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My career to date

I then went straight on to do an MSc in Evolutionary & Adaptive Systems at Sussex University. After this I realised that I needed a break from academia and moved into industry. I spent four years in industry actively pursuing a career in Research & Development (R & D). It was always an ambition of mine to do a PhD. I wanted to see what I could achieve if given the time and freedom to do some blue sky research.

Even though blue-sky research may never be used in the real world without re-implementation, I am a firm believer that software written purely for research can still benefit from being implemented with strong software engineering principles in mind. The whole point of research is to find out something that you do not already know. You do not necessarily know what will and will not work. This means that what you need to implement can rapidly change. The more complex and difficult the programming task, the more it benefits from being designed and written in a logical and clear fashion.

I was fortunate enough to study for a PhD at the University of Stirling. The topic was one that I had proposed myself. Funding ran for three years after which I needed to return to industry while writing up my thesis in the evenings. The PhD allowed me to develop my interest in Computational Neuroscience and self-organising systems. I had previously found it frustrating that there was so little research on the effect of hormones and neuromodulators when applied to artificial neural networks. Instead people prefer to treat the brain as if it were a logical or digital circuit and I felt sure that we were missing a large part of the story. The PhD led onto work as a research fellow at the Adaptive Systems Research Group at the University of Hertfordshire. Funding for this finished at the end of December 2007.

After this came to an end, I moved back into my parent's house while figuring out what to do next. I took this opportunity to learn new skills that would be of use to me in industry while waiting for an opportunity that could either get me back to Scotland or move to Germany. I was then offered the role of research assistant on the InterLife project back at Stirling university. I was primarily hired for the practical skills that I had acquired from a career in industry. The work required of me had more in common with conventional software engineering than blue sky research. I spent my spare time working on my own research on neural networks and self organising systems. As a result I managed to get a journal paper published on which I was sole author.

In July 2011 the contract at Stirling was coming to an end and I wanted to move to Germany. I was given the job after a telephone interview on the basis that I could move over there in ten days time. This was so that I could spend a day with the previous contractor for him to hand over the project to me.