Head of Operations - Peter Oliver
02 Nov 2020
- Rebecca Humble



Peter is responsible for the day to day running of the Scientfic Computing Department.

Peter Oliver



Peter has always had passion for science, from the childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, to the curiosity of learning how things worked. He says, “My parents told stories about me taking clocks apart. However, I wasn’t interested in putting them back together!” At school, he took a particular interest in chemistry, the subject which he describes his teachers “made come alive”, persuading him to stay for after school lessons.​

At A-levels, he says “I wanted to do as many STEM subjects as I could get away with”, so he continued his study of chemistry, along with physics and ​​​maths. Peter’s love of chemistry continued throughout his academic career as he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Chemistry at Bath University, and then a PhD in Computational Chemistry.

While working on his PhD, Peter used the UK’s National Supercomputer Facility CRAY YMP and J90, housed at the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC), which became STFC in 2007. He says, “During the course of my PhD the computing aspects such as parallel code development and code optimisation became more and more interesting, so I was keen to join the team supporting applications on the CRAY”, and in 1997 that’s exactly what he did by becoming an Application Support Specialist.

Now 23 years later, Peter is Head of Operations for Scientific Computing Department (SCD) - and is responsible for the running of the department. This includes; tracking and making sure the departmental strategy is implemented, financial management of the £12M of resource spend across 90 active projects, management of the SCD graduate scheme and many more activities. He says the best part of his job is “working with great people with fantastic ideas!”

As the department has grown over recent years, the need to setup a Project Management Office (PMO) to manage these activities became clear. During the last year, Peter has been working with David Macaree, Head of PMO, to ensure SCD has sustainable effort to continuously improve how the department operates.

He says, “There are so many great opportunities and projects in SCD to get involved with that I have to limit myself to not get drawn into too much.” One of these projects was back in 2011, where he worked with the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis to design JASMIN, the next generation simulation and analysis platform. Once completed, data analysis that used to take 30 days, was reduced to 12 hours!

A project he is currently working on is the strategic business case for an energy efficient, environmentally sustainable Research Computing Centre (RCC) to support all Harwell Campus Research Computing activities. When asked where he would like to be in 10 years’ time, he says “Reflecting on how successful the RCC, which opened​​ in 2025, has been in supporting UK Research.”

In addition to his role as Head of Operations, Peter is project sponsor of the Data & Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI); the National Platform to satisfy the computational needs in support of data analysis, infrastructure research, and strategic thinking for the UK’s long term planning and investment needs. This represents an £8 million investment from the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) to provide world leading infrastructure systems research capabilities and enhance the quality of outputs.

And if that wasn’t enough, Peter, as an Associate Director for National Labs, assisted in the preparation of UKRI Digital Research Infrastructure proposals, National Labs Strategy Map and 10 Year Financial Plan.

Contact: Humble, Rebecca (STFC,RAL,SC)