In Conversation with Owen Kaluza

On this ACCESStory issue, we had a chat with Owen Kaluza, Visualisation expert Software Research Engineer in the ACCESS-NRI’s Model Evaluation and Diagnostics (MED) Team.

Where did you grow up and how did you come to be part of the ACCESS-NRI team? 

I was born in Wales in the UK, though my parents are Irish and Australian, so we soon moved to Australia. We lived in Tasmania for a while, then western Victoria then to the Dandenong ranges in the east of Melbourne, where I haven’t strayed too far from since. 

I joined ACCESS-NRI in the latter half of 2023, I was very excited to find that remote work for ACCESS was possible, roles in with a visualisation focus can also be hard to find so I was very happy to join the team.  

Tell us a bit about your career before ACCESS-NRI 

I have worked in Software Development in industry since 1998, I went back to uni to study computer science in the mid 2000s where I focused on graphics programming and first started as a Research Software Engineer at Monash University in 2009 as part of the AuScope simulation and modelling group working on geophysical simulations. 

I enjoyed a very varied 15 years of working with different research areas at Monash, mostly specialising in visualisation and GPU programming, including Monash Biomedical Imaging, Monash eResearch and the Immersive Visualisation Platform where I helped run and support the CAVE2 virtual reality visualisation room. My main interest and focus has always been graphics and how we can use computers to see the unseeable, but I also enjoy designing and optimising algorithms to run on massively parallel machines, such as supercomputers and GPUs. 

What do you do at ACCESS-NRI and what excites you about this work?  

I am working on creating high impact visualisations and building tools to accelerate creation of 3D visualisations for climate and other earth-oriented data sets. I have always loved science and art, and visualisation is a nice way to combine the two. I really enjoy working with scientists and scientific data, particularly the physical sciences, but I never focused in depth on such an area of science study myself, so it’s great to be able to work in a science-adjacent field while practicing computational, mathematical and visual skills in a more general way. 

ACCESS-NRI is doing vital work to help understand our climate and how it is evolving and helping support this and aid others in understanding what we do is also important to me. Visualisation is helpful to understand complex 3D models for both the researchers using them and others to understand their research and this research is too important to not communicate effectively. It is a rapidly changing field as the technology to produce visuals changes and the level of output quality we are capable of increases along with expectations of increasingly realistic visual communication, which keeps things interesting and challenging. 

What do you like to do outside work? 

I like to get out of the city with my family as much as I can, camping and hiking or just spending time outdoors. I love cycling and try to use it as my main means of getting around where possible. 

At home I enjoy gardening, particularly growing Australian native plants and if I can find the time; a bit of reading or playing with some computer-generated art. 

Watch Owen’s work in the ACCESS-NRI Vimeo Channel