One of the Research Computing Service's earliest RSE projects was a proof-of-concept built for the Metal Forming Technologies (MFT) group in Mechanical Engineering. The RSE team worked with Omer El-Fakir and Dr Li-Liang Wang to develop a bespoke software platform demonstrating broad applicability, teaching utility and the potential for long-term commercialisation. This resulting solution was not only of immediate use in postgraduate tuition but also enabled the submission of ambitious follow-up funding proposals. 

Omer has a strong track record in technology and innovation (including as founder of BLOCKS) and contacted the RCS after seeing the initial announcement of the RSE service. He proposed a system enabling postgraduate students to collaborate on the development of mathematical models relevant research carried out by Dr Wang's group. The deadline (determined to the MSc teaching schedule) was ambitious but the work suited the RSE team's specialist expertise in software engineering and High-Performance Computing, and their interest in developing tools to support both research as well as teaching and learning. 

Our contribution  

In order to fulfil the MFT group's requirements alongside initial demand for the RSE service, the team worked in collaboration with a postgraduate student in Engineering. His coding knowledge and desire to take on practical projects as preparation for a career in software engineering was combined with our experience in transferring knowledge and efficiently developing solutions alongside researchers. The result was a reliable and intuitive system that was well-integrated with the College's existing infrastructure and that made high-performance computing readily accessible: enabling the upload, sharing and remote execution of MATLAB models. This enabled the relevant students to efficiently run their code whilst focusing on tuning the models, and our mentorship provided the contributing student valuable practical experience in a supervised environment. 


The RCS ultimately delivered the MFT group a fully functional proof-of-concept to enable further funding applications and raise awareness of their work. The RSE team worked very closely with Omer and Dr Wang, iterating rapidly to design, develop and deploy a bespoke solution while allowing them to retain ownership of the project and the outputs. This provided early evidence of how investment from the College and ICT in building a Research Software Engineering team within the RCS offered material benefits to research leaders and students by providing specialist software engineering expertise.