PhD Computer Science (Companion Robotics)
Education:2016-2019 Northumbria Uni PhD. 2011-2015 Greenwich Uni BSc. 2009-2011 Wilson’s Hospital School
Qualifications:BSc (Honours) Mathematics 1st Class, Leaving Certificate (Higher): A1 (Biology), A1 (Russian), A2 (Physics).
Work History:IEEE, Sage, IBM - the full story here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dereshev/
PhD Student Full Time
I study designs of companion robots and how to improve them
I give people smart speakers (Amazon Echo), and companion robots (Jibo, Buddy, and Pepper) and see what they do with them. I transform that knowledge into design advice so that future developers can make better robots for all of us!
As a researcher, you are almost like a detective: it is interesting, intense, and it throws unexpected results at you! Here’s a typical process:
- You find a good idea or question (your “case”). This could come from anywhere – you see it in the news, you have shower thoughts, or perhaps you read about something and it strikes you.
- You check if anyone else has done any work on it (the evidence you don’t need to test yourself).
- You design an experiment that would bring you closer to understanding that idea or answering that question (the “crime scene”).
- You conduct the experiment (and collect new evidence).
- You analyse what data you’ve got from it (put evidence together and re-create the story of your case).
- Once you are confident in your findings, you publish them (you “expose the case”), so the rest of the world can read your ideas, develop their own, and generally benefit from the work that you’ve done.
My Typical Day
Writing it all up.
There’s 1 exam after 3 years of full-time PhD, and you need 2 things to pass: a ~200 pages write up of all of the experiments you did, why you did them, and what you found out (that’s the thesis); and an oral examination, where you spend 2-3 hours defending your work in front of 2 very knowledgeable people, who are very keen to test you (that’s the viva). There’s a good video explaining this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7ihcJk2sKY
The good side is: you are the one who both sets the question and writes up the answer, so the game is rigged in your favour, so to speak.
The challenge is: there is no set curriculum, there are no set answers, and it’s impossible to know if you are fully prepared. So, a big part of your defence is to know your field of work really well, to be able to critique others’ work and your own, and to justify every decision you made along the way.
It’s a fantastic thing if you feel like you really need to know more than the school books tell you (that’s how I felt throughout my school and university), but you gotta be courageous to step on this path, for you need to be able to defend and argue your case well.
How I got into this job
I've finished with the first class Bachelors, and that paved way into PhD.
I finished a BSc (Honours) in pure mathematics, and decided to discover more about companion robots. From what little I’d heard about them, they sounded really fascinating!
I looked at various websites that advertised PhD courses (like https://www.findaphd.com), and short-listed a dozen options. Then I proceeded to contact the professors who led the PhD courses I was interested in, and one of them turned out to be a very promising match!
I travelled from London to Newcastle to visit his lab and to talk to him personally, to make sure I was making the right choice. We had a lovely chat and he agreed to supervise me!
After that I applied formally and got accepted onto the course, and here I am 99% done!
What's the best thing you've ever done in your career?
I am accepted to present my work at the most prestigious conference in my field!
What advice would you give someone who wants to be in the same career as you?
Get a Bachelors degree in one of the sciences, maths, or computing. In your final year look for specific projects that need your skills (e.g. here: https://www.findaphd.com). Apply for several, and go from there.
What do you see as your next step in your career?
Get a fellowship to do more research into companion robots, do some teaching to share my passion and knowledge, and/or satiate my appetite for numbers with data science or analysis.
What other sorts of jobs can you do with your qualifications?
Accountancy | Aerospace & Defence | Automotive | Biosciences | Business support services | Chemicals | Construction | Consultancies | Education | Engineering | Environment | Exploration Geophysics | Financial Services | Government | Healthcare | Insurance | IT & Computing | Manufacturing | Media | Operational Research | Pharmaceuticals | Academic Research | Science | Telecoms | Transport/Travel | Utilities – the list goes on. Having a PhD increases your starting salary and opens up advanced positions as well.
What's the best part of your current job?
Freedom and control over workload, goals and time
What don't you like about your current job?
Sometimes the amount of things you need to read through is overwhelming