Imperial College Research Software Community Newsletter - November 2022

December is almost here, but I admit that I’m not feeling the festive mood yet. Maybe it is because of the football World Cup, that I have always connected to summertime (good luck to all and may the best team win!), or because there is no ice rink in Exhibition Road (but The Urban Nature Project is amazing, so no regrets!). Maybe I just need to drink a hot beverage and have a look at this year’s Advent of Code, and everything will be back to normality. And you can find the link about the Advent of Code (and possible use of AI to predict football outcomes) in this month’s newsletter together with many more news, tools and software-related events. Enjoy!

Dates for your diary

Research Computing at Imperial

This month, in our series highlighting key members of the College community helping to provide, manage and support research computing and research software services, we hear from Thibault Lestang, Senior Research Software Engineer in the Aeronautics department:

I joined the Department of Aeronautics about 10 months ago (February 2022) as a Senior Research Software Engineer. Before that I was a RSE in the Oxford Research Software Engineering group for about three years, where I worked on a variety of software projects across Oxford.

I hold a PhD in Physics from École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France. Although my trajectory into Research Software Engineering wasn’t clear from the beginning, it is not surprising in hindsight. After playing with programming as a teenager, I rediscovered computing as a physics undergraduate, and realised that programming could be a very important component of working as a researcher. I believed, for a time, that Computational Physics would be my calling, only to realise throughout my PhD that I was in fact thinking about something different called “Research Software Engineering”. Coming across the UK RSE association (nowadays SocRSE), I decided to build experience as an RSE straight away instead of pursuing a conventional academic path. It was no easy feat in France at the time, and I made the choice to move to the UK – in the midst of Brexit – to become a part of the Research Software Engineering community there.

I’m actually the first “official” RSE in Aeronautics, initially hired to focus on free/libre Computational Fluid Dynamics software such as Xcompact3D, Nektar++ and PyFR. Being the only RSE in the department is often challenging: there is a lot of ground to cover and deciding what to focus on is rarely straightforward. I found that I’m able to impact more than one project at once by providing guidance at an organisational level, rather than going straight down to technical aspects. Because software projects in the department grew organically from specific and different research needs, they often do not (yet) take advantage of infrastructure and processes such as development workflows, automated testing, packaging or code reviews. There are many RSE-months to be spent there. At the departmental level, part of my role is to contribute to a Research Software Engineering strategy for Aeronautics, which will hopefully result in increased RSE capacity over the years to come. I am always on the lookout for advice and discussions from/with fellow RSEs. Feel free to get in touch at I’ll be happy to chat over coffee!

Research Software of the Month

This month’s software is not software as you might expect - it is a learning resource. The ReCoDE pilot (Research Computing and Data Science Exemplars) contains exemplars of complete (and digestible) software projects accompanied by plentiful annotation to facilitate learning. Studying the code, the rationale behind design decisions, and the use of good practice throughout aids the transition between classroom learning and hands-on work on research projects - a situation that many doctoral students face at the start of their degree. Apart from doctoral students, anyone who is switching to a new field or learning a new tool may benefit.

ReCoDE was funded by Imperial’s Learning and Teaching Innovation Fund and is a collaboration between doctoral students, StudentShapers, Research Computing and Data Science team (RCDS) at the Graduate School, and Research Software Engineers from the Research Computing Service and Department of Computing. Further funding permitting, the coordinators are looking to add to the list of existing ReCoDE exemplars to represent a wider range of domains and ensure there is a project relevant to most scientific fields. That said, exemplars are designed so that you should be able to study any exemplar regardless of your primary field of expertise: the main emphasis is on the computing aspects.

For now, feel free to learn about:

RSE Bytes


Blog posts, tools & more

Some reminders…

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 AI/ML-related questions and discussion. 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 Research Software Community Mailing List.

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