Jobwatch: Computing powers up

October 24, 2003

Computing-related research staff are in the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology's sights as it joins Queen Mary in a bid to boost teams and pull in research council cash. Pat Leon reports

North and South are battling to capture experts in computing-related research. Queen Mary University of London and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology are seeking staff to join strong research teams that can attract project cash from industry and research councils.

Umist is emphasising its merger with Manchester University next year to attract applicants for lectureships in information systems, data and decision engineering and interactive system design.

But its other big lure is a team of three 6* research professors poached this summer from Salford University's Information Systems Institute. Trevor Wood-Harper, one of the three, says: "We were trying to get a Umist professor to join us. We took him to lunch, and he made a counteroffer. The idea of a new university is very attractive."

Merger means Umist's department of computation will mutate into a school of informatics, which will gain a new emphasis on the "soft", more social side of computing without neglecting traditional strengths in the "hard" side.

Wood-Harper says: "The three of us are action researchers - we try ideas in real-life situations. So we complement professors here who take a 'harder'

view of computing. There are also superb contacts with pharmaceutical and other industries, and with national and local government."

The department wants to build the group's reputation. "Applicants can be hard or soft - it depends on their calibre," Wood-Harper says.

The Queen Mary computer science department, meanwhile, is advertising four research assistantships and three studentships to support three professors working on projects funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It is offering a five-year lectureship contract to cover for Peter O'Hearn while he investigates the fundamental code of computing systems using mathematical logic that eliminates or reduces the number of bugs in software.

Appointees will join a "loose community of researchers called the London Separation Logic Community", O'Hearn says.

The department at Queen Mary is "young, bright, buzzy and energetic", says Ursula Martin, who joined from St Andrews University six months ago.

Many academics have their own companies. Martin spends about half her time on projects at the Intel laboratory in Cambridge and also works with Nasa in the US. "Appointees will be hooked into an industry and research laboratory network," she says.

Money had nothing to do with her move to London, Martin says. "Academics don't do it for the money but rather out of passion for their discipline and a work environment where they can make a difference. The way you attract people is through having good people and an energetic atmosphere.

Queen Mary is a lively place to be."

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