My journey to Strathclyde University - Scotland
Posted by Srdjan Lulic on 19 September 2017
Just as the views of green hills and the North Sea were disappearing when the plane was going through the gray clouds, I have realized where I was coming. It was such a cold day but such a warm welcome is what I got on my first day in Glasgow, home of Strathclyde University – my temporary office.
I felt some weird tides flowing through my body. I guess that is the feeling of making a huge escape from your comfort zone. This is the furthest point I have reached away from my comfort, far from everything I know.
Before I start telling you about what I am experiencing here in Scotland, it would be nice to introduce myself first to those who don’t know me.
My name is Srdjan Lulic and I am 20 years old. I’m a Junior Software Developer and Researcher at “PanonIT” and “Information Technology” student going into my third year of undergraduate studies at Faculty of Technical Sciences in Novi Sad. My field of interest besides development are artificial intelligence, learning algorithms such as neural networks and data science in general. And what is happening right now and right here is that I just got the chance to scratch the surface of those fields while conducting a research alongside highly-experienced experts, professors and PhD researchers of Strathclyde University.
How did I end up here?
That is something I am wondering as well because it was always my dream to travel to places I have always wanted to visit and to do what I love in my life. At this very moment I’m doing both of these things so I can’t be any happier. I’m a visiting researcher at Strathclyde University, where I represent my company in an international project named SENSIBLE (SENSors and Intelligence in BuiLt Environment MSCA RISE - an international project funded by the European Commission under Horizon2020) in which “PanonIT” takes part along 11 other institutions and companies.
Thanks to my company and my professor Srdjan Sladojevic, who has seen my desire to learn and make progress, I have been sent on a visit here and I am very thankful for that. Even though I could literally choose any other part of the world to conduct my research I have chosen Glasgow, UK and now I will tell you why.
First of all, University of Strathclyde is coordinator of SENSIBLE project, and it is also one of the top universities in the UK. Usage of cutting-edge technologies and equipment is something that allows a comprehensive number of their research teams to conduct some high-level projects and researches while putting new standards in the world by their work. The university invests a lot in finding solutions to problems in fields of energy consumption, health-care systems, animal health monitoring systems, etc.
A researcher’s paradise is “Technology and Innovation Centre” a smart building popularly called “the TIC building” and it is really modern, beautiful and fully-equipped. That building contains offices, meeting rooms, restaurants, coffee shops and many more, and most of the research groups spend their time there.
On the other side, the most interesting part of this building are monitoring systems installed in some areas of the building with purpose of data acquisition so it can be used for further analysis and potentially it can help improving life quality in households all over the world.
If this is not enough to convince you how serious they are (one huge building just for research), then what if I tell you they even have something like a smart-farm with cattle-monitoring. They attached some sensors onto and into the cows and they monitor them so that the data can be used for cow-life pattern recognition, all with the purpose of improving quality of milk products and getting deeper understanding of these animals.
These are the projects I’m most familiar with. But I was told they have many other projects in fields of signal processing, many of them are in the biomedicine domain (just like we in “PanonIT” do).
Many interesting things are going on at Strathclyde University, and all of those interesting projects are led by highly-experienced people. Many of them have the names of some world-leading companies written in their CVs, companies such as IBM, BBC, Rolls Royce and more.
For me, a twenty-year-old who is still trying to find his spot in this world, it is a big honor to work alongside this people.
Now to tell you a bit more of what I do here. I am taking part in a research project, which belongs to the field of energy consumption in households. To be more specific what it really is - I’m is applying deep learning techniques to energy disaggregation of houses. It means extracting individual power usage of specific appliances in the household from aggregate power usage of whole house. The results of this research could be applied in a wide range of applications with the goal to reduce energy consumption. By some statistics, it is said, thanks to these results we can reduce consumption of energy up to 15% per household and that is significant difference today when we are facing global warming and global pollution.
As I have told you, being part of Strathclyde uni’s research team was the one reason why I chose to visit Scotland. And the other one is Scotland itself.
Once I had seen this city and this beautiful country, I have realized that this is just what I was looking for. It feels like my visit is all-in-one type of visit, where you both gain experience and knowledge important for further career and enrich your life with non-career experiences such as meeting new people, traveling around, trying new things. I cannot write this blog post without saying few words about each of those other things beside work.
As the time of my visit was approaching, everyone was telling me to prepare myself for people that are not so kind and opened as we are in Serbia. I, as a young and not so experienced person, took those advices seriously and literally prepared myself for spending most of my free time alone. It turns out that all the people who were telling me that have never been so wrong in their life.
People here welcomed me so warmly that I was shocked. Everyone is friendly here, and I don’t think I’m wrong if I say that it is even more present than in Serbia. You can just walk around the streets and won’t get surprised if someone approaches you for a random chat.
I hope that Scottish people won’t mind if I compare them to Hobbits from Tolkien’s world.
They are so friendly, so cheerful, always ready to make jokes and are very prone to sarcasm so there are a lot of similarity to people I’m used to spend time with. Pride is something we have in common; they have a very rich history and respect their traditions and customs. If you go there, you will learn a lot about it within first few days, and trust me on this one - it’s very interesting. It is very common to see men walking around the streets in kilts, which are all handmade, with colors representing their families. Bagpipes are everywhere as well. At the time I arrived, there was a world piping championship in Glasgow, so you could hear music on every corner of the city. At first, it was so nice, but after a while I really needed a break from that.
Glasgow has three universities, and I don’t even remember how many colleges, but there are a few. It implicates that there is so many young people. I have noticed that there are not much more people from Serbia or from the countries of former Yugoslavia. But, there are lot of people from all over the world. For one month of my stay I met people from 5 continents and I cannot describe how good it feels to make new friendships I would probably never made if I didn’t make a decision to break out of my comfort zone.
The streets are always busy even when it’s raining. You get all the seasons within a few days in Scotland so it isn’t weird that I was wearing a coat here in middle of August. I brought one shorts with me, just in case, but I never got the chance to wear it. The weather won’t get any better, so you just get used to it and start loving rain while appreciating some lost sun beams in the afternoon hours. Good thing is that you don’t get that sleepy when it rains here, unlike in Serbia, because otherwise you would be sleeping for days.
Their whiskey culture is something worth mentioning. When I told them about the kinds of whiskeys, I have tried so far they were laughing at me and then gave me some good Scottish whiskey. As I could have seen there are many different approaches to tasting new whiskey and I tried two, which include sniffing multiple times, chewing, holding it in mouth for a while and even some more but I can’t remember all the procedures. But at least, no matter how you taste it (but it has to be one of those approaches) you will be able to notice differences between casks, bottles, distilleries even if you are not that much of an expert.
Traveling and exploring Scotland
If you come to Scotland just to be stuck at one place, then you better not come. The greenest country in the world has so many things to offer in each of its parts. From sandy beaches on a bit sunnier east coast to highlands in the north, you get all the best nature can give us so if you are a nature lover – you have to come and see it yourself.
In my opinion, this is the best thing you can do in Scotland and most of my free time I’m trying to spend on exploring this country. It’s pretty hard to describe the beauty of Scotland. All the castles, hills, lochs (don’t ever say lakes here because Scottish people can get a bit offended :) ).
The only thing you have to worry about is not to forget your umbrella, bring some waterproof shoes with you (I didn’t so I know what I’m talking about) and you are good to go.
All in all, I may be the happiest person in Scotland at the moment because I got the opportunity I have always wanted. Thanks to my company and people who are supporting me I am pursing my dreams. Once I come back home I know that all of this will have a huge impact on my life and hopefully I will gain some significant knowledge that I can pass on to others.
I’m a Junior Software Developer and Researcher at “PanonIT” and “Information Technology” student going into my third year of undergraduate studies at Faculty of Technical Sciences in Novi Sad. My field of interest besides development are artificial intelligence, learning algorithms such as neural networks and data science in general.