Shoot for the stars

Dr Robert Lyon

At Edge Hill, you’ll be taught by experts like Dr Robert Lyon. Robert is a programme leader on our BSc (Hons) Robotics & Artificial Intelligence course, and brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and research with him into the curriculum.

“I’ve always been passionate about solving big data challenges, and seek out opportunities where I can help solve problems with machine learning and automated systems. In the years leading up to joining Edge Hill as a lecturer, and still to this day, I’ve been lucky enough to apply my expertise in machine learning and AI to international, world-leading projects. One of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on so far is the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which is a new radio telescope being developed by an international team of scientists and engineers. This will be the world’s largest radio telescope, and the most sophisticated scientific instrument ever constructed. My involvement in this project is centred upon developing machine learning algorithms and software tools that are able to process the vast quantities of data produced by the telescope. This particular project has taken me around the world, to places like Silicon Valley in the United States and Cape Town in South Africa, and is just one example of how exciting a career in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence can be.

At the moment, I’m working on a few research projects that reflect the diversity of where machine learning and AI can make a huge contribution to change. For example, I’m currently leading a project funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council that aims to use machine learning methods to improve radiotherapy treatment for cancer patients. We’re hoping to achieve this by teaching machines to detect abnormal regions in medical images and highlight issues much earlier in the treatment process. Once the machine learning element of the project is a success, we will then develop networks to teach medical professionals how they can use this new tool to solve real-world problems – which I hope will make a huge difference to the outcomes of many people.

Students can get involved with similar projects, too – Edge Hill’s Student Opportunity Fund has allowed us to offer computer science students the chance to help build a system that can recognise cancer cells in histology data, and earn some extra cash while building their experience and skills. It’s a great way for our students to boost their employability – having their name on a published research paper will really stand out to employers!

Another area of my research is in astronomy and astrophysics, which focuses on the ways machine learning and AI can allow technologies to search for things like Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), Pulsars, and other strange and wonderful things in the sky. This is achieved by labelling huge amounts of data, pointing out what normal things like stars and satellites should look like, and creating an algorithm that can be used to search for anomalies that aren’t usually there – like asteroids, and extra-terrestrial signals. It’s a really cool way to apply machine learning to systems that help us learn about the universe all around us!

Dr Robert Lyon
Dr Robert Lyon

As well as being a programme leader for BSc (Hons) Robotics & Artificial Intelligence, I also teach on modules including ‘Programming Concepts to Construction’ and ‘Object-orientated Programming’. When I’m planning new modules and developing the curricula for our students, I make sure to apply the knowledge and experience I’ve gained from working in the sector. This is one of the best ways to ensure students learn what they need to know to succeed in the industry when they graduate.

Learning about AI and machine learning at University will allow you to apply your knowledge and skills in pretty much any type of organisation you choose. It’s used everywhere, in almost every transaction you make. Your iPhone’s face recognition, social media adverts, the order of your Google search results, your bank’s security features – all these every day interactions are determined by intelligent algorithms programmed by AI and machine learning specialists.

As far as career pathways go, the possibilities are endless. Graduate job opportunities in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are amongst the highest paid roles in the computer science and IT sector, and demand for these roles is only increasing. If you’re ready to apply yourself and take on a new learning challenge, then the doors that will open… you won’t believe.”