Hyver Stories: Data Engineer Bas Katsma

Meet Data Engineer Bas Katsma (24). He started at The Hyve as an intern in July 2020 and later joined the company as a Data Engineer. From his initial work designing and building databases, he now specializes in semantic modelling and knowledge graphs. During the weekend, he likes to hang out with friends and socialize.

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I studied Biomedical Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. After completing my bachelor’s, I didn’t want to continue these studies. At the same time, I wasn’t sure what to do next. When I learned that the university offered a one-year minor in Programming I decided to give it a go because programming and computing had always been a hobby of mine. By the end of the year, I knew I wanted to continue with Programming. At the same time, I wanted to put my bachelor studies to good use. The master program Bioinformatics and Systems Biology at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam proved to be a great solution as it combines biology and informatics.

How did you get to know The Hyve?

During my master’s, I attended a Bioinformatics and Systems Biology (BioSB) conference in Lunteren. A number of companies and organisations presented themselves there with booths and posters. The Hyve was one of them. The company interested me and I kept them in mind. Eventually, I got to do my second internship here and that, in turn, resulted in me joining the company as a Data Engineer.

What did you work on during your internship and is that also your current job?

During my internship, I designed and constructed databases. The work revolved around questions like: How to best store large amounts of medical data? What database design allows you to quickly answer complex analytical questions? If a database contains hundreds of millions of data items and you want to know what data is available for a specific subset of patients, say individuals over 65 of age with a heart condition. Getting that information quickly is quite a challenge and it requires good system design.

In my current job, I don’t work on databases anymore. I switched to building semantic models and knowledge graphs. Such data models allow our clients to make better use of their data. Ask all kinds of complicated questions. The model should then give them good and useful answers.

Which team are you involved with at The Hyve?

I’m part of Health Data Infrastructure. With 24 colleagues, it’s quite a large team. The group that I’m in touch with on a day-to-day basis is much smaller. Six or seven, I’d say.

What do you like most about working at The Hyve?

I like that the job is quite varied. For example, we just started a new project. Initial tasks involve reading up on what the client aims to achieve with the project, figuring out how to realize these goals, and getting access to systems. No two projects are the same and they often require custom solutions. I like this aspect of the job. The fact that you’re constantly faced with new challenges allows you to learn and grow and develop new skills.

Can you mention an exciting development in your field?

I’m most excited about the techniques I’m working with: semantic modelling and knowledge graphs. They’re being implemented more widely and are really starting to show their potential.

Take for example Apple’s virtual assistant Siri. You can ask her all kinds of different questions and she’ll often come up with the correct answer. It’s an example of knowledge graphs on a gigantic scale. At The Hyve, we are implementing it on a much smaller scale, specifically for clients in the biomedical field. But these clients are working with increasingly large datasets and Siri is a good illustration of how powerful these techniques are in extracting knowledge from huge amounts of data.

What do you like to do when you're 'off-duty'?

We recently moved to a new apartment in Utrecht and got our first pet: the very cute cat Nola 🐱. At the moment our free time revolves around scouring furniture websites, DIY-ing a BBQ stand and planter boxes for our balcony, and protecting our leather chairs from Nola by wrapping them in aluminium foil.

I’m not a very sporty type, but I do like to go out for walks. On Fridays and Saturdays, I usually meet up with friends. Unfortunately these days it’s not as easy to see each other as it used to be. With limited personal contact, I feel it’s extra important though for my mood and wellbeing to see my friends during the weekend.

We are hiring

The Hyve is a young but fast-growing company employing a multinational and multidisciplinary team of data engineers, software engineers, solutions architects, business analysts, and other professionals. We are always on the lookout for talented and dedicated individuals to join our mission of enabling open science.

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