Sheffield is a wonderful city to live in. Living here is like being in a small town but with all the advantages of a city.

Avgoustinos Vouros
Avgoustinos Vouros
PhD Student
Computer Science - Machine Learning research group
Originally from Athens, Avgoustinos did an undergrad degree in the department of Electronic Computer Systems Engineering in the Technological Educational Institute of Piraeus. He is now part of the Machine Learning research group.

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

I am originally from Athens, where I did my undergrad in the department of Electronic Computer Systems Engineering in the Technological Educational Institute of Piraeus. I was trained in a variety of subjects including electronics, automatic control and systems engineering, and computer science.

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

When I finished my undergrad I chose the University of Sheffield because I was particularly interested in the MSc of Computational Intelligence and Robotics which was based on the ACSE department and was in collaboration with the Computer Science and Psychology departments. My MSc guided me towards the direction of applied Machine Learning and eventually to the department of Computer Science where I obtained a departmental funded PhD position on a subject that let me focus on Data Analytics, Machine Learning and Behavioural Neuroscience.  

What do you particularly enjoy about studying Computer Science?

In today’s world I believe that some broad understanding of Computer Science is essential. I tend to lean towards the practical disciplines of the field and I am enjoying implementing algorithmic solutions or research software packages to automate data analysis procedures. The field of Machine Learning is very important to me as it plays a major role in data science and I have spent hours studying novel algorithms and thinking of new ways on how to improve or use them to solve specific tasks.

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

Typically, a week for me is populated by research and theoretical or applied work as well as meetings and social events. Some days involve heavy reading on a particular topic and reproduction or expansion of already available ideas while other days involve specific applications. Throughout a day there is generally a lot of discussions about the recent research in the field of Computer Science during breaks in common rooms. Exchange of ideas is common and can end up in meetings to expand on a particular idea or topic. Socialising is an important aspect and I feel that it is encouraged within each lab or research group. 
Regarding the workload I would say that some weeks, especially when deadlines are approaching, are particularly busy and working outside of working hours is normal. However there is always some flexibility from where you would like to work and moving your laptop from your office to a nearby café is a typical habit. 

What is your favourite thing about Sheffield?

Sheffield is a wonderful city to live in. Living here is like being in a small town but with all the advantages of a city with a huge variety of places for every taste. This is mainly because even though Sheffield is the fifth largest city in the UK it has a lot of green spaces like parks, gardens and the surrounding countryside. I believe this unique feature of Sheffield is my favourite and gives you the ability to enjoy both the city life (clubs, cinemas, shopping) as well as the country life (local pubs, hiking, outdoor events).

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

My main research interests are the detection, categorisation and analysis of behavioural patterns of animals inside experimental procedures involving navigational tasks. Understanding different animal movement actions can provide valuable information in various aspects of neuroscience; such as how certain areas of the brain operate, the development of learning and memory, and how the organism is affected by specific stimuli and conditions. I am developing machine learning methods and designing analysis pipelines capable of detecting such behavioural information from animal navigation and identify behavioural differences among different animal groups.

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

During the years of my PhD I have developed a love for both academia and industry and I have identified aspects that are necessary in both worlds. Throughout my studies I have become aware of many different technologies and gained valuable knowledge on how to make these technologies easily accessible to non-experts. I have always loved to write code and to develop software but in the department of Computer Science I have learnt how I can target my skills towards data engineering in order to implement algorithms, pipelines and frameworks for data analysis and visualisation and how to engineer software for research purposes.   

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

I think the most important aspects are to be passionate about what you are doing and to have an appropriate supervisor. The compatibility between a student and their supervisor is really important for the success of both sides. I would also say to always try to be flexible and maintain a positive attitude towards the demands of your study as there are going to be some tough moments.  

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