Pitt’s pandemic heroes: LRDC computing manager had to keep it cool


Not only did the Learning Research & Development Center have to deal with issues common to the entire University’s switch to remote work, recalls Anthony Taliani, but it also had to delay a move to the Murdoch Building this summer and contend with the air conditioning being shut off, sending Taliani scrambling to keep research computing equipment cooled 24/7.

Taliani, computer services manager for the LRDC, says he and his team of three technical systems analysts have been rotating in and out of the building periodically since the campus closed, and have never stopped.

“Some of our research is done through process-based servers, computers that run analysis,” he says. “We had to make sure everyone had access to the University networks,” and be certain faculty had the proper equipment and even office furniture at home, “so it seemed like everyone was still in the building.” Some of that effort was done in reverse for the research re-start in June.

Taliani also joined the Pandemic Safety Ambassadors, who make sure LRDC’s in-office workers are well-stocked with PPE and are socially distancing.

Then, he says, on June 7 the LRDC building’s air conditioning was shut off as part of a University cost-saving move: “We were caught between timelines. Our building wasn’t officially open but we had people who were deemed essential” for research. Taliani and crew worked with Facilities Management to secure supplemental chilled air from fans and portable cooling units. It took about a week to get the air conditioning back on and running as normal.

Armed with a bachelor of science degree from Pitt’s School of Information Science in 2001, Taliani first joined the LRDC as a student worker, then started in its computing services department as a systems analyst in 2002, becoming manager in 2012.

He estimates he’s been on campus 20 times since March. “There are some things we just can’t do remotely,” he says. “We’ve had to come back on campus throughout this whole pandemic to prepare our facilities. I think we’ve understood what job duties we can do remotely and with success, but I think we’ve been able to leverage Pitt technical services through Pitt IT to help us. … We understand there is a need for a physical presence on campus.

“I’ve had the opportunity to talk with and work with IT directors at the other departments,” he adds, comparing experiences and gauging what works. “I think we’ve done well, all things considered. The call to work remotely was pretty abrupt. I think we’ve all done our best and done a pretty good job of adjusting.”

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at martyl@pitt.edu or 412-758-4859.


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