In this article, we profile Lewis Bell, studying for an MSc Computer Science at the University of Bristol, and represented the UK for the European Space Agency (ESA) Space App Competition.
What is your background and area of study?
I am currently an undergraduate student studying for a Masters in Computer Science at the University of Bristol, looking specifically at data science. From a young age I’ve had an interest in Computer Science, which developed from being constantly around computers growing up, and being very good at maths, which was my favourite subject at school. It felt like a natural progression to study it at university.
What is your interest in Data Science?
Big data is a challenge globally that companies have to get to grips with, even more significant when its complex data. Being generated in such vast quantities, there’s a lot to consider, from storing, accessing, processing, analysing through to analysis and ascertaining insights that are of value to enable enhanced decision making. What we are seeing are major advances in data science technologies, and computational methods,etc to address these challenges, not to mention the need for people with skills in this area.
Which areas of Computer Science particularly interest you?
At the moment I am studying data science and machine learning which I am really enjoying. There are a lot of interesting areas related to maths, and I enjoy how this unit brings together all these areas, creating one big picture. Looking at the models of representation, data and algorithms, and how these are used to make predictions. I’ve also been studying software engineering, where we get practical hands on experience working directly with industry companies who have a requirement for software engineering development. I have been really fortunate to work with Aardman Animations building a mobile app for one of their upcoming projects. The project required specific knowledge in the development of augmented reality, which was challenging but also very interesting and rewarding.
What is your most notable achievement?
My biggest achievement was representing the UK for the Space App Camp initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) in September 2017. Every year ESA hosts the event where they fly 20 participants from Europe to their head offices in Frascati, near Rome. Over a period of a week, participants have to develop a mobile app which showcases the earth observation data which ESA are currently working on. As a team, we developed an Augmented Reality app called AiR, designed for travelling. The app produces an interactive projection of the world to the user, using data from the ESA’s Copernicus Satellite. This enables users, whilst traveling via airplane to overlay and augment the view from their window with landmarks and places of interest in real time. The concept was developed to educate people on the world around them, as well as provide flight entertainment. At the end of the week our app was named as the best app resulting in being chosen as the winning team.
I have also been accepted to participate in an exchange programme with the University of California next year which I am extremely proud off. This opportunity has come off the back of my university work last year. The University of California is one of the best Computer Science research institutions in the world, so as you can imagine, I am really excited about this prospect. I applied following a talk at a careers fair at the beginning of the year because I knew it would be an exciting adventure but I never thought I would be accepted. I will be there for a year, studying for the third year of my degree.
What are your thoughts career wise?
Part of me would like to go into software engineering or data science working potentially in the area of machine learning. However, academia also interests me. I think by the time I finish my MSc, if I find a research project opportunity in the machine learning or data science area, I would consider staying on to do a PhD.
Who do you most aspire and why?
Elon Musk. I really admire the way he is disrupting so many different industries at the moment. He saw people weren’t investing in electric cars, so he decided to build an electric car company, which became one of the most successful electric cars in the world. He saw people weren’t thinking about space enough, so he started a company that became the largest private producer of rocket engines in the world. I think his drive, passion and determination is really admirable and I really look up to him.