Get to know Jarno van der Kolk

Posted on Wednesday, August 1, 2018

 1. What is your job title?

This picture shows Jarno Van der Kolk, Senior Scientific Computing Specialist at uOttawa, standing by the wall of a building with trees in the background

 

Senior Scientific Computing Specialist

 2. How do you see your role going forward?

I would like to help our researchers make the most of the computational resources available in all of Canada and help them make their code as efficient as possible. I hope to do that by not only being available for support but also to actively promote computational research, for example by organizing seminars for the various departments.

 3. Where did you complete your studies?

I started at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands, where I completed my Bachelor’s in Physics. Then I won a grant to do my Master’s in theoretical and mathematical physics at the Ludwig-Maximillian-Universität in Munich, Germany. After that, I moved to Canada to do my PhD with Professor Lora Ramunno in the Computational Nanophotonics group at the University of Ottawa.

 4. Do you have any professional certifications?

No official certifications, however I was responsible for the maintenance of the compute cluster belonging to Professor Lora Ramunno’s research group as well as teaching our students on its usage. I learned that there are plenty of things that can break (and be fixed)!

 5. What countries you’ve lived in/visited?

I was born in the Netherlands so I lived there for a very long time. After that I followed my studies which had me living in Munich, Germany for almost three years. I came to Canada in 2011 so I have been here for a while as well. I even became a Canadian citizen just last March.

I also enjoy travelling and being from Europe, it is of course very easy to go to other countries. So I have visited many European countries, such as Sweden, England, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and so on. I have also visited South Africa and went to the United States several times.

 6. Why did you get into your field of work?

I grew up on the Commodore 64, so I was always a fan of computers in general and tinkering with them. Later I started working on open-source projects which was very helpful as it got me a job as a programmer for a dental administration software company in the Netherlands. However, after five years of working there, I felt it was time for something new. I always enjoyed physics in high school, so I decided to start studying at the university. I had so much fun doing that, that I just kept on doing it and I was fortunate enough to receive scholarships for my Master’s and PhD. My programming side never left me however, which is why I started specializing in computational physics during my Master’s where I was writing programs to simulate quantum time evolution of spin chains. During my PhD and afterwards as a Post-Doc, I simulated nonlinear electromagnetic processes as a way to understand and improve nonlinear optical microscopes. This in turn led to my involvement with the vast computational resources offered by Compute Canada and uOttawa’s local clusters, which is what I will be helping our current researchers with now.

 7. Family info you want to share?

I first met my wife during my studies in Munich where I was often trying to charm her. Evidently that worked because she proposed near the end of my studies and we got married in the Netherlands shortly before coming to Canada. She’s originally from Canada, so I am essentially an import husband.

 8. What’s your favourite pastime?

I enjoy playing video games when I get the time. In particular Planetary Annihilation: Titans which is a real-time strategy game which has a great community. The game is also very friendly to people like me that like to play with the underpinnings and make it do things that the developers never intended.

 9. What’s your favourite sport?

I got into Zumba last year which is quite a blast. I suppose that is not really a sport though.

 10. What’s your favourite movie?

It’s an extremely silly movie, but I really enjoyed Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. They took an original Kung Fu movie, then added in new actors and new voice-overs to make one of the most ridiculous movies in existence.

 11. What’s your pet peeve?

Google’s reCAPTCHA forms. They make me do them over and over again. I’m reasonably sure Google either thinks I am a robot or hates me personally.

 12. What would people be surprised to know about you?

Maybe that I jumped out of a plane once? I did have a parachute at the time though which helped with arriving at the ground at a reasonable speed.

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