Colleagues remember Rader for technical skills, human touch

May 29, 2013

by John Lucas

Photo: Stephen Rader

Stephen Rader (right) with his wife Vicki Tobias and his daughter Ariella.

Computing can be a complex and difficult topic for those without technical experience. Stephen Rader’s easy-going manner made his colleagues in the Physics Department feel at-ease with technology and helped support their research successes.

“Steve assuaged computing fears and helped members of the department achieve their computing goals with his confident expertise,” says Physics Professor Wesley Smith. “He was a great listener who sought to understand people’s problems before recommending a solution.”

Rader, 47, was killed in a crash on Friday, May 24 after a tow truck struck the bicycle he was riding at the intersection of Mineral Point Road and South Yellowstone Drive, according to Madison Police.

He served as the Physics Department director of computing, responsible for supporting almost 500 users that make up the department’s research and academic communities. He joined the department in 2000, a key moment in the growth of academic research computing resources.

Rader initially provided support for the High Energy Physics (HEP) group and began collaborations with the University of Wisconsin Condor group in such projects as the Grid Laboratory of Wisconsin (GLOW), the Center for High Throughput Computing (CHTC) and the Open Science Grid.

He was instrumental in the set-up and support of the Tier-2 Computing Center for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider, which enabled the Wisconsin CMS group to play a leading role in last summer’s Higgs Boson discovery, according to Aimee Lefkow, the department’s research program manager.

After serving the HEP group for his first decade, Rader was invited to expand his role to all of the Physics Department. Rader’s arrival in both the HEP group and the broader department brought reliability in computing that greatly enhanced the department’s research and academic missions.

“He led and mentored a very able team of computing professionals who now carry his legacy forward,” Smith adds. “Steve was a wonderful, talented and kind colleague and friend. He will be greatly missed and always remembered.”  

Prior to his time in Physics, Rader worked as a systems administrator and software engineer at WiscNet and as a manager of technical computing services for the Space Science and Engineering Center. He graduated from UW with a major in computer science in 1990.

Outside of his professional life, he was a talented badminton player, who competed as well as organizing local tournaments. He served as a Rec Sports Board member and faculty advisor to the UW Badminton club.

He also enjoyed cycling, tennis, bike polo, snowboarding, music, yoga, radio controlled aircraft and fresh water aquaria.

Rader’s wife, Vicki Tobias, works as an academic archivist in the University Archives, part of UW Libraries, and he is also survived by a daughter, Ariella.  

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 1 at Cress Funeral Home 3610 Speedway, followed by a visitation. 

In lieu of flowers, the family is establishing a fund in Steve’s name at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Memorials can be made payable to the UW Foundation in memory of Steve Rader, US Bank Lockbox 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278.