Who we are
We are a growing group 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 have also recently set up a new SharePoint team to support our whole directorate (not just ISIS).
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 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 suite of 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. Visitors may also find our Mobile site useful.
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.
ISIS and CLF Scheduling system
A lot of logistics goes into getting the right people here at the right time with the right kit. Our online scheduling system is used by staff to schedule experiments and the associated sample environment.
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.
As well as various other systems we maintain, we have several brand new projects in the pipeline including helping to gather information on the impact of the science experiments done here.
We also are responsible for the continuing development of our SharePoint system that hosts internal systems and external science interation sites. 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.
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 have daily standups, weekly code reviews and have recently introduced weekly design reviews. We love Slack, Waffle, Trello, and GitHub.
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. 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.
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 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 and VBA.
Other things we use:
Microsoft IIS, Payara, Apache Tomcat and JBoss Application Server
Various IDEs including Visual Studio, IntelliJ and NetBeans. We also love Balsamiq for mock ups.
Git 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?
Fancy working with us developing software in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside?
If you're interested in a career or work experience with us we'd love to hear from you. Please see: