Posted by: technofutures | December 24, 2008

Cambridge Michaelmas Weeks 5-8

So… it’s been a month and a half? With lots of work behind, I thought it would be time to finish writing up this blog post which has been dying to be published for several weeks…

Let me start by going way back and complete the term in Cambridge!

IT Exhibition

The 12th November saw the Annual Cambridge University IT Exhibition, in which I was fortunate to be allowed to exhibit on behalf of Microsoft. On my stall, ‘Microsoft for Students and Staff’, I exhibited about many Microsoft academic promotions such as Dreamspark, the Imagine Cup and the Ultimate Steal. It was a lovely day and I talked and met with many interesting people.

 PB110610               CIMG3948

CUED Prize-Ceremony

A highlight of the year which I unfortunately missed as it was on the same day as the IT exhibition… Thank you very much to i2 for sponsoring the prize I was awarded for my Third-year ‘Computer-Based project’ on ‘The Design of a new evaporator control system for a petro-chemical plant’.

Christmas Lights in Cambridge

As many of you know, I’m very fond of Christmas, and so it will come as no surprise that I made sure I was there for the official ‘switch-on’ of the Christmas lights in Cambridge, an ‘event’ which I had missed the past three years… Cambridge Market Square was packed, and after a somewhat rushed countdown, a couple of hundred bulbs illuminated the facade of Cambridge City Council… a lot of hype for a few lights, but it was nice all the same!


Project Presentation

One of the undoubted milestones of this term was the highly-anticipated 4th-year project presentation… It was a chance to summarize our work this term to an audience of PhD students, post-docs and intimidating doctors from the Machine Intelligence Laboratory :). The questions were more challenging than I had expected, but overall it was a very useful experience. For those interested in what I have been working on this term, click on the image below for a copy of my presentation:


Captcha Presentation

As a way to relax after the project presentation, I headed off to a fascinating talk held by the Computing Department’s security group, on the methods of cracking captchas, which ranged from the ridiculously easy (but apparently effective!) method used of counting pixels to discriminate between letters and numbers to more complex methods of segmenting up letters in captchas for decryption. I found it very amusing how the techniques they described were very basic and yet so effective at cracking even the most complex ones used today by companies such as Yahoo, Google and Microsoft- and I found especially amusing the times when the speaker had a good laugh at the expense of engineers who try to apply complex image pattern processing to this problem… I strategically neglected to reveal which department I was affiliated with and did not reveal that I had just completed a 16 lecture course on pattern processing in order to avoid becoming the laughing stock of the assembly 🙂 It’s as I always believed: there are ways of solving problems without probability!


Final weeks

The final weeks in Cambridge were not the most enjoyable. I was exceedingly ill for the last two weeks of term with a bad case of my favourite illness: the common cold (probably brought on after waiting 30 minutes for a bus after the Captcha presentation in freezing rain)… Despite this, I pulled myself out of bed to go and watch the project presentations of my friends in the Signal Processing Lab, but didn’t regret it given the very interesting topics many presented on, ranging from intelligent image editing to cheating and gambling methods! The Staff-Student Joint Committee Election also took place and I was re-elected to 4th year Representative (OK… I’ll admit… without opposition… funny how no-one wants to apply for this committee- it’s actually quite goof fun trying to debate decade-old issues hoping that one day they may be resolved!).

In my illness I, of course, had a plethora of courseworks to complete: one for my Control System Design (4F1) course and the other for my Nanotech (4B5) class. The control system design was much harder than I had expected- it was a matter of designing a two-degree of freedom lag-lead compensator to stabilize and unstable plant… Going off on an incorrect tangent at the start combined with a murdering headache didn’t help, but I eventually got there… The nanotech coursework was very interesting in that it also explored many quantum mechanics concepts learnt in class such as the nature of wave-packets, and their behaviour at potential steps and barriers, including quantum tunneling. Fascinating stuff…

When I got home, I started work on my 4E1, Technological Innovation coursework, which took much longer to do than I had expected due to the enormous amount of information I collected on my chosen topic: “An analysis of the key developments and innovations in the optical-disc storage industry”. It was also great since it allowed me to use some of the material I have been developing at the European Patent Office for the last few years on Patents and Technological Innovation… As soon as the coursework has been marked (start of the term), I will post of copy on here to share with you the (I hope…)interesting findings that I put together…! 

Visit to NanoScience Centre

On Thursday 4th Dec, a group of us accepted an offer to visit the university’s Nanoscience centre as Dr Durkan kindly gave us a tour of the facilities, which included lots of Atomic Force Microscopes and STMs… We didn’t visit the clean rooms as I had done in my first year, but it was a worthwhile visit all the same!


London visit

After the visit to the Nanoscience centre, I rushed off to London for a blitz-shopping-visit, and to meet up with my sister and Dad who were in London for a university Open Day… Suffice it to say, my feet hurt considerably after a delightful afternoon of Christmas shopping which included Harrods in Knightsbridge (impressive…), Hamleys, Picadilly, Regent Street, Oxford Street, Tottenham Court and concluded with a quick visit to the Westfield Shopping Centre (Europe’s largest one!) and a quick stop to say hi to Big Ben! And let’s not forget the quick photo in Warren Street which involved jumping off the tube, snapping the photo below and jumping back on!!!


PC040002 PC040008

Regent Street and Hamleys:

PC040024 PC040019

My good friend Wall-E in Hamleys:


Oxford Street:

PC040029 PC040037

Westfield Centre:

PC040041 PC040043

Anyway… a lovely day out, even though it was crazy running around without a pause to breathe!

So that concluded the term in Cambridge. Lots and lots and lots of work and sleepless nights, but it’s done… In my next post I’ll try to summarize some of the fun things I’ve been up to this month!



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