We recently interviewed Andrew Paverd, one of our alumni.
Andrew started his M.Sc. in Engineering at UCT in 2011, which coincided with the launch of our Radar Masters programme. Although Andrew’s research did not focus directly on Radar, he benefited from participating in some of the modules on this programme, and he has kindly agreed to be interviewed for the website.
His area of research (cloud computing) is very topical, given that more and more people are using not only their cellphones but other mobile enabled devices to store and access their data on the cloud.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I grew up in Johannesburg and completed my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. I started my M.Sc. Engineering degree at the University of Cape Town in January 2011, at the same time as the Radar Masters programme was launched. My research was supervised by Professor Inggs in the field of Mobile Cloud Computing.
Shortly after commencing my M.Sc. at UCT, I was accepted to read for a DPhil (PhD) at the University of Oxford, starting in October 2011. With the support of Professor Inggs, I decided to accelerate my studies and complete my M.Sc. research before moving to the UK.
The modular structure of the Radar Masters course was very beneficial in this regard, as I was able to select the modules that were the most applicable to my research and complete them before leaving Cape Town, which might not have been possible with full-semester courses. I submitted my M.Sc. dissertation, titled Enhanced Mobile Computing Using Cloud Resources (click on the title to access the PDF of the thesis), shortly after leaving Cape Town and I graduated in June 2012.
I am currently completing my DPhil in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford.
Were you involved in any interesting research during your studies?
Yes, the field I chose to investigate for my dissertation research, Mobile Cloud Computing, was just starting to gain widespread momentum at that time. Fundamentally, this is the idea that battery-constrained mobile devices, such as smartphones, can benefit from offloading certain computational tasks to non-mobile computing infrastructure, such as cloud computing services. This raises many interesting questions, which I began to address in my M.Sc. dissertation, such as: When and how should computation be offloaded? What factors affect this decision (e.g. network conditions)? What are the benefits in terms of energy efficiency? What about issues of information security and privacy?
The following image shows a high-level overview of the major functional elements and communication links in a mobile cloud computing system. The mobile device is the primary source and destination of data. To a lesser extent, the external network end-points are also sources and destinations of data. The cloud resources are classified as internal elements since they are completely controlled by the user. This distinguishes them from other fixed network end-points, which do not afford the user full functional control.
The image below illustrates a mobile device interacting with a multifunctional cloud resource. This resource provides a dynamic combination of data processing and storage capacity as well as network connectivity. All interaction between the device and the cloud resource is managed and optimized by a software component in the OS layer of the mobile device. The augmented capacity provided by the cloud resource is made available to all applications on the device through this component. In this way, the multifunctional cloud resource is used to enhance the overall computational capacity of the mobile device.
What benefit did you derive from the Radar Masters programme?
Even though my research did not focus directly on Radar, the breadth of this programme meant that there were still some courses that were applicable and beneficial to my research. For example, the fundamental principles of electromagnetic systems and antenna design apply both to Radar systems as well as to mobile devices that communicate using wireless networks. Similarly, courses on advanced mathematics are relevant to all science and engineering disciplines.
What did you find the most enjoyable?
For me, the most enjoyable aspect was the opportunity to have an undivided block of time focussed on a specific topic, presented by a lecturer who is an expert in the field.
What did you find the most challenging?
Since the material for each module is packed into a short, undivided teaching block, you really need to maintain a high level of focus and engagement throughout that teaching block.
What is your current area of interest or research?
My current research is broadly within the field of Systems Security. Specifically, I am investigating new communication architectures that enhance privacy in next-generation communication systems.
What are your goals for the future?
At the moment my goal is to finish my DPhil!
What advice do you have for your fellow students?
Since each module is packed into a single relatively short time period, I found it beneficial to put in as much effort as possible during that critical teaching period. Also, make the most of being in the beautiful city of Cape Town!
Thank you very much for participating in the Meet our Alumni interview series, Andrew. We hope that you will soon complete your DPhil and wish you much success in your future career.