New Software Engineering Center to Accelerate Scientific Discovery at UW

Software engineering is vital to Seattle’s emergence as a tech leader driving a local climate of innovation. The new Scientific Software Engineering Center (SSEC) at UW’s eScience Institute will leverage local software engineering talent to advance scientific frontiers that will change the world around us and respond to the challenges that face humanity. The SSEC, supported by the Schmidt Futures Foundation, is building out a diverse team of research software engineers who will bring their unique backgrounds and expertise to the UW community to address fundamental questions about climate change, the fate of the universe, how materials work, precision medicine, and more. These Software Engineers will work with domain researchers, computer scientists, data scientists, and others to develop high quality, sustainable software for cutting edge research purposes.

As the hub of data-intensive discovery at UW, the eScience Institute is a fitting home for SSEC with its history of supporting researchers from all fields in using cutting edge data science tools and techniques to advance discovery. “The University of Washington has been a pioneer in data science, demonstrating that software and algorithms don’t just speed up scientific research, they also change the questions we can ask,” said Dr. David Beck, a UW professor of chemical engineering and Director of Research and Education at the eScience Institute who will lead SSEC. “We are very excited to partner with Schmidt Futures to bring professional software engineering expertise to lift promising prototype scientific codes developed at the UW and around the world over the technical barriers that limit their scaling, deployment and community adoption.”

The University of Washington is one of four global research universities recently selected to address the growing need for new, scalable software tools to accelerate scientific discoveries. The Virtual Institute of Scientific Software (VISS), is a $40M network of four centers at the UW, the University of Cambridge, the Johns Hopkins University and the Georgia Institute of Technology supported by Schmidt Futures. “‘Schmidt Futures’ Virtual Institute for Scientific Software is a core part of our efforts to mobilize exceptional talent to solve specific hard problems in science and society,” said Elizabeth Young McNally, Executive Vice President, Schmidt Futures. “Development of robust, well-engineered software is a critical public service when the software supports projects to make the world better.”

“When I heard about this initiative, I was like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be great!’ because I can easily see the need in my lab,” says Nancy Allbritton, Dean of Engineering at UW and professor in bioengineering. Allbritton continues, “Someone was very smart and thinking, ‘How could I invest money for the biggest payback?’”

More information on the global VISS partnership is available in the press release from Schmidt Futures and coverage from Science, or in the GeekWire interview with eScience Institute leadership. For more details on the UW’s involvement with the VISS, contact David Beck at