Research IT Services


James Hetherington

James Hetherington - Head of Research Software Development


I am a research software developer, combining the skills and experience of a computational scientist with those of a professional software engineer. I work with researchers to produce maintainable, usable, well-tested research software.

Dr James Hetherington

Dr James Hetherington




  • Head of Research Software Development
    RITS Software Development
    ISD Research IT Services
  • Honorary Lecturer
    Dept of Computer Science
    Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL


Research Themes

A growing proportion of researchers carry out their research through the medium of computer code, whether in traditional programming languages, or in domain specific languages used by modelling platforms. Such research often suffers through the lack of software development best practice within research teams. While postdocs and PhD students often do not have the time, and are not incentivised, to produce high-quality software usable by other researchers and sustainable beyond the lifetime of a project, generic contract software developers are not equipped to understand the academic context of the research.

In order to address this problem, UCL has established a Research Software Development Group, which I lead, staffed by experts combining software development expertise with experience as academic researchers. The team works with research groups across college to further UCL's efforts in computationally-based research. We form long-term in-depth collaborations with research groups in all departments to produce and maintain sustainable research software.

Based on the work of the Research Software Development Group, I research the best ways to create and maintain scientific software. I create libraries and tools to enhance computational research. Well written, readable software, written for humans to read as well as computers to execute, forms an important part of research communications and can deliver significant research impact.

Interests include: Scientific software development. Software as scientific communication. Computable publication. Test driven design. Correctness and quality in scientific computing. Reproducibility, provenance and audit for research software. Domain specific languages. Programmability. Supercomputing. Refactoring. Science as a service. Deployment, stability and systems programming. Configuration management. Continuous integration. Multiscale modelling. Code sharing and reuse.

Award year Qualification Institution
2002 PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
Theoretical Physics
University of Cambridge
2000 MSci
Master of Natural Science
University of Cambridge
1998 BA
Bachelor of Arts
University of Cambridge
I am a research software engineer, combining the skills and experience of a computational scientist with those of a professional software engineer. As head of UCL’s Research Software Development Group, I work with researchers to produce maintainable, usable, well-tested scientific software that will have a lasting impact.

As a scientific software developer at UCL’s Centre for Computational Science, I worked to bring software engineering best practice into biomedical computational research projects, focusing on high-performance interactive, steerable models and simulations with clinical relevance.

As senior scientific innovator at AMEE UK Limited, I developedsystems to make it easier for organisations to understand their environmental impacts, producing web-based models of carbon footprinting. I conceived, prototyped, and led development and release of AMEE Explorer, winner of a Best of What’s New award in Popular Science Magazine in 2010.

As a senior developer in the Model Management group at the MathWorks I worked on model metadata, on searching for, linking and combining models, on managing the differences between similar models and on workflows for modelling in industrial organisations.

At the DTI Beacon project at the UCL Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology (CoMPLEX) I helped to develop a framework for combining models using different biological assumptions, mathematical formalisms, and computational platforms. We used this to build a multi-scale model of glucose homeostasis.

My doctoral work at Cambridge involved the construction of models of the Large Hadron Collider, determining for various proposed fundamental theories whether they can be tested experimentally. I developed a computational platform automating the solution of a broad class of such problems.