‘Explore what fields and areas of research you find personally interesting, and see if you can shift focus to work on those topics, even tangentially. We all work best when working on something we’re genuinely interested in’
James Lewis-Cheetham, Research Computing Technician at University of St Andrews studied BEng Biomedical Engineering with a Year in Industry and graduated in 2019. In this interview, we catch up with James about his time at Kent, artificial intelligence and chimpanzees, and his advice for students.
How do you feel your time at Kent prepared you for working in the industry?
Aside from all the technical knowledge, at Kent I learned to solve engineering problems in a wide variety of domains. There’s no way to learn everything you’ll ever need to know, but Kent equipped me with the skills to problem solve and I learnt how to approach tasks with an engineering mindset.
What did you learn in your degree that has been beneficial to you in your role?
The biggest one for me has to be programming. I’d done a little bit of programming before University but hadn’t gotten into it. The projects that I worked on as part of the degree gave me clear goals to work towards, and I found that I really enjoyed the programming element of the course! Software development is now a major part of my current job, so the programming skills I learned are essential.
What are your main responsibilities and tasks?
I support research within the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, especially when that research requires additional software development. This also includes helping students with psychology dissertation projects which frequently take the form of computer-based tasks or games.
Are you working on any exciting projects that you can share?
The school conducts research on origins of mind, part of which includes studying wild chimpanzees! I’m currently working with the primate research group to use artificial intelligence to enhance their research. They analyse camera trap footage of chimpanzees, but there’s a lot of footage to sort through and categorise, which takes a long time. We’re looking at using chimpanzee detection and pose recognition algorithms to help filter the footage and help analyse chimpanzee social behaviour.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently applying to PhDs in applied artificial intelligence, and then I’m intending to work in research in industry.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same career path?
Explore what fields and areas of research you find personally interesting, and see if you can shift focus to work on those topics, even tangentially. We all work best when working on something we’re genuinely interested in.
What was your favourite memory from your time at Kent?
I participated in a lot of extracurricular drama and theatre, which was a great way to make friends and have a break from all the technical degree work. There are too many great memories from that to pick just one.