Thomas Van Heel

Biography

I graduated from St. John's University in Collegeville, MN witha  B.A. in psychology in 2005 and I went on to get my Master's in School Psychology at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls in 2008.  After deciding that I had enough of education, I went back to school and got my Associates Degree from the Minnesota School of Business in 2009.  I started out at the USGS in Minnesota as an Information Technology student, and after the completion of my Associates Degree I was hired on full-time.

I support the scientists and the science of the USGS in a variety of ways.  I manage Operating System and software deployment, with extensive skills with Microsoft System Center.  Those SCCM skills have earned me a place on the national SCCM Support Team in the USGS.  My niche skill for that team is my ability to write really strong install scripts for various software.  Those scripts are then deployed to thousands of computers across the USGS.  I rewrote the ArcGIS install scripts in 2018, and continue to maintain them.  I wrote the R install script, and set the default USGS install to point to the USGS owi CRAN repository, which makes it much easier for USGS scientists to install USGS-made R libraries.  I also wrote an Anaconda python install script, which is noteworthy because it includes configuration to point to the DOI certificate.  That's important because pip and conda were both being blocked by the firewall due to Anacondda not using Windows certificate store by default.

I also helped revamp the national template for Operating Systems Deployment (OSD).  My crowning achievement for that task was writing code to force Active Directory authentication at the beinging of the Task Sequence, which allowed OSD Standalone Media to access the pool of drivers stored on a DFS share. 

As a member of the SCCM Support Team, I am also a member of the Bureau Windows Technical Support Team (BWTST).  In my capacity on that team, I do a lot of testing of up-and-coming software.  I was the first in the USGS to dive into the 'new' OneDrive sync client, and through some intense investigating, found the GPO setting that was blocking it's functionality in our environment.  My capacity on the BWTST and SCCM teams afforded me the clout I required to successfully request that GPO be reversed, and the OneDrive experience in the USGS has been much smoother as result.

I write and maintain python scripts that automatically query NWIS and create webpages with the collected data to make it easier for scientists to focus on records to be reviewed.  

I am driven to learn new things and pride myself on developing new skills.