Abstract Background With the advent of high throughput genomics and high-resolution imaging techniques, there is a growing necessity in biology and medicine for parallel computing, and with the low cost of computing, it is now cost-effective for even small labs or individuals to build their own personal computation cluster. Methods Here we briefly describe how to use commodity hardware to build a low-cost, high-performance compute cluster, and provide an in-depth example and sample code for parallel execution of R jobs using MOSIX, a mature extension of the Linux kernel for parallel computing. A similar process can be used with other cluster platform software. Results As a statistical genetics example, we use our cluster to run a simulated eQTL experiment. Because eQTL is computationally intensive, and is conceptually easy to parallelize, like many statistics/genetics applications, parallel execution with MOSIX gives a linear speedup in analysis time with little additional effort. Conclusions We have used MOSIX to run a wide variety of software programs in parallel with good results. The limitations and benefits of using MOSIX are discussed and compared to other platforms.