Turn On Your Future @ UWTSD's School of Applied Computing

Archive for November, 2013

Research Profile: Virtual Reality e-Counselling Service in Wales

Researchers at the Centre for Psychology & Counselling and School of Applied Computing at Swansea Metropolitan (University of Wales: Trinity Saint David) have received funding from Tenovus, Wales’ leading cancer charity, through its innovation grant funding scheme to develop and evaluate an on-line counselling service for young people in Wales who either have a personal diagnosis of cancer or who are caring for someone with cancer.

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Lead applicant, Dr Ceri Phelps, a Health Psychologist at Swansea Met, stated that:

“young people across the South West Wales area will be involved in all stages of this exciting project including its initial design. The e-counselling service will take the form of an avatar-based virtual reality counselling world in a format familiar to many young people today who use computer games machines such as Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3. If shown to be successful, the virtual reality counselling world may be adopted by Tenovus for ongoing delivery of cancer support services to young people throughout Wales with huge scope for offering a wider alternative to face-to-face counselling for all age groups”.

Technical Lead, Andrew Baker from the School of Applied Computing, having extensive experience working in Real-Time Computer Games Development is overseeing all technical and creative aspects of the project. Andrew said, “This is a very exciting project to be involved in which incorporates Applied Research across a broad spectrum of disciplines.” Young people feel comfortable with the whole concept of avatars.

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The Project Team recently presented the ‘Health Psycology in Action‘ poster at the Tenovus Research Conference in Cardiff (SWALEC Stadium) and received very positive feedback. Furthermore, the Project has also recently been commended by the NHS Ethics committee. This is Fantastic news as the Project now progresses to phase 2. Congratulations to all involved in this highly innovative contemporary and benevolent initiative.

Dr Ian Lewis, Head of Research for Tenovus said,

“Our Tenovus Innovation Grants offer new research opportunities to discover ways to reduce the impact of cancer.  With cancer incidence in Wales amongst the highest in the world, we need to develop new and innovative ways to help support people not just throughout the duration of their cancer treatment, but beyond.”

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Mini-Video: Career opportunities in Technology

Check out this mini documentary investigating career opportunities in Technology and how to break into the IT industry:

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Guest Speaker: Andrew Thomas of Brightseed Ltd.

AndrewAndrew Thomas pictured above, a Graduate of the School of Applied Computing, now a Successful Entrepreneur and Technical Director of Brightseed Ltd. located on the Mount Pleasant Swansea Campus, recently spoke with undergraduates at the School about Entrepreneurship and openly shared what it is like to create and run your own Company. Sharing many hints and tips along the way Andrew’s talk was very inspiring and part of the University’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) programme of events.

Building on a strong technical experience gained within a large corporate environment, Brightseed was born out of the passion of providing a quality service to customers with a strong emphasis on a quality product and support.  The partnership with a strong Creative talent (Simon Lee, Creative Director) has propelled Brightseed into a strong position.

The University’s Global Entrepreneurship Week co-insides with News that the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s place as a world-leading authority on enterprise and entrepreneurship education has been further enhanced as a senior United Nations (UN) official is set to spend the next four months at the University to learn about its work and to develop new educational approaches that improve international educational provision and inform new policy developments.

For more information please click-here.

The pay and perks of a career in Information Technology (IT)

In this video, technology role models explain the rewards of working in IT and Technology:

Research: Simulation of Light with Human tissue

In this week’s post the School of Applied Computing’s Senior Research Associate, part-time Lecturer and all-round Great Guy Tim Bashford tells us about his research activities:

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I enrolled on a PhD having graduated from the University’s Software Engineering BSc Degree with first class honours.  My PhD thesis topic is rooted heavily in computational physics, developing parallelism frameworks for numerical modelling of radiative, thermal and wave propagation.  My areas of academic interest include software engineering, high performance computing, computational physics and robotics. I was born and raised in South Wales, and still live on the beautiful Gower peninsula.  Outside of work, I am a keen photographer, and enjoy computer gaming, martial arts and swimming.

My research falls into the area of simulation; how light, specifically laser light, interacts with human tissue.  There is a practical, clinical agenda for this research; lasers are now used throughout medical and cosmetic therapies for applications ranging from laser hair removal to the treatment of tumours.  It is especially with consideration of cancer treatment that my research is focused, but with the potential for application to any of the listed areas.

The Monte Carlo Method

The Monte Carlo method was developed in the late 1940s as a method of repeated random sampling to obtain numerical results.  In the case of particle physics, the Monte Carlo method was used to consolidate two distinct approaches for simulation of physical phenomena; low particle count classic mechanics problems simulated through differential equations and high particle count problems approached through statistical mechanics.  By taking a probabilistic approach, the Monte Carlo method models multiple instances of the same measurable unit to obtain a numerical result without the need for more abstract thinking.  By taking a profile of a particle and expressing it mathematically, representing the probability of a given, known event occurring, it is possible to create a computational model to simulate that particle, incorporating each potential event through the implementation of a pseudo-random number generator.  By then simulating a sufficient number of instances of the implemented particle following random events, the probability inherent in the method will result in a theoretically accurate overview.

This process for simulating the subatomic particle of light, the photon, is already well established, but based on Cartesian geometry.  This ultimately results in simulation of cuboid geometry which, while an acceptable overview, reduces the accuracy to the point that use of the data generated could introduce unnecessary risk in a clinical setting.  As such, I have developed a model whereby accurate CT or MRI data may be simulated and damage to the cells within calculated.  This theoretically will permit a medical doctor to test the outcome of a given laser treatment without risking the patient’s safety.

Computational efficiency

Due to the probabilistic nature of the Monte Carlo model, an inevitable relationship is formed between the simulated particle count, the accuracy of the result and the time taken.  The extent to which this is true varies significantly by the degree to which random number generation features in the model; a simulation which is only nominally impacted by random elements requires a smaller particle count, while for a simulation on which random numbers make a significant impact the opposite is true.

As such, it is highly desirable to simulate as many photons as possible, however in doing so, a linear relationship is formed between photon count and time taken; if 10,000 photons take 1 minute then 100,000 photons will take 10 minutes.  This is a fact of the Monte Carlo model, thus a focus on speed is instead centered on maximizing performance from hardware.

The University has its own 33 enclosure Transtec Windows High Performance Computing cluster, and an on-site 13 enclosure Fujitsu Windows/Redhat cluster provisioned by HPC Wales and it is through these supercomputers that simulations may be completed more quickly.  I have therefore ported the algorithm and associated structures to utilise the Message Passing Interface (MPI) on high performance supercomputers, resulting in order of magnitude time improvements, thus improving the clinical accuracy of the model without impacting on time taken.  The next step of this process is to port the model to the Compute Unified Device Architecture general purpose graphics processing framework, where, through use of an Nvidia Tesla module, further order of magnitude speed increases are predicted.

Growth in the Information Economy is twice the UK average.

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New research shows growth in the Information Economy is twice the UK average.

e-skills UK, Intellect and BCS have issued a new report which shows the growth in the Information Economy. The number of people working in the Information Economy industries grew 8% over the 2009-12 period – a rate four times that recorded for the UK workforce as a whole.

“This research shows that tech in the UK and the wider Information Economy is in robust health,” says Julian David of industry body Intellect. “The UK tech sector is critical to the national economy – across all industries we employ more than 1.4 million people, representing 5% of the total UK workforce. Tech in the UK sits at the heart of all kinds of activities and advances, from education to energy and from finance to fashion. This research is a timely reminder that continued economic recovery is critically dependent on digital expertise – and that the UK tech sector is well placed to lead it.”

“Employers across the Information Economy are committed to driving growth further and faster,” adds Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK. “They know that, with the right skills in place, the UK has the potential to be a global leader in the digital industries. They are working together to ensure that as a nation we have the skills base to take advantage of the opportunities. It’s rare to see such unity of purpose in an industry – but if the stakes are high, the possibilities are boundless.”

Click here for more key findings and to access to the full report.

Want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg? Find out what most schools don’t teach

Quick Pics: A Day @ School of Applied Computing 2013

ac-logo-newApplied Computing Staff and Students Learning, Teaching, Playing and Experimenting with New Technology

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