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Megan Long

Career Path: PhD Researcher, University of East Anglia
Location: Norfolk, UK

I knew that once I finished my undergraduate and integrated masters course that I wanted to do a PhD. Although I studied physics and astrophysics, I actually found my PhD at a Biology institute. I made my application in the Summer after graduating from Northumbria, and after having a couple of interviews I was offered the position.

What are you doing now?Megan Long

I am currently in my second year of my PhD at the John Innes Centre. I have moved away from Physics, however I am still working with people from a physics background. I am now working in what is primarily a Biology institute, although I am working predominantly with a computer, taking part in some deep learning/ AI research. My project's main goal is to create a deep learning model which can help identify and quantify disease on wheat plants in an automated fashion. The reason this is important is because we need to ensure that we have enough food to feed the growing world population, and plant diseases are really hindering this. Breeders are trying to breed crops which have resistance to various diseases, but this takes years of effort and can be very difficult. Many diseases look very similar in the field and multiple diseases can appear at once and it takes a highly trained pathologist a lot of time to classify and quantify them during the breeding process. My aim is to automate the classification and quantification of the diseases using deep learning methods, so that the time of pathologists can be used elsewhere and hopefully I can also improve the accuracy of these measurements.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

I visited friends who started at Northumbria the year before I did, and straight away I loved the city. When I decided to look at attending university, I found that Northumbria was one of the few universities that had a physics with astrophysics course. The open day I attended after applying really cemented my choice. The lecturers I met were so enthusiastic and friendly, and actually wanted to be there, which is not something I could say about lecturers from another universities  that I visited. The facilities in the university department also enticed me, there was plenty of work and study space, the labs were very new and up to date.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

I loved studying at Northumbria. I found the mix of lectures, seminars and labs was really good. All of my lecturers were enthusiastic and helpful and I felt comfortable going and asking for help and advice throughout my time there.

What was the best thing about your course?

The best thing about my course was the enthusiasm of the lecturers, and the friends I made along the way.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

Although I'm no longer in the field of physics, I have taken a lot of the mathematics and computing/ coding knowledge I gained during my degree with me into my PhD. The position advertised called for biologists and computer scientists, but I was confident that my physics background would work equally well, if not better.. and it has served me well so far!

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

The skills/ knowledge I've used most so far are definitely those I gained from the coding assignments. I am not using the same coding languages or packages I used at Northumbria, but a lot of the skills from these have been very transferable nonetheless. Even though I didn't always get the best grade in my coding assignments, I have actually learned a lot from the feedback and mistakes I made on these slightly lower grades, which has helped me greatly over the last year or so.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

I enjoyed making new friends and participating in societies most about my time at Northumbria.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

Do it. It's a lovely environment, where I always felt comfortable and safe.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Fun, educational and happy.

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