ACENET appoints new CEO, strengthens vision for growth

Jan 25th, 2016

By Jeff Green

ACENET's new CEO, Ann MacKenzie, has big plans to grow the organization.
ACENET appoints new CEO, strengthens vision for growth

Ann MacKenzie is big on numbers.

The newly appointed chief executive officer of ACENET, a consortium of universities in the region offering advanced research computing resources, has a clear vision to grow the 13-year-old organization over the next decade.

“First, I want to quadruple the number of researchers ACENET helps,” she said during a recent interview. “Doing so would provide even greater economic and social benefits to Atlantic Canada.”

ACENET was set up to provide researchers and industry access to unique, highly powerful computers with the goal to accelerate discovery and innovation in Atlantic Canada. It offers the horsepower equivalent of 6,000 computers, all working together to serve the needs of researchers. Memorial is the lead institution and head office for ACENET, while Dr. Richard Marceau, vice-president (research), is the chair of its board of directors.

Ms. MacKenzie says she expects to see a “huge upsurge” of researchers from a variety of disciplines such as humanities, social sciences and business utilizing ACENET’s resources allowing them to share data internationally and connect with other researchers around the region and world. Best of all, Ms. MacKenzie notes, ACENET’s services are free of charge.

“Along with helping more researchers is the impact on the development of highly-qualified personnel in the region and, in particular, the training of students in the high demand field of computational research,” she explained.

“I’d like to see ACENET with a sustainable funding model for capital and operations and maintenance,” Ms. MacKenzie added. “Research is a long-term commitment, and we want to take the journey alongside our researchers for the duration, helping them to achieve their goals, with all of the resulting regional benefits.”

Ms. MacKenzie joined ACENET in November after Ray Miller's retirement. Originally from New Waterford, Cape Breton, N.S., she is an alumna of Saint Mary’s and Dalhousie universities. Prior to joining ACENET, she worked as an accountant throughout the country. She also ran Film Nova Scotia, a provincial Crown corporation, and was executive director of business development for the Conference Board of Canada in Ottawa.

She’s quick to admit joining a group such as ACENET was on her bucket list.

“I have always worked in knowledge-based industries and most of the time in the public sector environment,” she noted. “ACENET plays a significant role in enabling discovery and innovation in Atlantic Canada through its cyber-infrastructure and human capital. I thought it would be exciting to work with the brightest researchers in the region who, through their efforts, increase the quality of life in Atlantic Canada both economically and socially.”

Since joining ACENET, Ms. MacKenzie has met with various researchers and member institutions. She says she plans to continue offering the same level of service to researchers with the goal of expanding.

“I am doing a lot of listening and learning at this stage,” she added. “Ultimately, ACENET succeeds if our local researchers succeed, so in the near future we will establish some priorities around how best to continue serving our users and ensure that they remain connected and relevant at the national and international levels.”

ACENET is a regional partner with Compute Canada, the national organization responsible for advanced research computing in the country and is supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and RDC.

More information about ACENET and the services it provides is available on its website.