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NIH Record

Whiz Kid Crewdson Leaves DCRT

By Joan Chamberlain

He looks and walks like a teenager, likes rap music, watches Beavis and Butthead on MTV, and drinks gallons of Diet Coke a day. Yet the words DCRT staff use to describe the 18-year-old computer whiz -- "mature, independent, persistent, accomplished, professional" -- evoke the image of someone far older. In many ways, Andy Crewdson defies easy categories.

First as a Walt Whitman High School stay-in-school student and recently as a contractor, Crewdson won the respect and admiration of coworkers, who have been as impressed by his demeanor as by his technical skills. In a year and a half, he's done it all: writing, Web page design, systems administration, and serious programming.

Andy Crewdson

He helped DCRT's online magazine LiveWire get off the ground. He played a key role in designing the DCRT intranet. He researched and solved computing problems that stumped other computer specialists. In short, "he's a professional," says Dr. Robert Pearlstein, head of the Center for Molecular Modeling and one beneficiary of Crewdson's expertise. "Andy helped us implement a lot of new technologies needed to support molecular modeling. He takes on the difficult problems, researches them, and comes up with answers. He doesn't give up."

"He was doing stuff at 12 that most people have to be 20 to understand," says Dan Zoll, creator of LiveWire. "He did almost all the programming on LiveWire and kept the technology cutting edge yet compatible. He did everything I asked and more."

The DCRT intranet owes a lot to Crewdson's talents. "Andy helped make it dynamic rather than static," says Charles Mokotoff, who oversees the intranet. "He's a tremendous resource. He grabs onto something and sees it through to the end. I consider him a peer in every way."

Crewdson became interested in computers in middle school and learned much of what he knows by listening, experimenting and reading. If it has to do with computing, he reads it: manuals, books and trade publications.

As he leaves NIH to begin the life of a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, Crewdson is not sure what he wants to study. Computer science? Too narrow. Maybe information management systems.

"I'm interested in a wide range of things, not just programming," he says, adding that he enjoys the design aspects of Web site development. "In some ways, design is harder." In his short career, he's taken on some major design challenges including Walt Whitman's newspaper, Black and White, which he singlehandedly "webified" last year, earning the paper nationwide recognition in a journal for high school newspaper advisors.

As the time for goodbyes draws near, rumor has it that Andy's 10-year-old brother, Ollie, is into computer games. "We're looking at him as a possible replacement," muses Zoll.

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