James Stovold

MEng Computer Systems and Software Engineering with a year in industry

Why did you choose to study Computer Science?

I chose to study Computer Science because I have an inate fascination with how things work. As a child, I had a tendency to take computers apart and fiddle with the insides (this was a particular problem before I knew what static electricity was!). On top of this, I had the idea that by the time I had completed my degree, almost every sector would be heavily reliant on computers and computer technology, allowing me to move into almost any area in industry.

Why did you choose to study Computer Science at the University of York?

I chose Computer Science at York because of the good reputation for teaching and the city of York is a lovely place to live. I also chose it because the interview day made me feel welcome and I got a strong feeling that I would be happy to spend at least the next five years of my life there.

How was your experience of a year in industry?

I took my industrial placements at BAE Systems in North Bristol. I worked in a group developing hyperspectral camera systems, which are essentially methods for exploiting infrared and ultraviolet light in image processing.

The Department were instrumental in the placement process. The Department's dedicated Industrial Placement Co-ordinator provided advice on the appropriate form a CV should take. The Department attracts a series of placements and the Industrial Placement Co-ordinator is very helpful - arranging in-house interviews, and being there to help throughout the placement.

The work ethic and time management skills I picked up, combined with the perspective I gained from being in industry, allowed me to focus on a specific target for the rest of my degree. It undoubtedly helped me to get a better final result.

One of the most useful aspects of taking a year in industry, however, is the experience of industry in general. In interviews I've had since I completed my placement, the focus tends to be solely on the skills I have gained from industry, and how the work I have completed in my degree may be applied to real-life situations. On top of this, the experience of working with colleagues from other disciplines (not just other sciences, but also management and finance roles) is invaluable to future employers.

What do you particularly like about being a Computer Science student at York?

There were many aspects of the course that I liked. First, I enjoyed the appropriate split between hardware and software – ensuring that all students had at least a basic knowledge of hardware, and then allowing them to specialise later. Further to this, I enjoyed the split between theory and practice, where concepts like artificial intelligence are presented from a theoretical perspective in the lectures, then applied to problems in the lab sessions. In the latter years, the focus switches from the core concepts of Computer Science to very research-led modules, focusing on the current advances in the Department’s research areas.

Would you recommend York and the Department of Computer Science?

In joining the Department of Computer Science at York, I joined a department that is internationally renowned for both its research and teaching ability. The combination of these two areas in the latter stages of the degree is one of the course’s most valuable points. By having lecturers teaching a research area that they are interested in, it draws the whole cohort of students into the research world with them, making the entire experience much more enjoyable.

The new campus, on which the Department now resides, is almost essential to the success of many of the students, as it encourages students to work between lectures, and therefore to be more engaged in the Department from the offset.

The city of York is a beautiful place to live, with an incredible atmosphere and an active nightlife. While the university is primarily based in the local village of Heslington, the journey to the centre is very short, and the city centre offers some great places to work (or enjoy yourself!), along with some spectacular views of the medieval heritage.