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[Pat Murphy's Maze of Twisty Little Passages]

[Me in 1996]

Who the heck is Pat Murphy?

The answer is 42

This page most recently modified on Saturday, 17-Jan-2009 20:44:26 PST

I was born in Dublin, the Capital of the Republic of Ireland on March 24, 1957. I became fascinated with Astronomy at the tender age of 6 and things have never quite been the same since then.

[Original UCD Crest]

I attended University College, Dublin (UCD), and studied Experimental Physics as they didn't have a major in Astronomy. Most Universities in Ireland don't (yet); it's a small country. My minor was in Mathematical Physics. During this time, I got involved with the campus Astronomy Society Astro-Soc and was co-auditor of it for a year (in Irish College societies, the auditor is the boss; Gerry Murray was the other co-auditor that year). This was also the time when I was getting my first real exposure to computers, mainly via the old IBM selectric APL terminals (a typewriter on a tea-box) on the 360. I still vividly remember using the GRAPH program to plot results of plasma experiments with Gerry Fleming (he's now a weather forecaster on RTE, the Irish National Broadcasting service). Of course it wasn't all work; the computer centre staff still curses when they are reminded of the star trek program I wrote in APLSF! :-) (It was a gigantic memory hog for the time, but an interesting exercise in programming). Using ADM-3A terminals on the DEC-20 seemed like a huge improvement (even better when we figured out how to make them show lowercase characters); and I better not say anything about how we used features of TOPS-20 to split up the ADVENT.EXE executable into parts to avoid its being detected and deleted...

Despite all the fun and games with the computers, I managed to learn quite a bit. I found an old physics exam paper recently; you can read them for yourself if you feel up to a bit of a challenge.

Between my 2nd and 3rd undergraduate years at UCD, I spent a summer working with the Geophysics section of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS, see below); I still have fond memories of tromping around the countryside that summer, performing gravity anomaly surveys in County Cork and taking magnetic anomaly readings in County Sligo (I really got good at finding Ordnance Survey "benchmarks" that year).


I then received a research scholarship at Dunsink Observatory, part of the School of Cosmic Physics which in turn is part of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. This included doing a Master's degree in Astronomy (Triaxial Galaxies and Photometry), and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics (CCD observations of X-ray Galaxy Clusters). The latter led to a one-year visit to SAO's Mt. Hopkins Observatory near Tucson, Arizona in 1980. The CCD data from this visit was not very useful so a repeat trip in May 1981 was in order. One thing led to another and I've been in the USA ever since. While in Arizona, I was a member of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is a must see if you visit the area.

[Spice Telescope Silence Institute]

I worked as a PostDoc at Steward Observatory/Multiple Mirror Telescope Observatory from 1982 to 1983, during which time I came to realise that while I was moderately competent at Astronomy, my skills in the computer programming area were somewhat better. In other words, I'm better at software than high-powered Astronomical Research.

In May of 1983 I took a job as a Programmer for Computer Sciences Corporation at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). [Don't jump to any conclusions from the graphic over there; I have a lot of respect and admiration for the work done by my colleagues at STScI; it's more a humourous comment on the local accent than anything else!]


On August 17, 1984 I joined the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at the Very Large Array (VLA) site near Socorro, New Mexico (USA) and stayed there for 4 years. During this time I worked on the ill-fated "pipeline" and ended up supporting AIPS and other systems at the VLA site. I was also systems manager for the VAX systems while we still had them. Some of you may remember OUTBAX...

In November of 1988 I transferred to NRAO/ Tucson where I worked on real-time control system called CACTUS, and data acquisition software in addition to supporting the analysis software there. For a variety of reasons, things there didn't work out, so...

Towards the end of 1990, I transferred again, this time to NRAO's HQ in Charlottesville, Virginia where I took on the support of AIPS for both CV users and the outside world. In April 1998 I took on the extra duties as Division Head for Charlottesville Computing, and shortly thereafter managed to take on additional roles as Webmaster, Computer/Network Security Manager for all of NRAO, backup sysadmin for our Linux and other Unix systems, Linux evangelist, and more.

Pat Murphy

In 2006, I escaped the clutches of management (well, mostly!), relinquishing the Computing Division Head title and taking on the role of Senior Software Engineer in the ALMA Construction project. In the process, I met and worked with some of the most talented people I've encountered so far in my time at the Observatory, and it was a privilege to work with them.

However, opportunity knocked again in 2007, and NRAO was urgently seeking a Webmaster. Along with Stephan Witz, a long-time colleague at NRAO's AOC location in New Mexico, I've now taken over this role and it occupies half my time. In the other half I continue wearing the NRAO Computer Security Manager hat. Despite all this responsibility, I still hold out hope that somewhere, sometime I can find the time to do a little research too (hey, I can dream, right?!).

(The NRAO logo shown up there was based on the postscript logo hand-crafted by Eric Greisen [with help from Pat Smiley IIRC], modified with the GIMP by Rob Millner during his time with NRAO, then reduced and touched up by yours truly).

If you want to contact me other than via electronic mail, have a look at my plan. The latter also has my PGP public key.

[Powered by Apache!] Patrick P. Murphy
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Charlottesville, Virginia, USA