Meet our new Director of Technology: Nicolas Renaud

We are pleased to welcome our new Director of Technology, Nicolas Renaud. Nicolas (also more frequently known as Nico) has been with the eScience Center for nearly seven years working initially as a Research Software Engineer (RSE), after which he moved on to management. With this new position, Nico will be responsible for setting ambitious goals aligned with our mission, vision and long-term strategy. We wanted to learn more about Nico and his plans for his new role, so we sat down with him for an interview.

Q1: Tell us about your journey in the world of technology. What sparked your interest, and how did you find yourself on the path to becoming a Director of Technology? 

A: My journey started in computational chemistry studying how to simulate the behaviour of molecules. Over the years, this led me to explore ways in which to leverage high-performance computing, machine learning and now, quantum computing, for material science and other scientific fields. My research showed me how technological advances can impact science – knowledge I can put to good use as Director of Technology.

Q2: What attracted you to the Netherlands eScience Center from the beginning? 

A: The breadth of our activities. There are no other organizations (that I know of) where you can discuss Natural Language Processing for Digital History followed by GPU acceleration for High Energy Physics. This makes our work very challenging since we must cover so much ground with rather limited resources, but it is also very exciting.  

Our dedication to Open Science and reproducibility through high-quality research software would be a close second in terms of reasons why I joined initially.    

Q3: What excites you most about taking on this role? 

A: The technology landscape evolves very quickly and we have to clearly identify where we can have added value and play an important role. Defining a clear technology strategy for the eScience Center, in terms of defining our strong points and figuring out how to deliver the most value to our partners, is very exciting.     

    Continuing the development of tools to promote Open Science and the role of research software in academic research is just as rewarding.   

    Q4: What challenges do you foresee and what tools will you use to overcome these obstacles? 

    A: As mentioned earlier, the eScience Center has the impressive ambition of providing expertise on all possible technologies and all possible domains at once, with finite resources. We might have to make some choices in the future to ensure that we can have a sustainable impact.  

      Q5: How do you hope to shape the future of the eScience Center as the director of technology? 

      A: I hope that I can help identify where we can be most valuable and ensure that we have the capacity to deliver top-quality software and scientific results together with our partners. I also hope that we can raise our profile as a research organization and join multidisciplinary research consortia that aim to advance society.  

        Q6: How do you see the eScience Center positioned in the academic landscape in the future and how will you help us get there?  

        A: We have an important role to play in developing sustainable software, however, we need to ensure that we focus on tools with a long-lasting impact. This means working on sustainable software with large-scale research facilities and infrastructures, as well as tools that are critical for a considerable research community. 

          In parallel, we can also have a more direct impact on research in the Netherlands by co-developing research software that helps researchers explore the forefront of research.  

          Having this dual approach might require a different way of working and potentially different funding instruments or calls in order to select and invest in projects.  

          Q7: What was the best advice you’ve been given throughout your career? 

          A: Invest in your strengths and don’t be afraid to take risks. 

          We wish Nico the best of luck in his new role!