Category Archives: Students

First Goldsmiths computing phd student passes their viva online

Dr Fatima Sabiu Maikore is the first Goldsmiths Computing PhD student to complete a successful online Viva. Alongside her studies Fatima works full time as a lecturer at Baze University, Abuja and is based in Nigeria.  

Dr Fatima Sabiu Maikore is a researcher whose work has very clear real-life applications. She used her time as a PhD student to address challenges that clinical labs face when developing and using standard operating procedures (SOPs). These SOPs are guidance for workers to safely and correctly complete their work when running tests in the lab.  

Fatima’s research developed a framework which includes a formal data model, a natural language processing tool to convert existing SOPs into machine readable format, and a mobile application for use within the clinical labs. Her mobile app is already being used by clinical lab practitioners to allow them to quickly and easily access the information they need to safely complete tests in the lab.  

As her PhD research came to an end, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Since Fatima is based in Nigeria, she had to cancel her trip to London for her Viva. She was initially nervous to be the first PhD student to complete an online Viva in the Department of Computing. A trial meeting to test the signal had not gone so well and she feared poor signal could throw her off or cut off the call completely.  

However, on the day of the viva, the call went extremely well and by the time it was halfway through, she forgot she wasn’t in the same room with her examiners. Knowing that her supervisor was logged into the call, even though her camera and mic were off as she wasn’t allowed to contribute, gave her an added strength and confidence.  

Fatima’s journey to her doctorate has been varied,  she completed her undergraduate studies at the American University Nigeria and her Masters at the University of Manchester. She knew she was passionate about academia, but also knew she wanted to move back home to Nigeria after her Masters to get married and settle into her life before pursuing a PhD, so she did just that.  

After a few years she was ready to pursue her PhD, she started at Brunel working with Dr Larisa Soldatova. She enjoyed her studies and found Dr Soldatova to be a great mentor however the move to London was hard and as she was now balancing her studies with two young children. Eventually she opted to take her studies part time and move back to Nigeria. During this time Dr Soldatova left Brunel and joined the team at Goldsmiths, Department of Computing and Fatima made the decision to come with her.  

Since then, she worked remotely to finish her PhD. Once her minor amendments are completed, she hopes to work at a prestigious university where she can broaden her research experience and eventually bring her skills back to Nigeria to contribute to the national research environment there.  

What impact will Covid-19 have on my future career?

This blog was written by Eilidh Macdonald, Industry Employability Champion, Department of Computing, Goldsmiths and is intended to give advice to students, no matter what stage of their studies, to think through their future career during this crisis.

In this post I have pulled together some insights around the impact of COVID-19 on the graduate recruitment market. In a rapidly changing situation, this is an attempt to help current students get a feel for some of the views of employers, recruitment companies, the press and one of our ex-students.

I have not included freelancing here – that will pose its own challenges. Many lecturers have had or still have freelancing careers or know people who have so for help please do reach out.

The key message is to not give up hope, to try and work on your profile during this difficult time and continue to apply for opportunities. We are here to help you in the department and we are working closely with the Careers Service, who are available for online one-to-one sessions and other support.

What can you do to help future career plans?

  • Be flexible and open-minded
  • Keep looking for opportunities (e.g. Gradcracker, Ratemyplacement, Indeed.com, LinkedIn)
  • Keep in touch with employers if you have had previous conversations about work or even a job or placement offer
  • Work on your online portfolio and LinkedIn profile
  • Have a look at postgraduate courses if there is an area of development you would like to focus on
  • Think about getting some volunteering experience, especially where you can use your technical skills
  • Make use of our Career Services e.g. book a 1:1 appointment; get a CV check; do a practice interview. Book through CareerSpace
  • Access resources on the VLE Employability Portal, including videos on how to prepare for general and technical interviews. More to come soon
  • Take part in our weekly Online employability/careers drop ins

Impact of COVID-19

Recruitment is severely affected but it hasn’t stopped. Many placement opportunities are on hold or even cancelled and businesses are scaling back their graduate recruitment. However we are seeing placement opportunities moving from on-site to virtual and in the technology sector this is easier to do. The recruitment process is also moving online, so expect interviews being held over Skype or zoom or even telephone interviews.

Last month a survey with employers was conducted by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE). Numbers have probably shifted in the meantime but the figure below gives an indication of mainly larger employers opinions about hiring.

Figure taken from ‘COVID-19 Challenges for student recruitment and development’ report, ise, March 2020

Tristram Hooley, Chief Research Officer at ISE summarises the potential effects in a recent blog post:

  • In the short-term employers will be managing the chaos of the lockdown and its aftermath and many will delay or cancel normal recruitment
  • In the medium-term, graduates will be operating within a more competitive labour market
  • In the long-term, this year’s students will be graduating at the start of a recession that could last for some time.

Other ISE insights (from recent webinar):

  • Many employers have paused recruitment e.g. where current staff have been furloughed.
  • Many are hoping to restart recruitment in June/July for September starts
  • ISE summary view: For now, at least, student recruiters seem to be reacting cautiously and avoiding panic

What do employers say?

“Even in this crisis, some employers are booming. Technology companies, the food sector and logistics firms are busier than ever. You might not end up with the job you hoped for but you can get a job.”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute

The ISE think that there will be growth in the public sector, so this could be another area to look at in your job searches and research into potential areas of work.

Charlie Ball, labour market analyst and speaker, sees the following trends:

  • Postgraduate course demand will rise
  • Demand for healthcare, some forms of logistics, some forms of supermarket retail and hardware/networking roles is holding up well
  • Demand for roles in finance and IT looks to be down a bit but activity is currently going on
  • Hospitality, entertainment, public transport, some sales and some business services has been hit significantly

Alison Partridge, OneTech Managing Director at Capital Enterprise:

“The unemployment rate in the UK has doubled in less than a month due to COVID 19 and over 1 million young people will be leaving full time education this summer and face limited employment prospects. As in other recessions or economic shocks, interest and demand to start a business will rocket upwards from the new army of unemployed and as is the case now, starting a business in the tech sector or starting a business that is digitally enabled for marketing, sales and distribution will offer the best opportunities for success for these first time entrepreneurs.

At Capital Enterprise we have been fortunate to secure additional funding from JP Morgan to launch a new StartUp Resilience Programme for tech founders who can’t access the help they need elsewhere.”

Some other insights from recruiters:

  • Indeed say that internship opportunities are drying up
  • LinkedIN say that finance and IT are weathering the storm and many roles have gone virtual

What do our Alumni say?

Nathaniel Okenwa, who graduated from our Business Computing course last year is now a Tech Evangelist at Twilio. This is what he advised students:

“I am very fortunate that my company has not been significantly affected financially by Covid-19, however I know quite a few friends working in software who have been laid off or furloughed.

One thing that this has highlighted to me is how important it is to curate an identity outside of your day job. Put out blog content, start a podcast or stream your coding sessions on Twitch. I have been amazed by the creativity I am seeing from developers as they move from working in person to creating online content.

Having content online is a great way to stand out when you are looking for a job in these times. It’s always good news for an employer if they google your name and see that you have great content and a following online.

So get out there. Highlight the things that you enjoy building. People will notice”

I hope this summary has helped give you a very general view of the impact of COVID-19 on current student recruitment. Please share your experiences with me so that we can help other students through this time.

Using Machine Learning to Design Movement Interaction in VR

Written by Nicola Plant, a researcher on the 4i project.

In celebration of International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th of March 2020, Nicola Plant, Carlos Gonzalez Diaz and Clarice Hilton from Goldsmiths Computing, ran a special workshop on Using Machine Learning to Design Movement Interaction in VR for a half-day hackathon held at the Tate Exchange. Organised by the people at the XR Diversity Initiative to help make XR more accessible, the event aims to inspire under-represented groups to pursue a career in XR fields and celebrate the stories of women, the female form and movement. There were also workshops teaching 3D sketching in Google Tiltbrush, creating 360 film and non-linear storytelling in immersive technologies. The XRDI hackathon was a part of Digital Maker Collective running a full week of events exploring digital and emerging technologies in the context of arts practice, education, society and the creative industries.

Our participants were a diverse group ranging from theatre directors, visual artists, developers, dance practitioners, academics and more, all interested in learning about how to better bring immersive technologies to their fields.

During the workshop our participants gained a working understanding of how to use machine learning when designing movement interaction for immersive technologies, along with an introduction to VR in Unity. We started with an active, hands-on session exploring full body movement practices to facilitate designing compelling movement techniques. Then dived into learning interactive machine learning concepts and how to apply them to recognise and implement movement interaction designs in immersive environments using our InteractML tool (interactml.com).

To demonstrate the potential of what our participants could achieve with the tool, the team built a special set of VR artworks inspired by female artists that have exhibited their work at the Tate Modern, the setting for our workshop. These included virtual homages to Louise Bourgeois’ ‘Maman’, Kara Walkers ‘Fons Americanus’ and Yoyoi Kusamas ‘Infinity Mirror Room’, each showcasing how various machine learning algorithms can facilitate different movement interaction techniques to control visual elements within each work.

Although many of our participants did not have any previous experience in machine learning or immersive technologies, in a little over three and a half hours our participants were able to implement their movement interaction designs by configuring and training a machine learning model with the tool, allowing them to control light colours, show different animations or control the flow of fountain water just by moving in VR.

This workshop was part of the EPSRC funded research project, 4i: Immersive Interaction design of Indie developers using Interactive machine learning. This is a joint project with University of Coventry, University of the Arts, London, Gibson/Martelli and CodeLiberation.


Meet the students from HTC Vive Developers Jam

On Jan 24th – 26th, Goldsmiths Department of Computing, ran a Virtual Reality Hackathon weekend with HTC Vive. Participants were challenged to use VIVE hardware, including Software development kits like eye, lip and hand tracking to create an innovative virtual reality project. Meet some of the Goldsmiths student teams who wowed the judges with their unqiue and brilliant projects.

Group 1: Active Listening Training in VR

(aka the winners of the HTC Vive Hackathon 2020)

Our team had a very strong technical strength, with extensive knowledge in machine learning, VR and Unity development”

Carlos Gonzalez Diaz

What was the biggest challenge?

For this group the biggest challenge was the use of eye tracking, as well as the additional challenge of adding experimental sensors together. This team experimented with movement, mouth, eye, fingers and EEG (brain electrical activity) trackers. Unfortunately EEG and finger trackers proved too difficult within the strict time restrictions so they dropped them. The team managed to successfully integrate movement, eye and mouth tracking into a machine learning model in the final prototype.

What made the project unique?

The combination of technologies the team used, paired with an interesting story line made the project stand out. The team used the InteractML machine learning tool, an interactive machine learning framework for Unity which was developed by Carlos and colleagues. The machine learning aspect eased the teams workload.

What did they learn?

Cristina Dobre said “I’ve learnt many things from taking part in this event but if I’d choose one, that would be integration-as-you-go. As the team members specialised in different areas and worked in parallel on various parts of the system, we managed to put everything together towards the very end of the event. This gave us only little time to test and fix integration bugs which made the final work very stressful (also given our sleep-deprived states). We managed to have a playable demo with most of the important parts working, but it would have been a much smoother process if the integration would have taken place throughout the development, even though each part might have been only partly finished “

Team members (from left to right in tweet above):

Cristina Dobre, PhD Human Centered AI Characters in VR,
Lili Eva Bartha, experienced Designer and Scientist,
Claire Wu, PhD Neuroscience,
Carlos Gonzalez Diaz, PhD Machine Learning for expressive interactions


Group 2: VR Illusion

This team was a group of Goldsmiths students, many of whom has just started to learn VR in October 2019.

What were the teams strengths?

The skills in the team were varied, Hankun’s knowledge of unity helped them to solve their biggest problem of using C# to set the relationship between the size and position of the object. Yaqi brought skills in 3D modelling, so could quickly create the models they needed. Chaojing is skilled with the storytelling and drawing, so could set the story of the game and draw assets they needed. Finally, Shuai Xu is experienced in user interface design and sourced the music for the project.

How did the project relate studies at Goldsmiths?

Chaojing Li said “For the production of virtual reality games, the sense of the presence of the player is essential, because I think the most important meaning of Virtual Reality is to give people an immersive experience. We think that if there is no such sense of presence, then VR games are no different from games on ordinary platforms. During last semester, in the “3D Virtual Environments and Animation” class, our teacher Xueni Pan and Marco Gillies explained a lot of theory about Virtual Reality and some related psychological knowledge. This gave us a preliminary understanding of how to create a sense of presence in the virtual environment.”           

(From left to right) Hankun Yu, MA VR&AR student & Programme developer,
Yaqi Chen, MA VR&AR student & UX Designer,
Chaojing Li, MA VR&AR student & UX Designer,
Shuai Xu, MFA Computational Art Student & Visual Designer

Group 3

What was the project?

The group focused on virtual reality object interaction and eye tracking technology and how to combine the two to work together. In their programme cubes are thrown onto a mechanical belt like you would see in a factory, the user must stack the cubes onto each other, the challenge is that when the user looks directly at the area where the cubes are their vision is blocked, so they must use their peripheral vision to complete the task.

What is unique about your project

Nima Jamalian said “for our project we reversed the use of eye tracking technology. In majority of application that uses eye tracking the focus is on where user eyes are looking at however in our application we reversed it, the progamme checks if the player is not looking and only then the user can perform the task – so we sort of track where the player is not looking.”


Magdalena Nuspahic – Goldsmiths student, MA Virtual and Augmented Reality
Elisavet Koliniati – Goldsmiths Strudent Computational Arts student / Architect
Andrea Fiorucci – Goldsmiths graduate in Games Programming
Nima Jamalian – Goldsmiths Student PhD in Computer Science
Johannes Tscharn – Goldsmiths Student MSc Virtual and Augmented Reality

CareerHack – the traditional careers fair reinvented

This week we ran our second CareerHack event in partnership with Hacksmiths.

What is CareerHack?

CareerHack is a career & developer event where attendees spend 4 hours competing challenges in teams, showing off their skills to potential employers.

Challenges tested technical skills, with things like building an interactive game, as well as employability skills, like writing a personal profile and skills section for your CV to get students to think about the resources they need when heading into the working world. Employers are there to let the students know more about working at their organisations.

It’s a collaboration between the Department of Computing, Hacksmiths (our student-led tech society), our Careers Department and employers.

Our employer partners, Goodboy Digital; Lewisham Homes; Richmond & Wandsworth Council; and Scored provided challenges to the hack and were judges, working their way around the 8 teams of students and awarding points.

We wanted to look at new ways of employers and students interacting and piloted the event last year to great success, including one student getting a placement and another applying successfully for a full time position on graduation.

Employer feedback from last year’s event:

“much more useful than a “traditional” careers fair.” 

“being able to watch your students do actual engineering as opposed to just talking about it was really helpful (I was able to flag a number of final year students to our recruitment team as people whose applications should be expedited, if they choose to apply).”

We’re now pulling together feedback from the CareerHack this week and will start planning for next year! Well done to the winning team.

If you’re interested in working with our students on other innovative events, talks, placements and lots more, please contact Eilidh Macdonald.

Push, Pop, Repeat – Pop-up exhibition

Written by Clémence Debaig, student in MA Computational Arts. Find out more about the students work on The MA/MFA Computational Arts Blog.


One night, 350+ visitors, 80+ students, 130+ pieces

Push, Pop, Repeat is the first pop-up exhibition of this year’s cohort – presenting works from the MA in Computational Arts and the MA in Independent Games and Playable Experience Design. On Wednesday the 22nd of January 2020, more than 350 visitors have had the opportunity to discover more than 130 artworks. 

Most students in the programme had no, or very little, programming experience when they joined in October. After only 10 weeks on the course they are already producing high quality interactive pieces, adding computing to their art practice. The exhibition hosted an incredible variety of works produced at the end of the first term, from generative projection-mapped pieces to physical computing installations. 

Selected works

Selecting works amongst more than 130 pieces is an almost impossible task, but the following pieces particularly grabbed the attention of the visitors. This selection also aims at showcasing the diversity of the projects presented during the pop-up.


Amor Serrano by Alesandra Miro Quesada

Interactive installation – Physical Computing 1

https://vimeo.com/387408452

Amor Serrano tells the story of domestic violence in the Andes. Two testimonies of survivors have been recorded and translated from Spanish to English and Quechua (native Andean language). This piece pushes the audience to face the epidemic of feminicide happening in Peru and create discourse on this topic.

Technical details:  The circuit includes 6 capacitive sensors, each soldered onto a long copper wire braided inside 6 foot long hair extensions. When touching the hair, it triggers different audio tracks. Each of them narrating a testimony of a domestic abuse survivor.


A cartography of the inside out by Jakob Jennerholm Hammar

Poster – Programming for artists and designers


The program draws structures in time, continually growing over a scarce landscape. A fictional world filled with fictional habitats for fictional inhabitants is created. The work tries out ideas of mapping an interiority and turning it inside out to see what it says about it’s exteriority, or the other way around. Some important influences where gathered from cartography and architectural plans and drawings as a way of understanding and visualizing relationality. Others where graphical notation or visual scoring as a way of working with duration and events in time.

Technical details: The artwork is generated by a program written in Processing. Noise functions and pseudo randomness as well as recursion and fractals are some of the techniques used in the generative process. Printed on A2 sized wallpaper material.


Blurred Democracy by Camila Colussi

Interactive Installation – Physical Computing 1

Blurring boundaries. Blurred democracy. Two vibrating motors are connected to the word “democracy” written in copper wire. The motors react to sound. Light is reactive to distance. As you walk away, lights turn chaotic. As you get closer, lights turn on completely. The piece was created in reference to the current Chilean revolution (October 2019-present), which main massage of fight is “Until dignity becomes habit” (“Hasta que la dignidad se haga costumbre”). Until today, serious human rights violations had taken place. Sound recording: “No son 30 pesos, son 46 años”, A las Cacerolas, Colectiva 22bits. 

Technical details: The piece is a sound-light interactive sculpture, using 2 vibrating motors, a proximity sensor and led strip lights.


_chreeb.dampGrass by Keir Clyne

Interactive system and performance – Physical Computing 1 + Programming for artists and designers

_chreeb.dampGrass is a choreographic collaboration between a human user and a virtual dancer. Through the use of a specialist controller and a virtual avatar named “_chreeb”, the creative control of the improvised choreography switches between the human and non-human participants.

Technical details: The system for this performance has been made using a Processing sketch connected to an Arduino controller. The controller itself is made of several arcade buttons, LED’s and toggle switches all housed in a cardboard casing


Tantum Duck by Mattia Spagnuolo

Audiovisual performance – Advanced Audio-Visual Processing

Tantum Duck is a Hand-controlled Audio-Visual Synthesizer. By mixing computer vision, sound synthesis and mathematical visual shapes the goal was to create an instrument that allows the performer to control both audio and visual parameters at the same time. A constant correlation between the audio and visual outputs is implemented to allow the performer to focus on the sonic and visual details of his/her performance without worrying about keeping them harmonic, as they will always be. 

Technical details: The system has been realised in openFrameworks, using computer vision and color tracking to identify the controls and using frequency and amplitude modulation (FM and AM) for the sound synthesis. To follow the chaotic nature of the sounds, the visuals are based on the chaotic map Aizawa Attractor. A chaotic map is a system of differential equations whose apparently-random states of disorder and irregularities are governed by deterministic laws that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, meaning that a small change to any of its coefficients, will result in a substantial change in its output.


Automata by Clémence Debaig

Interactive wearable and performance – Physical Computing 1

AUTOMATA is a performance device allowing the dancer to move elements of the outfit by his/her movements.⁠ This piece explores the relationship between puppeteer and object, and the transfer of agency between the two. Is the dancer moving to manipulate the objects or is the movement of the objects influencing the dancer. Who is controlling who?⁠

Technical details: The dancer is wearing an accelerometer on the right arm and another one the left leg. The values received on the accelerometers control the movement of 7 servos placed on the outfit, moving mechanical parts. 3 “flowers” and the left shoulder pad are controlled by the right arm. 2 other “flowers” are controlled by the left leg.⁠⁠ Particular attention has been put on the analysis of the acceleration values on each axis (X, Y, Z) to determine with one to use and set different thresholds for each servo.⁠


X Y Plotter Drawing Machine by Chia Yang Chang

Installation – Physical Computing 1

Drawing machines have been explored for a while but it is still a recurring theme to observe the differences in drawing between Robot and Human. Drawing is a way to express one’s humanity. However, would it be possible for robots to express the essence of being a robot through drawing? This project is presented more as an experiment than an artwork, aiming at reflecting on the meaning of what the essence of a robot is and observing the similarities between human and robot.

Technical details: The drawing machine is using an Arduino and a Processing sketch, connected via serial. The Processing sketch extracts vector points from an SVG file and then sends it to the Arduino to define the position of the pen.


The Chicken of Tomorrow by Annina Huhtala

Projection mapping – Workshops in creative coding

The Chicken of Tomorrow is a projection mapping work devoted to chicken. Combining archive video material and the latest research, it tells the brief story of a bird turned into a commodity. The visuals plays with naïve form and bright colours, yolk yellow, egg white and wattle red. They represent our simple attitude towards chicken. The piece begins with a nostalgic clip of children playing with fluffy chicks. According to studies, we now struggle to consider chicken as animals.

Technical details: The work was created in openFrameworks, mixing generative graphics, typography and videos.

A day in the life: Zala

Zala is a Year 1, BSc Creative Computing student at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Progressing from the well-established secondary school routine to a completely new independent and self-initiated university one, is a rather big change, but so is moving from a town of 100 000 people to a city with a population 4-times the size of my whole home country. Here is how I spend an average weekday in my new life.

Establishing a morning routine

Although my days differ due to my varied timetable, having an established morning routine gives them some structure, which I believe is vital to maintain my productivity and motivation. Since this term none of my classes begin before 12 and I live nearly on campus, I do not have to rush to wake up early in the morning and usually wake up around 8 after, hopefully, a good amount of sleep. I put on a jumper and head straight into our flat kitchen to make some breakfast. After changing and stretching a bit, I opt between going to the library or staying at home to catch up with lectures or work on projects.

Lectures, labs, tutorials

Then come the lectures. After spending the majority of the first term learning the fundamentals of computing and programming, we’re now starting to specialise by taking classes such as Generative Drawing, Graphics, Sounds and Signals and developing an independent creative project, which seems like it’s going to challenge us and our way of thinking quite a bit. As we’re just at the start of the new term, I’m not quite sure what’s in store for us for each specific module, although after having the first lecture of Generative drawing, I’m positive it is going to be one of my favourite classes. For a visual person as I am, Graphics sound interesting as well.

Finishing the Day

As most of my classes finish in the late afternoon, that does not leave me with much time before the evening. On days when I do have extra time, I might head to the campus gym, attend a society meeting/social or go to any event that Goldsmiths’ organises and I find interesting. By the time I get back, my flatmates are in as well and we spend our evenings eating and chatting in our kitchen, which serves as our main social space. We also might head to a pub or on occasion a party. I end my day by reading, watching a movie or talking with friends and family from back home.

Then, we repeat.