1977(BSc) Computational Science
What are you doing now?
After graduating, I spent a year as a community drama worker, never touching a computer. Then, I studied for a PhD in the Department of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh, developing tools in the Logo language for children to explore language and creative writing. A career in Educational Technology has taken me to the Universities of Sussex, Birmingham, Nottingham and the Open University, with research into intelligent tutoring systems, mobile learning and learning at scale. In January this year I retired from The Open University. As an Emeritus Professor, I can now focus on the more enjoyable parts of academic life, including our nQuire research project with the BBC to develop an environment for large-scale citizen science investigations.
What is your favourite memory from your time studying Computer Science in St Andrews?
My lasting memory is seeing the shiny new computer lab for the first time and knowing it would be our playground to explore computing.
Which was your favourite module, and why?
Probably lambda calculus, taught by Dave Turner. It was such an abstract and geeky topic, yet he taught it with passion and showed how it can be a foundation for all computing. I also thoroughly enjoyed my final project, as part of a student team supervised by Ron Morrison, to produce the first implementation of Algol S (later S-Algol).
What advice would you give to current students?
Follow your passions. And be confident in your knowledge and skills, to contact people worldwide who will help you realise your dreams and ambitions.
For my final project, I proposed to develop a system for individual authors to design and layout documents and magazines. I was told that might be “a little too complex” for an undergraduate project. That’s probably right – though I have a lingering regret that I could have invented desktop publishing.
Alumni Profile added: Mar 2018