Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hazardous Journey

I am posting this on behalf of my good friend, Sue.

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.

-- Ernest Shackleton, 1913

BCDSP, a small research organization affiliated with Boston University is seeking an energetic "jack of all trades" programmer to assist researchers with database organization and queries. Your challenge is to make it easier to select data subsets from our patient information database, which contains about 15 years of data on roughly 25 million patients. The data are currently stored hierarchically in flat files and accessed by custom Pascal (Delphi) programs; new versions of the database are produced annually. Extracted data is presented to researchers as flat ASCII files, suitable for analysis by SAS, Stata and similar tools. This primary database is augmented by drug and diagnosis dictionaries and several derived datasets. Limited, read-only access to the data is provided by simple internal web applications.

You will learn the current scheme and then help plan for its future replacement. Excellent communication skills are essential as you will be the interface between the data and crack researchers who know the data well but are not programmers. Interest and eventual understanding of the research area and questions is essential. Ideally you will know, or be eager to learn, C/C++, SQL, SAS, Delphi Pascal, a scripting language (such as Python or Ruby), HTML and related web tools. Prior experience with hierarchical data (and its relational equivalents) very desirable. An interest in public health issues would make this a particularly rewarding experience. Our small, tight-knit team occupies comfortable, casual offices in Lexington center, easily accessible by car, bicycle trail or bus.

This is an opportunity to grow your skills, and have a real impact on the public health of the world.

Contact dsmacl at rcn dot com.

I used to work at BCDSP, and it's a terrific place. The work (drug safety studies) is incredibly important, meaningful work, and the group is fun to work with. The location is handy, with good food and other shopping nearby. The benefits are great.

The only downside is that it's an academic position, so the pay (while not terrible) is not quite competitive with many other high-tech positions. That's why I left; I needed a Real Job. But it was great fun while it lasted...

Attention headhunters: don't even think of it. BU will not pay a finder's fee.