Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Computer Science

Durham, United Kingdom
£34,304 - £40,927 per annum
26 Jan 2022
End of advertisement period
02 Feb 2022
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Computer Science

Grade 7: - £34,304 - £40,927 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 12 Months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 15-Feb-2022, 7:59:00 AM

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Task-based SPH Formalisms and the Performance Prediction of Task Codes


Department: Computer Science and Physics (joint appointment)
Grade: Grade  7
Term: 12 months with the potential to extend by a further 2x12 months
Salary Range: £34,304 - £40,927
Working Arrangements: This role is full time but we will consider requests for flexible working arrangements including potential job shares.

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

The Department of Computer Science is rapidly expanding – it tripled in size over the last 4 years and now has around 50 academic faculty. A new building, joint with Mathematical Sciences, to house the expanded Department has recently been inaugurated, and it hosts all our academics, our students, and experimental kit. The current Department has research strengths in algorithms and complexity, in artificial intelligence and human systems, networks, scientific computing, and computer vision, visualisation, and imaging. The Department of Physics is the home department of the Institute of Computational Cosmology which is one of the international flagship research places for computational astrophysics and plays a pivotal role to obtain new scientific insight through (super-)computing. Hosted in an award-winning building, its researchers have access to the Tier-2 supercomputer COSMA as well as multiple experimental hardware cluster.

Collaborative consortia between colleagues from Physics and Computer Science have managed to secure multiple grants under the ExCALIBUR programme. ExCALIBUR is the UK’s exascale framework. It puts heavy emphasis on the establishment of an exascale-ready software ecosystem. The unique property of the Durham collaborations is that they combine cutting-edge research in Physics with the latest insights, research questions and challenges around algorithms, new hardware architectures and software development methodologies. Two flagship projects that recently have kicked off are the ExCALIBUR Task-based Parallelism project and the PAX-SPH project.

In the spirit of these two projects, we are searching for a candidate who can research into task-based formalisms, their assessment and their improvement with a special emphasis on astro-physical challenges. The latter materialise first-of all in SPH codes. The successful candidate will ideally be in post by 1 March 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter.

For more information, please visit our Department pages at https://www.icc.dur.ac.uk/ and  https://www.dur.ac.uk/computer.science/

The Role

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Task-based SPH Formalisms and the Performance Prediction of Task Codes. The successful candidate is expected to make contributions to the two ExCALIBUR projects Task-based Parallelism and PAX-SPH led by Profs Tobias Weinzierl and Richard Bower.

The successful applicant will be expected to extract task execution codes from running supercomputing applications without a major performance penalty, and to investigate into algorithms and heuristics how these task graphs can be scheduled optimally. The candidate should study to which degree such a posteriori knowledge about optimal scheduling can be fed into state-of-the-art or upcoming runtimes (schedulers) and which heuristics are particularly releveant to the domain of SPH and/or particular application areas and benchmarks. The work has to built upon and feed back into existing supercomputing codes such as Otter (task tracing), SWIFT (SPH) and ExaHyPE (Eulerian simulation). In the ideal case, the candidates help both SWIFT and ExaHyPE to migrate their runtime to the latest OpenMP standard, while they also assess to which degree all concepts can be transferred into the SYCL/oneAPI paradigm.

  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through presentations and discussions that leads to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors (such as EPSRC or the Met Office), academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holders.
  • To conduct individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate. Particular emphasis should be put on the interaction and upskilling of Research Software Engineers (RSEs).
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the Research Software Engineering (RSE) teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.

This post is fixed term for 12 months due to funding restrictions.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1st of March 2022.

The Requirements



A good first degree in Computational Physics or Computer Science.
A PhD (or be close to submission) in Computational Phsyics or Computer Science or a related subject.


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at interntational conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experience in C/C++ programming and basic knowledge in OpenMP, other shared-memory programming and/or state-of-the-art graph scheduling algorithms.


  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Experience of overseeing students with respect to the development of their practical/research skills e.g. acting as a demonstrator; supervising student projects/practicals.
  • Experience in performance assessment and modelling.
  • Experience with SPH simulations.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Prof Tobias Weinzierl (tobias.weinzierl@durham.ac.uk) Ccing Prof Richard Bower (r.g.bower@durham.ac.uk). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the university. We particularly encourage colleagues with care responsibilities or colleagues who want/need to work part-time to apply.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  1. A CV;
  2. A covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above; Please highlight contributions to scientific open source code if appropriate;
  3. Up to three scientific papers;

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include the reading of all submitted material and an analysis of any software referenced. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment late February 2022.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.

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