When Polar Exploration Gets Techy
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When Polar Exploration Gets Techy

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Even in an Antarctic research ship, ninja tech skills can come in handy, as one software engineer found in the trip of a lifetime.

A research trip around the Antarctic gave a Software Engineer Carles Pina i Estany a new perspective on how the very product he helped build was being used by scientists. Aboard a research vessel thousands of miles from shore and the nearest reliable internet connection, these modern explorers routinely relied on Mendeley to do their work, even in subzero temperatures.

A research trip around the Antarctic gave a Software Engineer Carles Pina i Estany a new perspective on how the very product he helped build was being used by scientists Click To Tweet

The opportunity to take part in this unique expedition came when Carles’ partner, Jen Thomas, was invited to become Data Manager on a a research trip led by the newly created Swiss Polar Institute, which has a mission to connect researchers active in polar or extreme environments, promotes public awareness of these environments, and facilitates access to research facilities in those extreme environments. As they were short of an IT person and Carles was already on a sabbatical from his work at Elsevier – during which he had already planned to travel around the world – he seized the opportunity to fulfill a longstanding ambition to take part in a polar expedition.

Aboard a research vessel thousands of miles from shore, modern explorers rely on technology to do their work in subzero temperatures Click To Tweet

Carles joined the Mendeley team as a developer in June 2009, back when the start-up consisted of about a dozen people working in a small office near Farringdon, a historic section of London. Four years later, the company he helped build was acquired by Elsevier. Carles, along with the founders and the now much larger team, stayed on through the transition. Now he’s a Senior Software engineer.

I first met Carles when I was also part of the Mendeley team back in 2013-15 and saw how resourceful and creative he and his colleagues were with technology (specially during the monthly hack days he helped organise). I also knew he had a penchant for adventure, as many a fascinating tale was told by the espresso machine at our old White Bear Yard office when he returned from trips to places like China and Africa.

Carles joined the Mendeley team as a developer in June 2009, back when the start-up consisted of about a dozen people working in a small office near Farringdon Click To Tweet

So I wasn’t exactly surprised when I learned that he had taken this rather adventurous sabbatical as IT Systems Engineer aboard the Akademik Tryoshnikov research vessel on an ambitious Antarctic circumnavigation via Cape Town, South Africa, Hobart, Tasmania and Punta Arenas, Chile.

When he returned to London and his work at Mendeley — now in the Alphabeta building in London’s Tech City — I caught up with him to find out more about the trip. As it turns out, the experience had been an eye-opener about how important the work he had done for all those years has helped to advance science. Seeing the sometimes unexpected ways researchers in this Antarctic expedition used tools like Mendeley left him with a sense of renewed appreciation for how his own work has played a part in enabling scientific research.

I wasn’t exactly surprised when I learned that my adventurous ex-colleague had taken a sabbatical as IT Systems Engineer aboard the Akademik Tryoshnikov Click To Tweet

Here, Carles talks about those experiences and shares the photos he and Jen took during the voyage.

Read the full article on Elsevier Connect

Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.

 

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Also published on Medium.