Mary Jacka is a senior computer specialist in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington. As a computer specialist, she is responsible for programming for several studies on aging and dementia, including KAME (a study of older Japanese-Americans in King County), Adult Changes in Thought (ACT), Alzheimer's Disease Patient Registry (ADPR), the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) clinical community satellite, and the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center (NACC).
Jacka uses S.A.S., which is a statistical software program used in social science research. She writes software programs that tell the computer what to do, such as to create a report or a specialized data set from the larger studies' research data. Jacka also helps with system administration, including computer database maintenance and documentation, and security for the computer system. For example, the computers have to be kept up-to-date with the latest security patches so no one who is not authorized to look at the data can access it or contaminate it with a computer virus.
Jacka has been working at the UW since 1996, but has actually been working with the KAME project since it began in 1991. She became interested in programming while watching her older brothers learn it at a voc-tech school. The aspect Jacka enjoys most about her work is the variety. She states, "I like change, and fortunately now I'm in a job where there's enough change in the job that it keeps my interest." Jacka revels in being able to work on several projects, and collaborate with researchers to help them get sensible and meaningful data for their studies.
When Jacka is not at work, she and her partner enjoy spending time playing with the Australian Shepard dog they adopted from a rescue agency a few months ago. They also like to camp together at the Oregon coast, or anyplace else near the water. Jacka enjoys playing racquetball and golf. She and her co-workers took golf lessons at the University of Washington range, and now golf together after work. Jacka states "It's nice to be able to work with a group of people that you enjoy spending time with, both in and outside of the office."