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Dr Tamara Lopez

Tamara Lopez

Profile summary

Professional biography

Tamara Lopez graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in Theatre Performance. She spent the next 14 years working in industry as a web developer and within universities as a research software engineer on digital humanities projects. 

During her time in industry, Tamara worked in Chicago, Illinois, building first-generation websites for local businesses and community organisations including Howard Brown Health Center; in San Francisco as a front-end engineer at the Snap.com portal; and in Dublin, Ireland as a member of the web booking development team at Aer Lingus.  As a research software engineer, she worked at Indiana University and King's College in London on leading digital humanities projects including The Chymistry of Isaac Newton and the Fine Rolls of Henry III.

Tamara earned a Master of Information Science and a Master of Library Science from Indiana University in 2006 and she completed a PhD at the Open University in 2016 under the supervision of Marian Petre and Bashar Nuseibeh.  Her doctoral research examined how professional developers handle errors that come up in everyday practice.  

Current Projects

  • Post-doctoral research associate on Motivating Jenny, a project that has investigated ways to initiate and sustain secure software culture among developers who are not experts in security.
  • Named researcher on SAUSE: Secure, adaptive, usable software engineering (EP/R013144/1)
  • Post-doctoral research associate on STRIDE, a project that will examine the relationship between socio-technical resilience and automation (EP/T017465/1).

Research interests

Following my training in the theatre arts and time spent as a professional, the research approach I take within software engineering is humanistic, grounded in qualitative methods.

I critically engage with prevalent concepts in software engineering research and trade sources to identify questions and develop interdisciplinary analytic frameworks that permit empirical, naturalistic examination of professional practice.  My aim is two-fold:

  • To examine software engineering as a form of world-making, in which developers, like other people, define and create significant spaces with one another through their activities, ideas, language and materials.
  • To situate findings within frameworks and outputs that illuminate how cooperative, human aspects of software development support engineering practice in the workplace. 

Teaching interests

Currently, I am a library study volunteer, supporting Open University students in secure environments who are studying toward an OU degree.  These students, working on third-year modules or master’s level coursework, do not have access to the internet or to printed research library material.  In this role, I find and suggest readings to support coursework based on requests made by individual students.  I have helped students investigating topics in exercise science (E314), art history (AA315), philosophy (A853), international relations (DD313), English and literary criticism (A815, A335), and classics (A864).

As a part of the Motivating Jenny project, I have spent the last two years exploring methods to engage developers in discussion about cultural aspects of security that go beyond technical facts. Drawing on elements of the case study and peer instruction teaching methods, the material has been developed into a toolkit that developers can download and independently use.