Amy Fleming, BSc Computer Science Innovation

Current BSc Computer Science Innovation student Amy Fleming, from the UK, gained 'real experience whilst expanding her programming skills' during her internship with Lancaster Material Analysis.

How and why did you choose to work with an organisation?

"I was recruited to work with Lancaster Material Analysis (LMA) through the Science and Technology Internship Programme. As a second year computer science student, my degree focuses on various areas of computing, particularly programming. Therefore, when I saw this placement advertised I felt like this would be a good experience for me to develop my programming skills further and also learn about a different branch of computing (image processing) which I had not experienced much in my degree thus far.

"What appealed to me about the company was their connection with the university (members of the company either worked for or had studied at Lancaster) and how they were doing new, innovative things with image analysis, and I really wanted to be a small part of that."

Had you worked with a business before starting your internship with the company?

"I had done an internship last year with a networking company."

What problem did the organisation face? What did they ask you to do to help them?

"LMA was trying to find a way of making their image analysis of nanoscale structures more efficient, that is, developing a program that would streamline this process. They wanted someone with a computing background who understood software, as the company did not have someone with these skills available."

What skills did you use and develop working with the company? 

"Initially I had to learn more about image analysis to fully understand what program they wanted me to make, so I had to do research into image processing and AFM. Then, I had to use my knowledge of programming to work out what platform would be best for developing the program. I had to then research programs already out which I could use as a base (i.e. could interpret AFM files) and further develop. Once I found a program, I had to learn how to use the program, which in turn lead to developing skills in creating plugins using the programs API effectively.

"Other skills used were that of a more professional level. I had to be self-sufficient, keeping track of my hours, and keeping a log of what I did each day. I also developed my report writing as I wrote a detailed report explaining the plugin I had created."

What did you do for the business?

"I developed a software plug-in for ImageJ, a Java-based programme which can be used for image analysis. The plug-in builds on a previously built plug-in for AFM file analysis by allowing the user to detect edges in the image by using an interface."

Did you get paid for your work?

"I worked for 140 hours, with pay of £6.50 an hour."

What was the best thing you think you did for the business?

"Through my research I was able to improve the company’s efficiency in their image analysis, making edge detection quicker and simpler to visualise. I also gave them the base of a plugin which they can further develop in the future."

What was the best thing about the project for you?

"The best thing about the internship was gaining real experience and having a product to show for it at the end. It was also really good to become better at time management and expanding my programming skills."

What career do you hope to pursue at the end of your course and how has your project helped you achieve that? Did it help you make any decisions on your career?

"This is probably not what I want to do as a career, however it did help me develop my programming skills which are always going to be needed."

What’s it’s like studying at Lancaster University?

"Lancaster is a great place to work, live and play in. The campus is a friendly place, with something always going on, and plenty of societies and sports clubs to join. The collegiate system allows students to have a home away from home, and gives you the ability to constantly meet new people regardless of your degree. The staff are experts in their field, many being researchers alongside lecturing."

Would you recommend your course to prospective students? If so, why?

"Computer Science opens up so many doors to your future, and studying at Lancaster allows you to explore your choices as you study. The degree encompasses a wide range of topics, from software development, to networking, to human computer interaction. Along side the degree, you have the chance to take part in summer internships, which can help you decide which area you would like to specialise in after your degree."