Dr. Mark Read

Research Fellow, Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney
Research Gate
My Research Gate

SWIN 2012 Lectures Over

Last year I wrote and delivered a lecture on the use of simulation in swarm robotic systems as part of the swarm intelligence (SWIN) computer science module. It was a valuable experience for a young academic, an insight into what life as a lecturer can be like. Whereas research associates (RAs, me) spend the bulk of their time engaged in research, lecturers have a (if the numbers are to be believed) 20,% 40%, 40% split across admin, research and teaching.

This year I prepared 3 and presented 4 lectures: an introduction to collective behaviour; an overview of simulation in swarm robotics; statistics and sensitivity analysis; and preliminary research on underwater shoaling using no communication. Again the lectures were well received. Even the stats lecture, traditionally a sleep-inducing subject, went better than I expected. The experience of doing all this has been valuable to me, and I would encourage other RAs to try their hand at it. Looking at my possible carear paths, I was unsure whether teaching would be something that drives me. Having done a bit, I enjoyed it more than I expected, however a life in academia will still be mostly research-motivated for me.

I now agree with an estimate I once heard that it takes 20 hours to prepare a lecture. I thought this was an exaggeration, but if you include literature survey, writing the lecture and materials, and reviewing it in restless hours before you deliver it, I suspect it’s about right. It was also fun to develop your presentation style a bit. This is important, and perhaps not always fully appreciated in academia. I have been near sleep in many conferences, where 8 hours of talks is pretty draining. Some physical animation mixed with humour and anecdote (as well as the material) seems to work well for me. And I suspect that students can be even harder to keep attentive than academics who have taken time out of their normal working life to be at a conference. Of course, if you really want to keep the crowd awake, you can try turning up like this guy. I haven’t resorted to this… yet.

Slides of Awareness

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona (well, Castelldefels), where in a hotel right on the beach, a collection of representatives from the Awareness project engaged in a hugely productive few days of slide writing.

Labelled a ‘slides factory’, the meeting tasked us with creating a 2 hour laymans seminar and an academic course comprising around 15 lectures on self-awareness in autonomic systems. Awareness is an EU funded coordination action focusing on this very subject, and supports the CoCoRo project on which I myself am employed. My angle was awareness in the immune system – how it functions to maintain the health of the host, without incurring autoimmunity, and where autoimmunity does occur how it can be self-regulated.

The slides factory experience was interesting, and far more productive than I would have thought possible. Both the lecture and the academic course were near completion by the end of the few days. The format was 11 people spinning ideas concerning content and message, writing sections individually, and then collecting feedback from the group. The slides have to be finalised (dotted i’s, crossed t’s) by the end of October, and at some point in the future, you may find these lectures and seminars rolled out on academic and popular science circuits!

Oh… almost forgot the beach. These guys wave-boarding with kites were quite a sight!