active retirement at the beginning of September.
Viktors has always worked at the intersection of technology and science. When World Community Grid won a People's Choice Webby in 2016, he created a Tesla coil with the award as shown above.
Viktors began his career at IBM in 1977. His early years here included architecting the System/38 - AS/400, designing and developing various software and silicon compilers, research on high-level automated integrated circuit design while at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, and working on OS/2.
By 2001, he was also working on grid computing, which was then a fairly new technology. In addition to his extensive technical background, Viktors has a keen interest and strong background in science. This made him a natural fit for World Community Grid, which he joined as one of the first team members before the launch of the first project in 2004.
Over the past 15 years, Viktors has been involved in every aspect of World Community Grid's operations. Most recently he served as the program's primary scientific liaison to researchers, doing everything from vetting proposals for prospective projects to helping handle complex scientific and technical issues. This position allowed him to work closely with principal investigators for every project.
Gerry Learmonth, the principal investigator for an environmentally-focused World Community Grid project, says,
"Viktors was our guide, mentor, and gentle 'nudge' as we prepared and launched the Computing for Sustainable Water project. He always showed a genuine interest in our results and equally importantly, our future direction with the work. As we moved on to other projects beyond Computing for Sustainable Water, Viktors showed not only intellectual interest, but offered insightful, practical observations and suggestions to our early-stage efforts. The continued importance of the work supported by World Community Grid is a testament to Viktor’s dedication to its success!"
Viktors also occasionally met with World Community Grid researchers in person, such as Dr. Akira Nakagawara, principal investigator for Help Fight Childhood Cancer and Smash Childhood Cancer. "I have been very happy to have worked with Viktors for a long time, ever since the Help Fight Childhood Cancer project started in 2009," says Dr. Nakagawara. "He once visited Japan with his wife, and we had a nice dinner together in Tokyo. I really appreciate his great contribution to World Community Grid."
Now, he's preparing to concentrate on projects that have taken a backseat to his workforce career. This includes extensive travel (especially to visit family, including two young grandchildren), leading a local cosmology organization, holding frequent house concerts (Viktors and his wife Sylvia are accomplished pianists), and conducting his own personal science projects. You can learn more about his activities on his website, http://www.berstis.com.
As passionate pianists, Viktors and his wife have been hosting house concerts for many years. Viktors plays a piece by Bach in the video above.
Viktors says, "Great thanks go to all of the members, researchers and IBM team involved with World Community Grid who helped make this such a great success and also a most rewarding part of my IBM career. I hope it continues to blossom while I dust off projects waiting decades on my to-do shelf."
As Viktors moves on to the next phase of his life, it's fitting that one of his last acts as a World Community Grid team member was to give a talk about the program to a group of physicians, scientists, and students at the invitation of Dr. Charles Keller, one of the researchers for the Smash Childhood Cancer project. "The whole group was so grateful for his lecture, and every student came up to me afterwards inspired by the spirit and technical aspects of what he has achieved," says Dr. Keller. "Viktors, thank you, for making the world not just a little better, but 2 million times better!"