Research IT

Got a Short-term Project? We Can Help!

Did you know that our pool of Research Software Engineers are not just available for long-term, big money projects? Even if you have very little funding or a very small amount of work for us to do, come and speak to us!

Whether you are preparing a grant proposal with a relatively small budget or have a bit of spare cash and potentially a couple of days work for a Research Software Engineer (RSE), don’t worry! The Research Software Engineering department continues to grow and will soon hit 40 engineers in size making it the second largest RSE group in the country. This means that there is quite a bit of scope for smaller short-term projects in amongst the longer term projects.

We currently have around 100 projects on the books (either funded or awaiting a funding outcome). Scheduling all this work to ensure our RSEs are continuously well-utilised is a game we call “research project Tetris” and we need a good degree of “project diversity” to make this work. Short-term projects help to fill in the gaps between projects or to ensure that our RSEs are fully utilised.

We are proud of the diversity of skills, experience and backgroundsin our RSE department and it is ultimately a characteristic that makes us so effective at servicing projects across all faculties and domains within our University. However, we also need a similar level of diversity in our project portfolio and that includes the length of the projects themselves. We can’t have every RSE engaged on long-term projects that “locks-out” their skills for prolonged periods. Ideally, we would look to have an RSE on one long-term project and one short-term project so each RSE can be used to service as many projects as possible. If you are hesitant about approaching us for short term engagements, then don’t be – your project is just as valuable to us as long-term ones.

We've highlighted below some of our short projects which start from as little as 5 days of engagements at a cost of just £1,500.

Developing and Disseminating Student Projects with Lay Audiences

This project, led by Dr Sarah MacQuarrie (Manchester Institute of Education), aims to introduce a means for higher education institutions to interact and engage with communities through sharing student research projects as well embed dissemination and openness principles within projects completed by students during their education studies. The bespoke website streamlines the time required to upload and manage the summaries of student research project outcome, offering a simple and workable plan for staff to share student work. It also makes it easy for programmes to join the project and embed dissemination expectations within the research project completed for their award. The site allows for experienced and emerging researchers to engage with material as well as provide a resource for wider non-academic communities. You can read more about this project in our recent blog post.

Nursing and Digital Technologies

We developed a web application for a project led by Prof. Dawn Dowding (School of Health Sciences) who, along with Dr Sarah Skyrme, have been collecting information from nurses through surveys and interviews to find out how technologies have been used within nursing during the Covid pandemic. The website is for disseminating the results from the research, which can be used as a public database for nursing clinicians to discover the effectiveness of different technological solutions. The website launched in December 2022:

Carbon Saving Tool

This is a web application featuring an online calculator built by our Web Application Development Service. Led by Dr Jonathan Huck (School of Environment, Education and Development), the app:

  1. demonstrates the carbon footprint of taking a given journey by a range of transport modes,
  2. demonstrates the possible carbon savings from switching to a different mode of travel, and
  3. illustrates the difference in journey length for different travel choices on a map.

Recovery, Renewal, Resilient

A project led by Prof. Duncan Shaw (AMBS), involving staff across the University. They work with organisations in the UK as well as globally and aim to develop successful plans for ensuring recovery from Covid-19. The project runs a 2-weekly briefing (Manchester Briefing) and has built up a collection of long and short lessons learnt and examples of successful practice and initiatives. The web app produced for this project provides a searchable tool to present these lessons, and for research team to put more lessons on.

PRoMs - The Production and Reading of Music Sources

This project was led by Prof. Thomas Schmidt (School of Arts Languages and Cultures) and aimed to update a website that had previously been hosted by UCL. The website provides information and in-depth data on manuscripts and printed books containing polyphonic music from 1480—1530. and is at The work involved a substantial upgrade to the existing Django version, and updates throughout the code to work with new and updated versions of other Python libraries. In addition, the content-managed pages of the site were converted to use the University's Wagtail CMS. The site is now in a much better position to be maintained and (hopefully!) expanded in the coming years.

Helping to track the motion of DNA within cells

In this short project we worked with Dr Rok Krasovec, (Division of Evolution and Genomic Sciences). His group combines advanced microbiology and microscopy to investigate genetic mutation in cells. To do this they film living bacterial cells with a microscope. These cells have DNA that has been modified to fluoresce when exposed to certain types of light. By studying the motion of DNA strands within these cells, they can work out in which cells genetic mutation is occurring.

To perform this analysis, they use two MATLAB packages: Supersegger, which identifies cells in a microscope image, and SMTracker, which follows the motion of fluorescing DNA within the cells. These two packages do their jobs very well, but Supersegger does not output data about cell boundaries in a format that SMTracker can read in. For this project we produced an additional piece of MATLAB code that takes cell boundary output from Supersegger and converts it into format that SMTracker can understand. This piece of code then allowed the group to run their image analysis pipeline from beginning to end in MATLAB.

  • Development effort: 10 days at 40%

Get In Touch!

I hope these examples have given you some inspiration and reassurance that you don’t need lots of money or a seriously challenging application to engage the services of the RSE department. If you have any further questions or you want to speak to us about your project, please get in touch via our website, the support portal or one of our RSE leaders.