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Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician in the 19th Century. Her extensive work with Charles Babbage on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a machine that could perform calculus and manipulate numbers, made her one of the first computer programmers.
Two hundred years later, programming and the development of new data analysis software is a core tenet in science at large facilities. At Diamond, the Scientific Software, Controls and Computation group works on new software interfaces to control the experiments, capture and analyse data resulting from the experimental work at the facility. Part of Diamond’s commitment to scientific computing and development is through the Ada Lovelace Centre (ALC). Alongside the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), ISIS Neutron and Muon Facility, the Central Laser Facility (CLF) and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), Diamond is an active participant in The ALC, which is an integrated, cross-disciplinary data-intensive science centre. The Centre is dedicated to helping Diamond’s user community, and the UK research community more broadly, to better exploit their research carried out at our national facilities.
The ALC will help our users to design, analyse and interpret experiments. Indeed, with the development of new techniques at the synchrotron, the quantity of data and complexity of experiments require both advanced computational modelling and data science expertise. The ALC is a new approach that concentrates scientific computing expertise and skills alongside the Harwell-based research facilities and beyond and aims to develop an integrated approach linking data, computing, maths, machine learning and research software engineering to deliver science. This has the potential to generate a step change in productivity, accelerating the translation of experimental data into research outputs. The ALC will provide computational modelling and data science alongside the UK national research facilities at Harwell.
The SSCC group is filled with many talents. Sky French is the head of Integrated Software Programme. She has an impressive résumé, as she worked on the ATLAS collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider (CERN) during her PhD, and also at the Williams Formula One Team. Her work will be crucial for the development of Diamond-II, as she is in charge of leading the design, development and implementation of the integrated Diamond-II software programme, a critical effort needed to enable everyone to exploit the science opportunities afforded by the Diamond-II machine. Data Analysis Scientist Jessica works closely with our experimental users and beamline scientists to support and improve the user experience during tomography experiments. Tomography is an imaging technique used to analyse samples in three dimensions. This technique produces a large amount of data and need extensive data computing resources to reconstruct the 3D image of a sample. Jessica’s role is to help users with software tools to reconstruct their images, choosing the best algorithms to use to deliver the best image quality. Considering the vast diversity of samples studied at Diamond in both life and physical science, her task is not easy!
Diamond and the Ada Lovelace Centre will continue to collaborate closely in our scientific research aims moving forward. Paul Quinn, Diamond’s Deputy Head of Physical Sciences, will be joining the Ada Lovelace Centre as Director at the end of the year. This appointment will see facility science and scientific computing developed and driven forward hand-in-hand for the betterment of the user community as a whole.
With Paul at the helm, the Ada Lovelace Centre will not only serve as a transformative resource for current researchers, but also engage with the next generation of computing talent, too. Through ALC funding, Diamond has several PhD Studentships working to develop new approaches and develop new tools across areas such as the machine optimisation, theoretical simulations related to materials, and computational imaging experiments.
Paul Quinn concludes:
The PhD students are generating real impact and are driving exciting developments at the facilities thanks to the investment made in the Ada Lovelace Centre and the truly integrated collaborative computing path, linking important facility problems to a wide range of computing expertise. It is encouraging to see great diversity in the student pool too, showing that our future science professionals can bring unique perspectives from every background – which is something that I think Ada Lovelace herself would be proud of.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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