The student experience

Studying for my PhD at Surrey was a great experience.

Brian Gardner

PhD Computer Science

"My undergraduate degree was in physics at the University of Exeter but, during my dissertation, I discovered a strong interest in computational biology. Soon after, I became aware of the NICE (Nature Inspired Computing and Engineering) research group within the Department of Computer Science at Surrey, and knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I conducted my PhD in the NICE group, and have continued here as a research fellow.

My PhD was part of the Human Brain Project (HBP), an EU Horizon 2020 flagship project aimed at accelerating research into neuroscience. My research involved studying the principles of neural information processing in the brain using computational models of neural networks and, in particular, understanding how the brain learns to form internal representations of the outside world.

The work was highly interdisciplinary, combining ideas and techniques from computer science, physics and neuroscience.

Taking this type of approach can often provide new ways of thinking about challenging scientific problems, and ultimately find novel solutions.

On completing my PhD I successfully developed and published a new algorithm for training structured networks of spiking neurons to process information in a biologically plausible manner, which was the primary objective of my research. In addition, my PhD resulted in several other publications which I presented at a number of conferences in Europe.

Studying for my PhD at Surrey was a great experience. There’s plenty of support available to enable PhD students to become effective researchers such as the researcher development programme, which offers a wide range of helpful workshops. During my PhD I also attended regular seminars, often featuring distinguished speakers, which I found very interesting.

In my current work as a research fellow in the NICE group I am continuing to devise neural network models within the HBP. My PhD experience at Surrey has provided me with a strong set of skills that are applicable not only to my current academic research, but also to research and development in industry."

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