James Mitchell, MSc Advanced Computer Science

James Mitchell completed his Advanced Computer Science master's at Keele in 2017. Here he explains why it was one of the best professional choices he ever made.

Hi James, why did you want to do the master's in Advanced Computer Science?

JM: I like the idea of working on something big that changes how people interact with things. This was perfect for that. I think people expect it to be a little nerdy, but you’re making a real life difference to people through technology. But really it’s about finding a solution to a problem using a variety of methods.

So you don’t have to have a computer science background to do this course?

JM: No, I didn’t have a background in Computer Science. I studied photography at Manchester Met’ where I really enjoyed shooting bands live in concert. I had a background in graphic design from college. I was a manager at an insurance company and I gave it all up for eight hours a week at Apple where I became lead “Genius” on the Genius Bar in Manchester. I helped with the first ever iPhone launch in 2007 and attended MacWorld in San Francisco in 2008. In 2014 I progressed to a quality assurance and systems testing project for Apple in Cupertino, California. I left Apple in 2015.

Why the move back to university life?

JM: I did a year at Open University in 2015/16 in computing and IT, but I missed the lectures and the interaction. I decided to do a Master's in Advanced Computer Science at Keele and achieved a distinction in October 2017. I knew this would give me the options and knowledge I needed to choose the career path I wanted to take.

What was your master's project about?

JM: I built a prototype of what, ultimately, became my PhD project: an app to produce “bedside clinical guidelines” for 26 NHS trusts around the UK. I am incredibly excited about where this could go because it has a very practical use that will change lives. It’s a solution to a challenge that has existed for years.

Tell us more about how your master's got you on to your PhD programme at Keele University

JM: The PhD title is “Research in the delivery of information to clinicians to assist in managing patients in an acute hospital”. It is partly funded by the Keele Acorn Fund and from University Hospital North Midlands Trust. Most hospitals have their own guidelines, or variations of others. Most clinicians carry a mobile device. So the goal is to produce an app for accessing clinical guidelines and which will be adopted by over 20 trusts throughout the UK. The key benefit to the launch will be usability data from clinicians. It’s an exciting project that will really make a difference.

What would you say to anybody considering the master's?

JM: : I would urge anybody considering this programme to take the plunge. I’ve not been disappointed. It was a life changing experience. I feel that you only appreciate things that you’ve had to work for! The masters challenged me academically, and also helped to develop my interpersonal skills. I look back over the last year with a degree of wonder that I have achieved what seemed completely beyond my abilities at the beginning.

My ultimate goal is to live and work in the USA and I have no doubt my experiences at Keele will help me to do that. There’s a brilliant link with industry and a real world focus that means people at Keele are finding solutions to big problems. The funding for the programme really helps too!

Athena Swan