Geochronology Centre (LGC)
at University College London
(UCL) is recruiting a Research Software Engineer (RSE)
to develop software that will enable geologists to better
date the Solar System, the extinction of the dinosaurs, and
early human evolution. The project will be funded for a
period of three years (April 2020 - March 2023) at the first
instance (grade 8, starting salary: £44,674 - 52,701).
No prior knowledge of geology or geochronology is
required, provided that the applicant is willing to learn on
the job. Apply here
or contact p.vermeesch[at]ucl.ac.uk for further information.
A brief summary of the project
The development of radiometric geochronology is one of the
greatest triumphs of 20th century
geoscience. Geochronology underpins the study of Earth
history and puts fundamental constraints on the rate of
biological evolution. Tremendous resources are invested in
the development of sophisticated mass spectrometers capable
of measuring isotopic ratios with ever increasing resolution
and sensitivity. Unfortunately, the statistical treatment of
mass spectrometer data has not kept up with these hardware
developments and this undermines the reliability of
A new research project funded by the Natural Environment
Research Council (NERC, Standard
Grant #NE/T001518/1 "Beyond
Isoplot: new software for better geochronology.") aims to
change this situation by creating a 'software revolution' in
geochronology. The project will build an internally
consistent ecosystem of computer programs to account for
inter-sample error correlations. These correlations have a
first order effect on the precision and accuracy of
geochronology but are largely ignored by current
geochronological data processing protocols. The proposed
software will modify existing data reduction platforms and
create entirely new ones. It will implement a data exchange
format to combine datasets from multiple chronometers
together whilst keeping track of the correlated
uncertainties between them,
code as the 'glue' between the components.
The new algorithms will be applied to five important
geological problems, including (1) the age of the Solar
System; (2) the timing of the Cretaceous-Palaeogene mass
extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs; (3) the age
of the famous Taung Child hominin fossil; (4) the formation
and cooling history of the Earth's crust; and (5) noble gas
diffusion in silicate minerals and rocks. These applications
demonstrate the far-reaching implications of the proposed
software revolution, which may open up entirely new
geochronological applications as well.
Specific tasks will include:
Adding user-friendly GUIs to existing command line code.
Translating proof-of-concept code written in R to other
languages such as Python and Java.
code to increase algorithmic robustness.
Removing dependencies of existing software on libraries
such as jQuery.
All the software developed under the project will be free and open
using GPL and MIT licenses.
The successful applicant will hold an Associate Researcher
Software Development (RSD) team, which is a group
software engineers who work on a wide range of research
software projects across the entire university. Following
completion of the project, the successful candidate will be
considered for further employment opportunities with the RSD
The RSE will have the opportunity (but will not be obliged)
to take part in the scientific applications of the project,
attend international conferences, participate in workshops,
Email p.vermeesch[at]ucl.ac.uk for further information.