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Robert Gordon University lecturer ‘toasts’ his graduation success


Robert Gordon University Researcher Sandy Brownlee (26), originally from New Deer, will graduate from his institution at 2.30pm on Friday 17 July with a PhD from the School of Computing. He will conclude nine years of study at the University and has stepped down as Secretary of State for Toast with the Toast Appreciation Society!

Sandy originally came to the School of Computing, which was then the School of Computing and Maths, in 2000 to study the BSc in Computer Science. He said, ‘Lots of things attracted me to the course, the main reason being how practical it was as it involved a year-long industrial placement.' This, coupled with the University's reputation for graduate employment, convinced Sandy it was the right course for him.

He continues, ‘Over the five years it took me to complete my degree I made some good friends and had a great time, with some fond memories of the different lecturers. I also gained experience of the strange world of marine biology during my placement at the Marine Laboratory.'

Sandy also secured a grant to carry out a summer research project on genetic algorithms for chemotherapy optimisation. He explains, ‘Genetic algorithms are computer programs which mimic Darwinian evolution to solve problems over time. They do this by having a simulated population of possible solutions which are combined with each other and compete for survival, the idea being that you finish with the best solution to the problem.

‘This project completely changed my outlook on computing; seeing a practical application which could really help people and the excitement of taking part in research which no-one had done before.

‘After I finished my degree I was interested in continuing research into evolutionary computation. I was given funding by the University to carry out my PhD, entitled ‘Multivariate Markov Networks for Fitness Modelling in an Estimation of Distribution Algorithm', which I completed in May.

‘The great thing about research is exploring the unknown and trying things because they're interesting. I've been given the opportunity to work with researchers from universities across the world and take part in projects such as medical applications, which is very rewarding.'
‘I also really enjoyed having the opportunity to carry out some teaching in intranet systems development at the end of last year. I also assisted in teaching genetic algorithms and some java programming and started to get involved with the Student Association. I was elected as a student member of the University's Board of Governors and met a lot of interesting people and was party to a range of important decisions such as the University's relocation to Garthdee.

‘I was also involved in organising social events for PhD students in the Research Student Association such as the Student Debating Society and, my favourite, being Secretary of State for Toast with the Toast Appreciation Society!'

Sandy currently works as a software engineer with ODS-Petrodata Ltd, is continuing his research in his spare time and is also Chairman of North East Scotland Youth for Christ charity. He concludes, ‘Robert Gordon University and the School of Computing have played a big part in my life and I'll always be extremely fond of my time there.'