About the feature
Many people are involved in the remarkable range of programs, services and facilities that undergird research in the College of Agriculture. Collectively they’re integral to the college fulfilling its research mission. “Behind the Research” explores their individual roles. Each academic year, we profile six people whose work supports the College of Agriculture’s global reputation for developing innovative, multidisciplinary solutions to challenges and then putting those solutions into action.
Jarrod Doucette, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Jarrod Doucette has been an academic IT specialist for the last three of his 10 years at Purdue. While he can’t describe a “typical” workday, nearly every day involves problem solving. “What I try to do is help move people forward in their research, teaching or Extension,” he explains.
He makes a difference in two ways, he says: “One is hands-on helping someone use a software application, or understand a dataset, or figure out how to collect data in the field. If I don’t know an exact answer right away, we sit down and figure it out.
“The second is that I listen to what people are stuck on and find the best resource for them.” He might reach out to his fellow departmental IT specialists or to other campus contacts. If someone needs something that isn’t available here, Doucette is part of a broader team that finds it elsewhere.
His career path started with a summer field course for his undergraduate geology major at the University of Delaware in which he mapped geographic units in Wyoming and Montana. That led him to an MS in Geospatial Information Science and Engineering at the State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry.
Doucette worked in Germany for two years before moving to Lafayette, where he joined FNR as the GIS and database specialist for a program that combined research and Extension. When the program ended after five years, he worked on a variety of projects in the department and was a member of program teams in the Center for Global Soundscapes at Discovery Park and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant.
His current position is a good fit because it calls on both his knowledge of technology and his science training, he says. He co-chairs FNR’s quantitative ecology group, conducts workshops on different technologies and facilitates communication across disciplines.
Once a study is up and running, Doucette also helps the research group create documentation for the next group that will conduct the next study in that area. “Always looking ahead” is part of the job description for all of the college’s academic IT specialists, he adds: “We want to help our departments navigate the coming years in terms of IT space.”
An area of particular interest is the management of research data. As graduate students come and go, they often ask for years-old files. Or they inadvertently recreate existing data. “At a university level, it’s a timely topic,” Doucette says. “Tons of data will be useless if it’s not managed well.”
His work has been important to a recently established Data Integrity and Quality (Data IQ) Committee. He was part of a team that from December 2017 to January 2018 surveyed faculty, staff, postdocs and graduate students on the quality and integrity of their data, barriers to its management and their preparation for different scenarios that might affect it.
Doucette credits his co-workers for keeping him in the College of Agriculture for 10 years. “They’re doing exciting things, and they’re fun to work with,” he says. “And my department is very supportive in terms of professional development.”