UMaine ARCSIM begins testing the potential of the MyTardis data management tool

photo of Matt Spadden
Matt McSpadden is one of the main team members of UMaine ARC.

The University of Maine’s Advanced Research Computing (ARC) group was created in 2019 in order to support the University’s research mission by providing advanced high performance computing expertise and services to researchers from across UMaine and beyond. Some of the services offered include expertise and resources for reliable and cost-effective high performance computing and data management solutions. Matt McSpadden, one of ARC’s main team members, has been contributing to this mission and service through the deployment of a laboratory data management system known as MyTardis.

“It’s a data management tool, built by scientists for scientists,” McSpadden explains. “Its corresponding application, MyData is meant to integrate with various scientific instruments, such as the Illumina MiSeq high-throughput DNA sequencer we have housed at the eDNA CORE lab, and automatically push data through to MyTardis.”

MyTardis was created with big data instruments in mind, and has the ability to not only upload large amounts of genomic data, but to also share that information with research collaborators online. This helps address barriers related to data storage, access, and collaboration.

The Maine-eDNA program researchers asked for ARC’s assistance in deploying MyTardis to support their research. Melissa Kimble, a Graduate Research Assistant in Professor Kate Beard-Tisdale’s lab, first identified MyTardis as a potential solution and deployed the software on a test server. The Maine-eDNA team needed ARC’s help to deploy the software so that it can be used in a production environment with the necessary hardware and data storage.

“We’re beginning tests on MyTardis with the MiSeq instrument, in order to determine the best way to catalogue the data and share that data amongst in-state collaborators in a secure manner,” McSpadden adds.

The virtual server that ARC is currently using to house MyTardis is located at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, which ARC has a working relationship with. This provides a lot of reliability, according to McSpadden.

Research computing is a broad field, and to date ARC staff have been dedicating a significant amount of time to supporting faculty and researchers with their data storage and access needs. Research teams often have their own unique needs, and it is important to first understand those needs prior to investigating solutions. MyTardis is aligned with the bioinformatics area, as an example, but there are many other data management tools being sought out by faculty at UMaine to support their research activities, such as cases involving Protected Health Information (PHI) and HIPAA data. ARC expects to stay focused on data management for the UMaine community for an extended period.

“MyTardis will save time and increase efficiency for the genomics and bioinformatics community in Maine, as it makes data easier to read and organize, in addition to keeping it safe,” McSpadden says. “In the future, we can try out a similar MyTardis integration with other lab instruments, as MyTardis is versatile. There’s a lot of potential.”