Business Applications
16 Mar 2011



To collect and make available in useful ways the information our staff and users need to deliver excellent science safely.


Are you a graduate or student Java or C# Software Engineer? Are you an experienced software engineer? Do you want a job developing software in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside​? 

Who we​​​ are

We are a growing team that develops software solutions for colleagues across the RAL site. This software is then used by thousands of scientists around the world. Our primary responsibilities are for the development and maintenance of software to facilitate the user programme processes.

We are trained professional software engineers involved in all stages of each project we undertake, from requirements capture through to deployment and maintenance. We also hire great sandwich students who are passionate and motivated. Our students work on real software from the start and quickly become a valued member of the team.

What​​ we do

The software we have developed (and continue to maintain to make it even better!) includes:

For each experiment, a beam time proposal outlining the scientific case must be submitted. Scientists use our online proposal system to do this.

When a proposal is accepted the team of scientists start to plan their visit to RAL to carry out their experiment. They request accommodation and travel using our website. We have recently released a new version of this. Some of the new features include:

  • Diary view so they can see who on their team is coming and when.
  • See when aspects of their visit e.g. taxi requests have started to be processed etc.
  • Get maps to their accommodation
  • Get live updates on their flights (e.g. delays)

As part of the release of the improved Visits system we also released a new version of our Mobile site.

Once an experiment is scheduled the process for assessing experiment and sample safety at ISIS begins. Principal Investigators use our online system to tell us what they intend to do and the hazards involved so we can prepare appropriately.

It is important all users of the facilities are aware of the various safety issues of working at RAL. We check they have understood the safety information provided by asking them to take (and pass) an online test.

In addition to the test we have a lightweight online system that we ask all users to go to in order to confirm they have read other pertinent information.

ISIS User Check system

This system is used by our staff to check if a user has passed the safety test and read the awareness information before allowing entry to the experimental halls.

We also are responsible for the continuing development of our Facilities SharePoint system. We use our software engineering expertise to help facility staff make the most of our SharePoint investment. In addition to document storage, we have developed several custom solutions including a site for managing all ISIS projects from the small to the large, a taxi bookings management tool, fault reporting and a quality management system for CLF.

What we a​​​re working on right now

We are currently developing a brand new online scheduling system for our staff to use to schedule experiments and the associated sample environment. This is very exciting and will be used by a huge array of users from scientists, technicians, administrators, managers and engineers from both the ISIS facility and Central Laser Facility (also based at RAL). We are building a Java back end using EJB, JPA and exposing SOAP web services that will then be consumed by our ASP.NET front end alongside HTML5, CSS3 and Telerik control libraries to get the rich and extremely interactive features we need.

In collaboration with a previous sandwich student we are exploring the opportunities for exploiting how we could use tablets to significantly improve the efficiency of our review process.

We have a long list of brand new projects we hope to start soon from online interactive reporting tools to a beam reliability expert system.

How ​​​we do it

We use various agile techniques and work in a range of technologies depending on the requirements - we choose the best tool for the job.

We design object oriented software using UML and make extensive use of mock up software to communicate with our customers and develop prototypes.

We program in Java and C# and use various persistence frameworks including .NET Entity Framework and EJB and JPA. We regularly refactor and, as appropriate, port code to the latest version.

The interfaces between our software systems use technologies such as SOAP and RESTful web services, and XML.

User interaction is important to us and we develop GUIs (mainly web-based) for various audiences using ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, and use third-party libraries such as Telerik as appropriate. HTML5, CSS3, and frameworks like Bootstrap and AngularJS are really important to us. Our customers are very engaged and provide great ideas for making our interfaces make their lives easier so they can focus on world-class science.

We develop and support SharePoint for use by internal staff and external collaborators. We use our software engineering skills to deliver great scalable out-of-the-box solutions and support them from the customer's ​initial concept through to ongoing support.

We maintain and develop relational databases using Oracle and SQL Server DBMSs.

We maintain a few legacy systems in Struts 1, a couple of Windows Forms tools, and a decreasing number of user office tools that use Microsoft Access, Microsoft Project and VBA.

We also provide technical support for the Percussion content management system used by ISIS and e-Science for their external websites.

Other things we use:

Microsoft IIS, GlassFish, Apache Tomcat and JBoss Application Server

Various IDEs including Visual Studio aknd NetBeans. We also love Balsamiq for mock ups.

SVN and Trac to manage our codebase and Jenkins to help keep us delivering quality code. We use a variety of testing frameworks and tools to automate testing of both our back-end and front-end code.

There are various learning and development opportunities available and we are always trying out new technologies to see if they could benefit our colleagues and our users. Ask us about Try It Out days and the conferences we attend.

Want to​ join us?

If you're interested in a career or work experience with us we'd love to hear from you. Please see: