Learning and Autonomy within the School of Informatics at Edinburgh & Turing Fellow
Tell us about your research in 2/3 sentences?
My research is focussed on using machine learning to make autonomous robots more capable. This includes addressing issues ranging from human-robot interaction for interactive task learning to ensuring safety in decision making that is based on noisy inputs (such as images, corrupted by shadows, clutter and so on).
What do you hope is the impact of your research?
A major focus of our current research direction is the use of robotics in the medical domain, particularly in surgical assistance. I am excited about the possibility of developing sensor-guided autonomous robots that can help cancer surgeons push towards tighter margins (in this case meaning less healthy tissue is removed) and improved recovery rates.
Most memorable or challenging moment of your career so far?
Over the past few years, in addition to my roles at the University of Edinburgh and the Turing, I have been heavily involved with the start-up, Five AI. Through this work, I have found it particularly gratifying to see ideas that first arose in my academic lab translated into solutions that have been successfully used in field trials. Not only have we shown interesting ways to address thorny issues in urban autonomous driving, but this experience has now given me fresh ideas regarding approaches to achieving safety in AI-based systems.
What has been your highlight at the Turing so far?
My Turing project, Safe AI for surgical assistance, has provided the mechanism to kick start serious collaborations with cancer surgeons and with scientists developing novel sensors. I have found these interactions to be intellectually stimulating in ways that remind me, pleasantly, of my early days as a graduate student.
What’s the most surprising thing people should know about you?
I have lived in nine different cities on three continents (so far) – although this fact may perhaps not be that surprising to some academics.
What was the last film you watched?
I last watched the TV series, Star Trek: Picard, which I really enjoyed.
When not working, what can you be found doing?
Free time is increasingly more precious these days. When not shuttling our daughter between sports and music practice or playing with our toddler son, I enjoy dabbling in some painting and learning to play the saxophone.