There is a world of opportunity here and you will really get out what you put in.

Matthew Leach
Matthew Leach
PhD Student
Computer Science - Visual Computing research group
Matt studied his undergraduate degree in Sheffield and felt very at home in the department. He enjoyed the course here, particularly getting stuck into the larger project for his dissertation.

Can you tell us more about your background and what/where you studied as an undergraduate?

I completed my undergraduate degree in Computer Science here at the University of Sheffield having previously studied one year of natural sciences at Cambridge followed by a year out in which I worked at a pharmaceutical company.

Why did you choose Computer Science at the University of Sheffield for your post-graduate study?

Having completed my undergraduate degree in Sheffield, I felt very at home in the department. I had enjoyed the course here, particularly getting stuck into the larger project for my dissertation. I modelled bleeding using a fluid dynamics simulation method which introduced me to physically-based modelling for animations. I was keen to pursue the field further, so it was a natural progression for me to stay on in Sheffield and join the visual computing group.

What do you particularly enjoy about studying Computer Science?

I like that Computer Science has applications in pretty much everything you can imagine. Naturally, doing a PhD you do end up specialising in one area, but the skills you have mean you can end up working on all sorts of things. Throughout my PhD I had the opportunity to work on a few other projects, most notably constructing a virtual reality recreation of the now demolished Sheffield Castle. It was great fun to work with people from different departments and demonstrate the work to the public.

Tell us about being a postgraduate student here. What’s a typical week like for you?

A typical academic week revolves around my weekly meeting with my supervisor. The actual academic work will change depending on what stage of the PhD you are at, but you can typically expect some time to be spent reading papers, some time setting up or running experiments and some time writing up results, either in the form of a progress report, academic paper or thesis chapter. The balance of these can shift a lot which keeps things from getting too monotonous. Additionally, the environment is quite relaxed – the lab is very friendly and I have the flexibility to pop out for a coffee or lunch every day. In the evenings I usually relax by going dancing, either with one of the University societies or at one of the social nights which are regularly held at bars around the city.

What is your favourite thing about Sheffield?

The variety – there really is something to do for everyone and there are always new things to have a go at. In my time here I have spent most of my free time dancing, but have also played badminton, been to all sorts of independent restaurants, coffee shops and pubs and walked in the beautiful peak district. There are loads of local events too, like the annual tramlines music festival, varsity ice hockey game and salsa in the square dance party. Despite all this going on, it’s a very friendly place to be and you can easily get out for some peace and quiet, with many areas of the city feeling more like villages and the peak district only a quick bus or train ride away.

Can you tell us a bit more about your project and what you are working on?

My research focuses on improving animation of the human mouth. I am simulating the physical properties of the mouth to help produce more realistic animations. Specifically, I have been looking at how modelling the effects of saliva can affect animations. The saliva can cause the lips to stick together, leading to a “zippering” effect as the lips open gradually outwards. I have also conducted a perceptual study looking at whether people find the inclusion of the stickiness between the lips to improve the realism of animations.

What are your plans for the future and how do you think your experience at Sheffield will help you in your career?

I will actually be staying in the department! I’m nearing the end of my PhD and have been offered a job here as a Research Software Engineer in Complex Systems. The skills I picked up in completing my PhD were directly relevant to the job, which revolves around high performance parallel computing and outreach to demonstrate and encourage the use of GPU computing in academia. The programming skills I developed were of course crucial, but the communication and presentation skills gained from writing papers, producing posters and presenting papers at conferences were equally as important and would be relevant to almost any career.

Do you have any top tips for students thinking about postgraduate study in Computer Science at Sheffield?

There is a world of opportunity here and you will really get out what you put in. It’s a great place to be and there is plenty of support available, so throw yourself in and make the most of it!

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