The University of Nottingham: Inside the epicentre of computer science innovation
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The University of Nottingham: Inside the epicentre of computer science innovation

How we learn, live and work is digitising rapidly. According to the Gartner IT Roadmap for Digital Transformation, 91% of businesses are engaged in a digital initiative of some form. The global digital transformation hit US$1.51 trillion in 2021 and is projected to reach US$6.78 trillion in 2029, a report by Fortune Business Insights found.

Academics everywhere are working to get ahead of this — including Neelima Sailaja. As a Transitional Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, she looks into the responsible innovation of AI and the Internet of Things. “I study aspects such as technology sustainability, the ethics of AI, and Human Data Interaction,” she explains. 

Sailaja is part of the School of Computer Science, where ground-breaking research such as hers is being conducted on a daily basis. Here, global experts in user experience design, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and data science gather to develop future technology. From preserving the detection of online misinformation to communicating liability in autonomous vehicles, they work together on world-defining projects that have a major impact. 

One such project of Sailaja’s was titled “Fixing the Future: The Right to Repair and Equal IoT,” developed in conjunction with the universities of Edinburgh, Lancaster and Napier. “Here, we look into the legal, design and HCI aspects of the Right to Repair of Internet of Things devices,” she says. “As part of this, we engage with various stakeholders, including designers, manufacturers, policy enthusiasts, repairers and users, running workshops, interviews, ethnography and community initiatives across the UK.”

At Nottingham, students have plenty of opportunities to engage in research efforts, as well. MSc in Cyber Physical Systems student Binitha, for example, has spent the past seven months focusing on enhancing the privacy and security of smart home devices. Along the way, she’s developed skills in project management, collaboration, and communication, which she believes will prepare her for a wide range of career paths. 

“Throughout my research journey, my supervisor has been incredibly supportive and has provided me with valuable feedback whenever necessary,” she says. “In addition to my supervisor’s guidance, my university offers numerous resources that have been helpful for my research, such as the Centre for English Language Education and NUsearch. These resources have enabled me to explore a wide range of literature and data that are relevant to my research and have significantly contributed to my project.” .”

Binitha is in an environment that fosters innovation and curiosity. And according to Sailaja, it offers a varied spectrum of ongoing research that an early-career researcher could benefit from. One is the Horizon Digital Economy Hub, a multidisciplinary centre of excellence for Digital Economy research. The Cobot Maker Space advances the exploration, research and design of human-robot interaction. 

Then there’s the Mixed Reality Laboratory, an interdisciplinary group studying the potential of ubiquitous, mobile and interactive technologies in shaping everyday life. 

“The Mixed Reality Laboratory is an exemplar of world-leading Human-Computer Interaction research: publishing consistently at high impact, international conferences and journals, conducting research that often challenges the current status quo, and pushing the boundaries of research by reimagining technology-rich futures,” shares Sailaja. 

Many of these research projects, including Sailaja’s, are conducted jointly with partners from industry, academia and policy. As a renowned Russell Group university, Nottingham has established working relationships with significant organisations and individuals in the UK and around the globe. It gives students plenty of exposure to the challenges of academia and the working world — helping them gain the skills and expertise needed to thrive in their chosen fields. 

“I supervise and mentor students both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels,” says Sailaja. “In a lot of my projects, I ensure the student projects are aligned with larger research projects so that they can observe and learn from research in the wider team. At the same time, they are motivated to make substantial contributions to these projects, which could also result in publications or future opportunities.”

University of Nottingham

At the University of Nottingham, all initiatives are possible — as student Binitha can attest. Source: The University of Nottingham

Binitha fully benefits from this, especially from how they pair so well with what she gains from her favourite classes: Cybersecurity, Malware Analysis, and Topical Trends in Computer Security. “I find these modules fascinating because of the way they are structured, and the labs were both fun and engaging. I enjoy learning about the different types of threats that exist in the digital world and understanding how to defend against them,” she says. “In particular, Malware Analysis is an exciting subject because it involves dissecting malicious code to understand how it works. The labs for these modules are always interesting and allow me to apply the knowledge I have gained in a practical setting.”

Binitha is confident her education at Nottingham’s School of Computer Science has prepared her to reach her long-term goal of becoming a cybersecurity consultant or analyst. 

“The University of Nottingham has provided me with a solid foundation in cybersecurity and equipped me with the necessary technical skills,” the Indian student says. “At the same time, it has opened up new opportunities that I had not previously considered. I am excited to take what I have learned and apply it to the next phase of my career, confident that I am well-equipped to tackle whatever challenges come my way.”

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