Spotlight: UCB’s Chris Hoffman – from Archaeology to Informatics

Posted by Karishma Morabia, UCB student intern, UCOP. Chris Hoffman, Informatics Services Manager in Research IT at UC Berkeley, completed his B.A. at Rice University and his Ph. D. at UC Berkeley, both in anthropology. He did his research on copper metallurgy in prehistoric Europe, for which there were not many jobs when he graduated.

So he turned to computer work, and discovered he had a talent for working with data. “I really wanted to help people process and manage the data they had to work with on the research side of anthropology, but also to help how the Department of Anthropology processed data,” he said.

Hoffman built his career in informatics, and describes his job as that of a translator. He believes technology cannot be successful without understanding its social or cultural context, which he feels his anthropology background helps him provide. “I really love using both parts of my brain,” he said.

At present, Hoffman leads UC Berkeley’s Research Data Management Program, collaborating with the UCB Library and campus research communities to address challenges facing researchers across the full lifecycle of activities related to research data – from the proposal and data management plan, through collaboration and computation, to preservation, discovery, and reuse. In addition to consulting with researchers and leading workshops, he looks for cost-effective, high-quality, and safe solutions that are designed to help researchers store and protect their data.

Hoffman also works with campus museums that house research collections for anthropology, natural history, and art. His team has collaborated with others to develop the community source CollectionSpace platform, which is used to manage and share information about five collections at UCB.

On a personal note, in Hoffman’s office, you can find his own mini museum of character figures and other artifacts based on The Nightmare Before Christmas.

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