Brian: It’s always fantastic to meet a new scholar. The University liaises with me when they’ve got somebody in mind, and I get told fantastic things about you, how well you’ve been doing as an undergraduate and a bit about your final-year project. But putting a face to a name and a CV is always great.
Maria: It’s the same for me – nice to put a face to the person sponsoring me. It was nerve-wracking because it’s a big moment, but it got me even more excited about the PhD. My research is based on work that I did as an undergrad, where I was working on neural interfaces over a summer placement.
I was trying to use artificial intelligence to map bladder pressure signals coming from the spinal cord. And then in my final-year project I was working with software to control robots. So I’m putting those two areas that I’ve really enjoyed together – trying to use ‘soft’, shape-changing robots and understand how to control them with respect to the body.
Brian: Maria was telling me a little bit about this earlier and, unknown to us both, the research that she picked up and implemented was actually done by one of my previous PhD students who’s still in the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Dr Jonathan Graham-Harper-Cater. It was more coincidence than design, and I don’t think she was aware of that connection until now!