Dr Bram Kuijper is lecturer in Theoretical Biology at the University of Exeter. He is based at the Penryn campus in Cornwall and is theme lead for the university’s Data Science And AI Research Hub there.
Dr Kuijper is currently researching the evolution of parental effects and inheritance systems at the Centre for Ecology & Conservation in Penryn. His role is to develop mathematical and simulation models based on the data collected by colleagues Professor Tom Tregenza and Dr Barbara Tschirren. Crickets are the primary species being studied because of their breeding behaviour which involves females being fed matter produced by the males. After publishing their findings the team plan to raise commercial funding to take the research further.
University of Exeter’s cross-disciplinary AI Hub
The Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (IDSAI), for which Dr Kuijper is one of the two team leads for Cornwall, draws together experts from Mathematics, Environment and Sustainability, Ecology and Conservation and Renewable Energy to solve challenges using AI. A major part of the group’s collaboration is focused on ensuring their research can be applied generally rather than the specific use case they are studying - the classic problem of over-fitting.
Cornwall a Major Research Hub in Europe
As well as being a forerunner in the space industry Cornwall is home to the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, which is based at the University of Exeter’s Truro Campus. Dr Kuijper is also keen to point out the innovative work in biosciences and conservation being done at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation.
Another pioneering researcher in Cornwall who is also involved in IDSAI is Professor Karyn Morrissey. She is working on maritime, health and alternative energy issues and involved in the smartline project, which explores how technology such as in-home sensors can affect well-being in Cornish communities. Cornwall also plays a major role in the research of Dr Kuijper’s colleague theme lead, Dr Saptarshi Das, who is involved in the recently started Deep Digital Cornwall project in which AI and data science techniques are used to map the Cornish underground and its mineral resources. From crickets to mining, AI and data science play a role central role in most research projects these days.
Developing AI Models at the University of Exeter
The University of Exeter maintains its own compute cluster internally together with a suite of customised tools. The need for bespoke tooling has meant a lot of this has been kept in-house and there hasn’t been a great need to move to the cloud.
The Emerging Role of the Scientific Software Developer
The hand off between research and development typically involves translating the theoretical model into software. The University of Exeter employs developers who work on this full time. With specialist life science software such as deepchem gaining popularity, the role of a science developer looks set to gain prominence.