Ian Cottam

MSc (Oxon) Computation

Member of the Society of Research Software Engineering

Member of the British Computer Society (MBCS)

Chartered IT Professional (CITP)

[Last updated: July 2020]


1 August 2020 —

Retired. I will be doing some pro bono IT work for charities in the Manchester area.


1 March 2019 — July 2020

Senior Research Software Engineer (RSE)

Research IT; IT Services; The University of Manchester

I worked with neuroscientists on pipelining tools for brain image analysis.

I was responsible for RSE projects in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.


1 January 2016 — end February 2019:
Technical Support Manager
School of Computer Science; The University of Manchester

I managed the technical support activities of the School of Computer Science, including seven staff responsible for supporting teaching labs, admin and teaching infrastructure, and some research activities. More details here:  http://staffnet.cs.manchester.ac.uk/techso/


In June-July 2018 I investigated Cloud Computing (using AWS and Azure) with two excellent vacation students (Sami Alabed and Stefan Pristoleanu).

See for example Stefan’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V_TOF6p-4g&feature=youtu.be for how to do map-reduce computations on AWS. And, in this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlicOhNwluQ Stefan demonstrates how the cloud can be used for Serverless Computing.



1 August 2014 — end December 2015:
IT Relationship Manager
IT Services; The University of Manchester

I was concerned with any and all aspects of computing support for students and staff of the Faulty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS).

In particular, I acted as “account manager” for the Schools of: CEAS, SEAES, EEE and Materials, as well as the following institutes: MIB, Diamond Light Source, Henry Moseley X-ray Facility and Manchester Energy.



April 2013 — end July 2014:
IT Services Research Lead (on the IT Leadership Team)
IT Services; The University of Manchester

·      I …
was concerned with any and all aspects of research computing support for postgraduates and staff of the University. (Note that this (seconded) role had no direct reports: my work involved convincing colleagues from other teams, within IT, to work with me to commonly agreed goals and academic requirements.)

·      chaired the cross faculty and divisions group: IT Services for Research (ITSfR)

·      edited and contributed to a monthly ITSfR newsletter for UoM researchers. (Back issues are here. ITSfR held bi-monthly forums, at which both academics and IT staff were invited, and I have presented various ideas and supported others in presenting theirs.)

·      championed self-service and agile development approaches for project work aimed at academic researchers (e.g. ZendTo; Guest WiFi; Virtual Machines for researchers; Git version control)

·      ran a trial service of client-side encryption for cloud storage

·      was a technical advisor to the Research Data Management group, and was a member of its Steering Group

·      served on Executive Project Boards for both Networking and Apple Mac support

·      helped EPS IT with the UoM Condor Pool management and researcher support

·      strongly supported the notion of IT providing a Pool of Research Software Engineers at UoM (they now do)

·      liaised (on a weekly basis) with the AVP for Research on: N8, Computationally Intensive Research and other issues

·      was a member of the UoM Research Committee

·      championed “1Gbps to the desktop”, particularly for our research institutes in the first instance

·      have supported the many faces of research storage provision



Dec 2010 — March 2013:
Research Computing Infrastructure Support

Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences; IT Services; The University of Manchester

I was concerned with any and all aspects of research computing support for postgraduates and staff of the EPS Faculty.


I supported the Condor High Throughput Computing service. Condor, at Manchester, has grown over the last few years from its early days just in MIB on 100 PCs to some 3500 processor cores on Teaching Cluster Linux machines as well as many dedicated servers. We have provided researchers with over 5,300 accumulated compute years of research results. I was the co-designer and co-author of the content of the Faculty’s Condor extensive web site. (This site has been appreciated and copied by other universities.) One of my innovations was a drag-and-drop interface to Condor that saves users from having to learn and then use the Linux terminal command line. I named this, more user-friendly, interface: DropAndCompute.


I managed the Cloud Storage trials for the University. (UoM now has a contract with Dropbox Business, with over 4,600 users).


I have written/edited a monthly newsletter, to Faculty staff and PGRs, on what services we have and how we support them.

I was a member of the cross-cutting University Computational Operations Team.

I successfully trialled a “10% time” idea by working closely with
Prof Popelier's computational chemistry research group in MIB.



Dec 2007 — Dec 2010: IT Manager

Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre & the School of Materials & the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Sciences,; The University of Manchester

All aspects of Faculty IT Management for the above two Schools and one Institute.



Nov 2005 — end Nov 2007: IT Manager

MIB (Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre, now renamed to Manchester Institute of Biotechnology); The University of Manchester

Again, this post covered all aspects of Faculty IT Management, with the exception of teaching support.



Mar 2003 — end Oct 2005: Senior Research Fellow

Manchester Business School; The University of Manchester

I worked with Coventry City Council to transform their services in line with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s e-Government agenda.

I undertook a Best Value Review of Information and Communications Technology for Salford City Council. This work is published as “Excellence in ICT” . The review concentrated on strategic issues and examined eight local authorities plus three commercial organisations.

I was a co-author of SPRINT’s “The Management of Change”. SPRINT is a Business Process Re-engineering method, well-known in the public sector.

I designed a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) “Maturity Model” as part of the UK government’s CRM National Programme, and managed its implementation as a software tool by staff of Salford City Council.

I was a co-author of the influential “CRM Scan” report to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the CRM National Programme community.


Sept 2000 — Feb 2003:
Vice President, Software Engineering

Transitive Ltd. (now part of IBM) – a University of Manchester spin-out company

I was employee number 1 at Transitive’s launch in 2000, and helped the company grow to approximately 50 staff, comprising some 45 software engineers in Manchester, with an executive and marketing team in California. I brought-in and started the company quality and process cultures.

Transitives’s product QuickTransit (called Rosetta by Apple) is a dynamic binary translator and has enabled Apple to switch (from IBM’s to Intel’s) processor family seamlessly. Rosetta has (following the release of Mac OS X Lion in late 2011) been discontinued by Apple. Transitive was acquired and is now part of IBM.


During the period described immediately below I was also occupied with several visits to Silicon Valley to acquire venture capital investment to help kick-start Transitive with its offices and engineering staff.

July 1999 — Aug 2000:
Consultant in highly dependable systems

Manager of a large group producing two components for EuroFighter at BAe Systems. With Tessella, I was manager and one of the two developers of a Train Management System for a UK railway company.

1998 — June 1999: Principal Software Engineer

Alstom Signalling Ltd

I worked on models and system development for European railway transmission-based signalling systems.



1994 — 1998: Senior Consultant

Adelard LLC

Manager for the Dust-Expert project: a development for the Health and Safety Executive of a safety-related, knowledge-based application to advise on the construction of vessels containing potentially explosive dusts. This involved close collaboration over two years with government scientists who had developed the necessary theories. This is believed to be the world’s first “shrink-wrapped” application on general sale that carries a guarantee of safety with respect to the international definition (IEC 61508).

Independent Safety Assessor (software) for MoD radar tracking system developments.

Produced Market Survey on Requirements Engineering for safety-related systems for the EU-funded REAIMS project.

Produced Project Manager’s Guide to Programming Languages for the Ministry of Defence.

Developed Civil Aviation Authority specification for the selection and use of programming languages for safety-related systems.

Produced Software Assessment Manual (based on IEC 61508) for Factory Mutual Inc. of Boston USA, and provided on-site consultancy and training in its application.

Provided training in formal language processing tools for Peek Traffic Ltd.

Produced and taught formal methods training course for BNFL.

Produced Applications’ Review, Generic Architecture, Interface Analysis, Demonstrator Requirements and contributed to formal model, reviews and final report for the Health and Safety Executive’s Project on Nuclear Waste Tracking.



1988 — 1994: Director of the Post-experience Vocational Education (PEVE) IT Unit

Department of Computer Science; University of Manchester

I managed training and support staff and developed numerous courses for industry-based students, as well as designing and managing two modular masters degrees. During this period I also managed and undertook a number of R&D projects with industry including a large DTI funded project with ICL.

Adviser for the implementation of a support environment for ICL Corporate Servers Division.

Reviewed the formal definition of the SPARK Ada subset for the Ministry of Defence.

Developed a program directly from its formal specification and proved its correctness (using the SPARK toolset from Praxis Critical Systems) for BNFL.

Designed and implemented a “safer” subset of the C programming language, known as idC. This subset was designed for teaching good practice and also for the implementation of critical systems.



1981 — 1988:
Lecturer (Formal Methods of Software Engineering)

Department of Computer Science; University of Manchester

Among other (teaching and research) duties, I co-managed research staff implementing the Manchester University Logical Environment and the UK government’s Alvey programme’s Integrated Project Support Environment 2.5.


1978 — 1980: Research Assistant

Department of Computer Science; University of York.

I co-developed a compiler for the experimental language Modula-1. I was also a consultant to Ford Aerospace Corp. of Palo Alto, USA, on their use of the York Modula compiler for a secure and dependable UNIX kernel project.


1976 — 1978: Software Quality Assurance Manager


I was the first manager of the then new Software Quality Assurance facility at NCR Laboratories, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


1974 — 1976: Senior Software Engineer

Plessey Telecommunications Research

I implemented the Plessey System 250 operating system generation tools (basically, a macro assembler). I also implemented the secure, separate compilation and library system for Plessey’s CORAL programming language compiler.


1972 — 1974: Programmer and system support

Liverpool Polytechnic Computer Services.

I supported an ICL mainframe service to academics and students. I also worked briefly with Liverpool University on operating system tools and a compiler project.



Publications (include):


Guest Blogs:

How do we know research software is correct?, Software Sustainability Institute (SSI), 2013.


Heroes of software engineering: an eight part series, Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) 2013.


Experience and good taste in software/systems design, Walking Randomly, 2012.


Linting Condor submission scripts, Walking Randomly, 2012.


Natural Scientists: their very big output files – and a tale of diffs, Walking Randomly, 2011.


The Evolution of “DropAndCompute” – easing the pain of accessing High Throughput Computing (and similar) facilities, Walking Randomly, 2011.



I Cottam, P Kawalek, N de Noronha, Excellence in ICT in Local Government, MBS, 2005.


I Cottam, P Kawalek, D Shaw, A Local Government CRM Maturity Model: a component in the transformational change of UK councils, Proceedings of the Americas Conference on Information Systems, New York, New York, 2004.


D Shaw, P Kawalek, I Cottam, Y Temren, M Cahill, M Willetts, Change Management – Core, National CRM Board, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2004.


D Shaw, P Kawalek, L Batista, I Cottam, Baseline environmental scan and analysis of good practice in CRM by local authorities, National CRM Board, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2003.


T Clement, I Cottam, P Froome, C Jones, The Development of a Commercial Shrink-Wrapped Application to Safety Integrity Level 2: The DUST-EXPERT Story. In Computer Safety, Reliability and Security (Proceedings of Safecomp ’99), Massimo Felici, Karama Kanoun and Alberto Pasquini (eds), Lecture Notes in Computer Science 1698, Springer 1999. ISBN 3-540-66488-2.


I Cottam, The Birth of the Baby: the first stored-program computer 1948-1998, University of Manchester. 1998.


I Cottam, Project Managers Summary Guide to Software Languages, Sea Systems Publications SSCP82, Procurement Executive MoD, 1995.


I Cottam, W Neary, P Vlissidis, A Case Study Evaluation of the Vienna Development Method Specification Language: VDM-SL, BNFL Report, 1993.


I Cottam, idC: A Subset of Standard C, University of Manchester, Department of Computer Science, Technical Report, UMCS–92–12–3, 1992.



J Latham, V Bush, I Cottam, The Programming Process, Addison Wesley, International Computer Science Series, 1990.


I Cottam, C Jones, T  Nipkow, A Wills, M Wolczko, A  Yaghi, A Project Support Environment for Formal Methods, in J  McDermid (ed.), Integrated Project Support Environments, Peter Peregrinus, pp  32–53, 1985.


I Cottam, Extending Pascal with One–entry / Multi–exit Procedures, ACM SIGPLAN Notices, Vol.20, No. 2, February 1985.


I Cottam, The Rigorous Development of a System Version Control Program, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Vol. SE–10, No. 2, March 1984.


R Ibbett, I Cottam and R Zobel, Revisions to Examination Syllabuses, BCS Computer Bulletin, Sept. 1983.


I Cottam, C Jones, T Nipkow, A Wills, Mule: A support system for formal specification and rigorous software development, Proceedings of the BCS-FACS/SERC Conference on Program Specification and Verification, University of York, UK, March 1983.