Ed Chalstrey

Research Data Scientist Ed Chalstrey’s journey to the Turing has taken him as far afield as Austria and Brazil. In this Spotlight, he discusses what he’s working on and the best thing about being at the Turing

Tell us about your journey before joining the Turing

Similarly to a lot of people in science, my journey wasn’t completely straightforward! After studying for a degree in biology, in which I briefly learned some programming skills for my final year project, I undertook a year-long bioinformatics internship. This was intended to be the stepping stone towards beginning a PhD. However, rather than go for the doctorate, I decided to explore the world of work outside research and worked at a FinTech company for several years. This allowed me to no longer live off a student loan – as well as work for a short time in both Austria and Brazil.

During the final two years of that job, I was lucky to work part-time whilst studying for an MSc in Bioinformatics. Not long after submitting my thesis, I discovered The Alan Turing Institute and my current role, which allowed me to pursue my passion for science whilst still having the benefit of being employed as a software developer.

What do you like most about working at the Turing?

One of the best things about working at the Turing is the variety of research taking place. In my work with the Research Engineering Group (REG), I’ve been involved with projects ranging from tackling online misinformation, to building a database of the UK’s solar photovoltaic capacity, to helping out on a major COVID-19 project.

It’s also a place where people are open to trying new things – new special interest groups and reading groups are often set up, on topics from reinforcement learning to bitcoin and entrepreneurship. I’ve benefitted from this openness by being allowed to set up The Turing Podcast. The podcast features researchers from the REG team, the wider institute and beyond discussing their work, and other topics, in the area of data science and AI.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently splitting my time between two projects: one evaluating the trustworthiness of digital identity software, and the other working to improve the Turing’s own ‘Data Safe Haven’ platform. The former has involved background research into the emerging field of privacy-enhancing technology and the security auditing of national digital identity systems, which are deployed by a variety of nation states. For the latter, I’m stress testing (and improving) the developer documentation for the platform. This is used in the Turing’s Data Study Groups and other projects conducting research that involves processing sensitive data securely.

What does your typical day look like?

Since I’m answering in 2021, my day is little different than it used to be. Nowadays, I try to go out for a walk before logging on to my computer in the morning. I find working from home isn’t that bad as my day is broken up by project meetings on Zoom and virtual coffee breaks to catch up with the team.

And finally, what is your favourite hobby?

I’m a guitarist and one advantage of these locked down times has been that I’ve been able to practise more than usual. I even treated myself to a new electric guitar a few months ago!