Imperial College Research Software Community Newsletter - September 2021

Hello everyone and welcome to September’s newsletter. This month we are looking forward to Hacktoberfest and we continue our “Research Computing at Imperial” series with a personal introduction from Chris Cave-Ayland of Imperial’s excellent Research Software Engineering Team within the Research Computing Service.

Dates for your diary


Research Computing at Imperial

We continue our series of introductions from key members of the College community helping to run, manage and support research computing and research software services. This month we have an introduction from Chris Cave-Ayland, a Senior Research Software Engineer with the Research Computing Service:

I came to RSE through a fairly classic path. I was a PhD/post-doc who spent too much time writing code and not enough writing papers. I realised the activities in research that I enjoyed were not those that an academic career led to. I’d been aware of the RSE movement for some time and increasingly thought it looked like a place I could thrive. Eventually I made the jump to HPC administration for a year and then to the Imperial RSE team two and half years ago. I’ve yet to look back.

Whilst my own background is in computational chemistry, what I enjoy most about my role is the variety of different projects we get to work with. Since starting in the team I’ve worked on webservers for Astrophysicists, genetic analysis pipelines and a big HPC project with the Met Office to name but a few. I still find it fun to be the person who swings into a research project with solutions and to be able to drive real tangible improvements.

It’s an interesting time for the RSE team as we have a lot of leverage to drive our future direction. I’m keen to see us engage with new parts of the College, keep up-to-date with ongoing technological developments and lean in to my experience with HPC for future collaborations.

Blogs, tools, articles, resources

Research Software of the Month

This month’s pick is Solidity, a general purpose, two and three dimension finite–discrete element method (FDEM) solid mechanics code developed in the Applied Modelling and Computation Group at Imperial College. Solidity solves highly non-linear problems for continuum and discontinuous domains. Features include fracture and fragmentation without the need to seed, a range of finite strain large deformation constitutive models including elasto-plasticity and thermal fields. It is primarily a C/C++ code and supports multithreaded execution.

The general purpose nature of Solidity is one of its biggest strengths, making it useful in a very broad range of application like modelling face mask mechanics and Covid-19 transmission, describing the behaviour of artery wall under blood flow, modelling rock avalanching into a lake or mechanical performance of catalyst pellets.

Solidity is still a close source tool but its open sourcing is planned for the upcoming months. Please contact Solidity’s principal investigator Dr John-Paul Latham or lead developer Dr Jiansheng Xiang if you are interested in using the software before that happy time arrives.

Some reminders…

RS Community coffee…

…continues weekly via Teams - normally on Friday afternoons at 3pm but check our Slack workspace for exact times and connection details.

RS Community Slack

The Imperial Research Software Community Slack workspace is a place for general community discussion as well as featuring channels for individuals interested in particular tools or topics. If you’re an OpenFOAM user, why not join the #OpenFOAM channel where regular code review sessions are announced (amongst other CFD-related discussions…). Users of the Nextflow workflow tool can find other Imperial Nextflow users in #nextflow. You can find other R developers in #r-users and there is the #DeepLearners channel for our new AI/ML group. Take a look at the other available channels by clicking the “+” next to “Channels” in the Slack app and selecting “Browse channels”. If you want to start your own group around a tool, programming language or topic not currently represented, feel free to create a new channel and advertise it in #general.

Research Computing Tips

See the Research Computing Service’s Research Computing Tips series for a variety of helpful tips for using RCS resources and related tools and services.

Research Software Directory

Imperial’s Research Software Directory provides details of a range of research software and tools developed by groups and individuals at the College. If you’d like to see your software included in the directory, you can open a pull request in the GitHub Repository or get in touch with the Research Software Community Committee.

Get in Touch, Get Involved!

Drop us a line with anything you’d like included in the newsletter, ideas about how it could be improved… or even offer to guest-edit a future edition!

If you’re reading this on the web and would like to receive the next newsletter directly to your inbox then please subscribe to our RSE Community Mailing List here.

This issue of the Research Software Community Newsletter was edited by Jazz Mack Smith. All previous newsletters are available in our online archive.