Photo:

Gopal Ramchurn

Thanks to all the students who asked very interesting questions and really made this a great experience for me!

My CV

Education:

Notre Dame Des Victoires (Mauritius,1986-1990), College du St Esprit (Mauritius, 1991-1997), Imperial College London (1998-2001), University of Southampton (2001-2004)

Qualifications:

BEng (Information Systems Engineering), PhD (Multi-Agent Systems)

Work History:

Research Fellow (2001-2007), Senior Research Fellow (2007-2009), Lecturer (2009-), Big Data Consultant (2013-)

Current Job:

Lecturer in Computer Science (I teach Web design to First years, Supervise 4 PhD students, and a number of MSc students)

Employer:

University of Southampton

Me and my work

I invent Apps that help humans, computers and robots work better together

My work involves researching ways in which the Web, mobile apps, and robots can better support human activities. ¬†This involves programming new types of apps that can understand human intentions and preferences. It also involves looking at ways in which we can help people or robots work in teams. For example, my colleagues and I developed an app for Fantasy Football that could help a user get the best players for his or her fantasy team every week. We’ve also developed apps that would help create teams of flying robots that work together in to take pictures of a large area. Lately, we’ve also worked on apps to help users save energy. This meant developing new ways of presenting the information to users to help them understand how they consume energy and then to understand that they use a lot of energy when they play 3D games on their console or use the oven or dishwasher. I do most of this work as part of a big project called the ORCHID project (www.orchid.ac.uk).

My Typical Day

I discuss new ideas with my team and program new apps!

I don’t work on my own – I really enjoy working in teams. My day starts with reading the tons of emails I get from my students and colleagues. I then plan the work for the day. I do a number of meetings with people in the lab and then do some work on my own such as programming some new algorithms or writing a paper for a major scientific conference. It gets crazy at times – too many meetings! I try to make them more fun by having coffee with my those I’m meeting with, buy some cookies to share with them, and discuss other things apart from work… all these really help create a very friendly environment.

There are a number of researchers and admin staff on my floor I regularly have coffee breaks with. I have a good coffee machine in my office which I use to make coffee for all of them when they are around early morning. In the afternoon, I’ll usually try to leave early to avoid too many interruptions and continue working from home.

On the days I have to give lectures, I’ll have prepared the slides a few days before and try to polish them up a few hours before the lecture. I try to make my lectures very engaging by getting the students to do some exercises in class.

What I'd do with the money

Use the money to create a game to teach players the physics behind home heating

The money will be spent towards designing a game that will help teach players of all ages the physics behind heating a home. Many people do not understand what it means to set their thermostat set point – some assume that setting it to a high value will mean that the home will heat up faster (which is not true!). The game will allow players to compete against each other and against an intelligent computer-based player. The game will thus also allow us to see how people learn to improve their understanding of home heating. The app will be co-funded by the ORCHID project which I’m part of.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

honest, fun, happy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Savage Garden

What's your favourite food?

Mauritian chicken biriani

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Fly a glider

What did you want to be after you left school?

Inventor of clever machines

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I tried to avoid one class (French Literature) I didn’t like because I felt the teacher was mean…. got told off first time round…

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Invent new solutions to save energy

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Herbert Simon, Bill Gates, Nick Jennings

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Football Manager

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Eradicate Poverty in the World, Win the Premier League 13 times like Alex Ferguson, Create a company that’s better than Google

Tell us a joke.

Why did the mushroom go to the party? … Because he’s a fun guy! (Fungi)

Other stuff

Work photos:

myimage1

This is where most of my work gets done, on my computer with multiple screens. I find it easier to read research papers and email on the vertical screen. I have a special keyboard that prevents my hands from getting hurt and a laptop which I take home with me to… do more work later in the day. Most of my work however, gets done on the whiteboard ¬†myimage2 where my colleagues and students write down models, ideas, and diagrams to explain what’s in our mind and to solve problems. It’s essential to be able to describe things visually in my research area, and hence this whiteboard is really what I live on when it comes to working with my team. I also keep a reminder that life is not all work and hence have these postcards from my home country (Mauritius) and other places I’ve been myimage4 (and great artists like Van Gogh) to inspire me.

There are some pictures on my office door that show some of the past/present projects I’ve worked on previously and also some of my favourite ‘Far Side’ cartoons (i’m a big fan) myimage3.