End Of An Era

I know I’ve not posted on here for quite a while – and the excuse of being busy is starting to wear thin, but it couldn’t have been more accurate! An update on some of the significant things that have happened over the last few months:

My last post was an election manifesto, much like it was around that time the year before. Running in a student union election the second time round made a lot of things easier to anticipate, though I did not win the position of Felix Editor in the end. Since then I’ve had the chance to appreciate and reflect on the amazing time I’ve had taking up the positions of News and Science Editor, working with an extremely devoted and professional team under high calibre Editors-In-Chief, and I’ve had a fantastic experience from which I’ve learnt a great deal.

So comes the end of my time in Felix, and my time at university too. My decision to switch to the three year course (I forgot I was featured on that link, cringe..) feels like my time here at Imperial has been balanced enough to prevent me from feeling like I can’t wait to leave. I’ll definitely miss seeing my friends so frequently, the many hours I spent in the labs, and the cosmopolitanism of the campus.

The day after I found out I lost the election, I found out I’d won the Cadzow Smith award from the Worshipful Company of Engineers. This was an award for which engineering students from eleven universities in London were nominated to compete, and I (and Imperial) took the prize! I’d mentioned this in a previous post, along with the déjà vu that came with. The ceremony was held a few weeks ago in the city, where I was presented with a commemorative medal. A number of engineering traditions surrounding the Queen were upheld, and I couldn’t help but relate to some CGCU events where I’d seen similar things.

That said, it definitely needs mentioning that this year, I’ve never felt more a part of the RCSU. The committee’s endeavours for their faculty union’s students are simply unparalleled, and they’ve been instrumental in my positive experience at Imperial being sustained and ending on a high. While I may be an Engineer by degree, I’ve certainly felt like a Scientist at heart, and the committee’s warmth and amiability has been ever-pleasing. Leaving Imperial with both ICU Colours and being the first non-RCSU person to obtain RCSU Colours is heart-warming.

Another reason I may have felt like a Scientist could have been due to my final year project, which I frantically started working on whilst shutting down most social aspects in my life after the elections. My project was titled “optimised kinetic simulation of muscles”, and it was anything but as simple as it sounds. This was a joint effort from the Department of Computing and the National Heart and Lung Institute, with me in the middle under supervisors from both sides. My Computing supervisor was Professor Wayne Luk, who leads the Custom Computing research group. He encouraged me to use the Maxeler platform and FPGAs to hardware accelerate my work. My Medical supervisors were Professors Roger Woledge and Nancy Curtin, whose research revolved around muscle contraction and understanding the underlying interactions.

There were a few novel aspects to our methods which ended up with us producing measurements that were never before observed. The reason for this was that we sought to run our simulation about a million times for statistically significant results, and this would have taken about 371 days. My three-stage optimisations brought them down initially to 27 days, then to three hours, and finally to 30 minutes.

Getting the report done was a massive mountain to climb, since I’d decided to do it the correct way – using LaTeX. I found myself bonding with the fourth years in labs who were in the same physical and mental situations, and couldn’t help but appreciate that feeling of being ‘in it together‘ as we slaved for hours upon hours down there every day.

The night before the final presentation, I realised I had to change a large amount of slides since my message wasn’t coming across very well. I spent this night loaded on so much caffeine it was doing more harm than help, and was barely able to sleep. Fortunately, feedback from my supervisors after the presentation was that they couldn’t have known I had barely slept and it looked like I had practiced for weeks! Needless to say, when I got home I crashed, only to wake up the next day and fully realise the gravity of the situation – after having submitted my report and given my presentation, I was essentially free!

I later attended my final Summer Ball, got my results, and though I’m graduating in October with a 2:1 (yay!) in Computing, it certainly hasn’t felt like I’m leaving yet – my supervisors agreed for me to come back over the summer and continue working on our research – the project itself received a First Class grade and I was one of the people asked to present at the open day!

My summer work is classed as a UROP placement under my Computing supervisor, and research is progressing smoothly. We’re making steady strides with our optimisations and modifications for better accuracy. It’s essentially exploratory work and the computations serve as a guide for where to look next regarding the actomyosin interactions. We also have an expert from Maxeler on board, who happily provided me with access to their workstations at their HQ in Hammersmith, it’s all very exciting!

I think it’ll feel like I’m leaving when September draws near, the most I’ve got now is the peculiarity of being a visitor in my own labs due to a deactivated ID card. In any case, I look back on the last three years as the best time of my life so far, and I look to the future, as always, with much enthusiasm!

-Alex Kara

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About Alexander Karapetian

Software Engineer & Computer Scientist from Imperial College.
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2 Responses to End Of An Era

  1. James says:

    Congratulations on making it through Alex. I hope the future is bright for you. You have a lot of potential to grow into a fantastic engineer, and I hope you make full use of it.

    Best of luck.

  2. Thanks James, best of luck to you too! :)

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