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Researcher Kate Mallichan joins HP Labs

Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technoloy journalist

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While in high school in the UK, Kate Mallichan attended a Women in Engineering summer program at Bristol University. “I was really interested in math and science,” she recalls, “but at that point I wasn’t sure what sort of career I wanted to have. Then one of the places we visited was Bristol’s Computer Science department, and it really clicked with me that this was what I wanted to do.” Mallichan subsequently earned a MEng in Computer Science at Bristol before gaining experience as a software developer in a wide range of fields – working on Windows mobile devices, developing mission planning software for the Royal Air Force, and creating multi-tier web applications and front-end software for the UK Highway Agency’s traffic monitoring systems. Two years ago, she was hired by HP Labs to work on the European BonFIRE Cloud testbed project, and then just recently she became one of HPL’s newest full-time hires, working in the organization’s Security and Cloud Lab in Bristol. We caught up with her recently to learn more about her research and other interests.  

 

HP: What first got you interested in computers?

I think it started in elementary school. I remember playing games on the really old computers we had there and I was really drawn to it. Then, at secondary school, I learned BASIC using books I borrowed from the library and I realized that computers can help you do an awful lot of things. I started to make text-based games and do things like put passwords on my discs – it was exciting to see how they could help you both be in control and creative.

 

HP: How did you end up at HP?

I’d been working on a number of straightforward engineering projects and was looking for a new challenge – something a bit more creative and open-ended than I’d been doing. I heard about the work being done at HP Labs on BonFIRE and they were looking for someone to provision a proprietary cloud platform that had already been developed by HP Labs as a BonFIRE site. I was able to draw on my practical experience in developing a wide range of software systems to design and develop a software interface between the BonFIRE API and the proprietary APIs of HP’s Cells. After 6 months, we were online as a BonFIRE site. After that, I worked in collaboration with the various BonFIRE partners to develop new features for the service and assist experimenters with their tests running on the HP platform.

 

HP: What was interesting about that work?

Well, I never got bored in those two years and it was the first time I’ve ever felt, ‘yes, I really want to stay with this company.’ And luckily they had some full-time openings to work with the Security team in the same lab.

 

HP: So what are you doing now?

In my new role I am starting to work on collaborations between the security team here in Labs and various teams in the HP Printing and Personal Systems business group. I am currently looking at ways in which we can move some of our existing research on platform/endpoint (device) security and related technologies into the HP businesses. I’m developing ideas into prototypes which can be used as starting points either for the development of new products or as further intellectual property for HP.

 

HP: What are you most enjoying about being a permanent HP Labs researcher?

The openness and flexibility that I have is fantastic. I’ve been able to talk to everyone on the team, find out about all the things they have been doing and now I’m able to use my creativity to think of ways of making their research interesting to the businesses. It’s great to have that responsibility and opportunity. And then something has just popped up this week that shows how quickly things can change and how exciting things are at Labs – HP is going to be contributing to another EU project, this time around security, that needs some research work that is related to the work I’m doing now, so it looks like I’ll be having a hand in that too.

 

HP: Do you have any hobbies or passions that you follow outside of work?

Yes, I do CrossFit training and in the last year I’ve started Olympic Weightlifting. It’s a sport with two specific lifts that involve getting a weighted bar from ground to overhead. I’ve recently made one of the qualifying totals for British championships in training, so I might do some competitions this year!

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