Joining Advanced Research Computing

Published: Posted on

On behalf of Dr Ryan Pepper

Since March, I’ve been working in the BEAR team as a Research Software Engineer (RSE). For those who are not familiar with the term, RSEs are effectively software engineers with either a background or interest in working on problems in academic research, who work with researchers to write code or support them in doing so. Prior to joining the team here in Birmingham, I studied for a PhD in which I researched magnetic materials with finite difference and finite element simulations, and as a C++ software developer for finite volume CFD software in the Engineering industry, which meant I had a fairly diverse set of programming experience and numerical methods

Since joining the team here though, I’ve had to pick up a whole new range of programming skills and languages – the role is very much determined by the teams with which we work with and the projects that come up, which is sometimes challenging but also very rewarding. I am currently spending a lot of my time working on supporting academics and students in the Centre for Computational Biology, who fund part of my role, alongside my colleague Simon Hartley. This work is very varied – I’ve thus far written code in R, Python and JavaScript, had to deal with the installation of a variety of bioinformatics tools from the simple to the extremely complicated, and even helped set up tools for automated marking of students work. I’ve previously done a bit of web development but have also had to expand my skills in this sphere, picking up Django experience.

I’ve also had the chance to try out some very exciting new hardware. The EPSRC-funded Baskerville Tier 2 machine has recently launched, and is hosted by the University of Birmingham. It’s 46 compute nodes each have four NVidia A100 GPUs, which are the current top of the line server GPUs available. It’s the kind of resource that the University community is very lucky to have access to, and seeing it get set up and testing it out in pilot phase getting set up was a great experience – it really has the potential to help Birmingham academics do research that just wouldn’t have been possible a couple of years ago without resorting to grant applications on competitive nationally run systems. All in all, it’s been a great experience joining the team here in Birmingham. I’d really recommend that anyone looking for a transition out of pure research roles because of a passion for software development consider looking at Research Software Engineer posts around the UK.

Ryan Pepper

Note from Editor:

Advanced Research Computing are currently recruiting for 1 (possibly 2) permanent Senior Research Software Engineer(s) – closing date is 21st November, 2021:

Exciting job opportunity in Birmingham for a permanent Senior Research Software Engineer. Varied and challenging work in a supportive, helpful and collaborative environment with regular training and mentoring.