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Research Software Engineering (RSE) Group at Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Welcome to RSE@SUN - the Research Software Engineering (RSE) Group at Stellenbosch University.

RSE@SUN has the distinction of being the first dedicated RSE Group in Africa (offering Research Software Engineering services to researchers across all Faculties and Schools within the university).

What is an RSE?

The term 'Research Software Engineer' (RSE) was coined by the UK-based Software Sustainability Institute in 2012, on the recognition that research is increasingly dependent on software, and that such software requires "people who combine professional software expertise with an understanding of research".

Skilled RSEs support researchers in fulfilling the expectations from funders for Open Science, and funders are increasingly requiring the involvement of RSEs in data- and computationally-intensive research.

The important innovation of RSE Groups established by leading UK universities pioneered a novel platform to make RSE skills more widely available.

What do RSEs do?

RSEs provide support to researchers (and external clients) with services ranging from training, consultancy, and custom code development (or rehabilitation).

RSEs assist researchers to 'tidy up' code in preparation for publication (with code-sharing increasingly important to credibility), and help researchers establish good practices (teaching and supporting adoption of collaborative version control, sustainable code development, and appropriate licensing).

RSEs support researchers to progressively transition to increasingly sophisticated levels of computational work, and explore cutting-edge technologies: e.g. starting from simple scripts on a single laptop, towards reproducible analysis pipelines and HPC- or cloud-enabled Big Data analyses, simulations, or deployment of AI/ML models.

RSEs can work with researchers to develop high-impact grant proposals that leverage the advantages of software engineering in computational research, increasing the prospects of success at both the award and execution stages.

How can RSE@SUN help you?

RSE@SUN exists to provide Stellenbosch University staff and students with coding-related training and consultancy, and software engineering support.


Do you need a gentle introduction to the fundamentals of research computing (e.g. getting started with programming using R or Python, version control with Git, command-line control with the Unix shell)?

Do you have some of the basics, but are now ready to cement best practices, or transition to more sophisticated research computing environments (e.g. cloud, or HPC)?

The Carpentries (Software / Data / Library Carpentry) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and dissemination of coding-related lessons for researchers (with workshops run by certified Instructors); RSE@SUN staff are able to provide Carpentries workshops to Stellenbosch University staff and students, and can provide extended workshops to promote use of the university’s High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities. Please complete this questionnaire to be informed of upcoming workshops.


Do you need to bounce some ideas off a coding-savvy friend... to get a sense of 'what is possible' if software engineering skills were applied in solving your research problem?

Do you need to satisfy a funder who wants to see evidence in your grant application that you have considered the RSE skills required to conduct the data-/computationally-intensive components of the project to a high standard?

Dr Martin is a Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) International Fellow, and has been awarded SSI funding to conduct a pilot program whereby 8-12 Stellenbosch University researchers will be provided with targeted consultations from UK-based RSEs, with the aim of developing RSE-related components for future grant applications (note that consultations will not form a ‘full grant writing assistance’ program). This program will supplement consultations ordinarily provided by RSE@SUN staff.


Do you need help setting up a reliable data capture/analysis pipeline that you will be able to confidently run in the future?

Do you need someone with software engineering skills (and an understanding of the research environment) to work collaboratively with you in developing a custom software solution to advance your research?

RSE@SUN capacity and capability to provide software engineering support is extensible given the ‘Affiliated RSE@SUN Member’ (ARM) model the group employs, whereby Core Staff collaborate with Affiliated Members (Academic and Technical) depending on the expertise required.

In addition to conventional software engineering, RSE@SUN provides access to special expertise in hardware (e.g. wireless sensors and automation) via collaboration with Professor Thinus Booysen (Chair of IoT at Stellenbosch University).

Please contact Dr Martin with enquiries.

Who is RSE@SUN?

RSE@SUN consists of Core Staff, Affiliated Members (Academic and Technical), and an extended Community of Practice which includes Embedded RSEs throughout Stellenbosch University.

The Core Team

Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) International Fellow
Hans Merensky Postdoctoral Fellow, RSE
EucXylo Group for Advanced Modelling of Eucalypt Wood Formation
Department of Forest and Wood Science
Faculty of Agriscience

Managing Staff Scientist, RSE
Neuromechanics Unit (Human Movement Analysis)
Stellenbosch University Central Analytical Facilities

The RSE@SUN Core Team are responsible for the overall operations of the Group, including providing training activities and consultations, and coordinating research software engineering projects in collaboration with Affiliated RSE@SUN Members (ARM).

Embedded RSEs

Postdoctoral Fellow (joint), RSE
EucXylo Research Group, Department of Forestry and Wood Science
Faculty of Agriscience, with
Mathematical and Theoretical Biosciences Group, Department of Mathematical Sciences
Faculty of Science

Postdoctoral Fellow, RSE
Department of Plant Pathology
Faculty of Agriscience

Postdoctoral Researcher, RSE
Internet of Things (IoT) Group
Faculty of Engineering

Postdoctoral Fellow (joint), RSE
Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI)
School of Data Science and Computational Thinking, with
Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics (MBHG)
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Embedded RSEs (including postdoctoral researchers engaged in RSE activities) are based within a research group, and form part of RSE@SUN’s extended Community of Practice.

Academic ARM

Chair in the Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of Things (IoT) Group
Faculty of Engineering

Research Fellow, Educator
School for Data Science and Computational Thinking
Senior Researcher
Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Global Health
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Director, Group Leader (epigenomics, bioinformatics)
Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB)
Faculty of Science

Head of Division, Group Leader (algorithmics)
Division of Computer Science, Department of Mathematical Sciences
Faculty of Science

Joint Professor (cybersecurity, cryptography, AI, ML, program correctness, programming languages)
School of Data Science and Computational Thinking, with
Department of Information Science
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

The Academic ARM (Affiliated RSE@SUN Members) are established Stellenbosch University researchers who provide strategic and technical input into RSE@SUN projects that fall within their areas of expertise.

Technical ARM

Senior System Administrator
High Performance Computing (HPC)
Stellenbosch University IT Infrastructure

The Technical ARM (Affiliated RSE@SUN Members) are established Stellenbosch University technical and support staff who provide input into RSE@SUN activities relevant to their areas of expertise.

Internal Partners

RSE@SUN benefits from the support of the AgroInformatics Initiative at Stellenbosch University, in partnership with Dr Jan Greyling.

External Partners

RSE@SUN is open to collaborations and other engagements with academic and non-academic partners outside Stellenbosch University - please contact Dr Martin with enquiries: