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Adrian McMenamin

PhD in Computer Science

Physical and intellectual invigoration

Wednesday 13th February 2013

As a part-time PhD student with a full-time job I have to ration my trips to the campus at York and this week I have to confess I made the trip with less enthusiasm than usual - pressure at work and a feeling that I had run into something of a brick wall as I began to consider real experiments and what my supervisor calls "inventions".

But I came away feeling both intellectually and physically reinvigorated and wishing I'd been there for longer.

Simply sitting in the library makes a huge difference: surrounded by books and by students working (York's undergraduates seem to treat the library a bit more seriously than those at Edinburgh in the 1980s - certainly the noise level is generally lower) is a stimulus all of its own. But rather more importantly my supervisor was able to put my thoughts and worries into context and restore some confidence.

My research is into operating systems on "Network on a Chip" (NoC) devices. NoCs are likely to be an important part of the future of computing, as they, in theory at least, will continue to deliver faster and more computationally powerful devices despite increasing problems caused by heat and power demands in more traditional system designs.

But NoCs are also a very young technology and questions of how to get the best out of them are largely open. Do we apply the experience of existing parallel computing devices or something more radical still? And, in essence, my supervisor urged me to consider whether my assumptions, based on existing computing paradigms, were the correct ones.

As for the physical side - coming to York I once again hired a bike and used that to get around. Returning home I had some ache in my legs but a sense of having made some real progress.

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