Musings from my Internship and why you should do one!

So, I’ve recently finished a 6 week Internship at my University to research and develop a first prototype (Proof of concept) of a system to help classify Fresco images from Cypriot Churches. This all linked up to a documentary being made by Dan Frodsham. Filming for this wrapped up on the Monday just gone, was a bit intense! Had to redo my piece 3 times, being shot from different angles, just hope it turns out well now!

During the 6 weeks I had there I spent time researching into similar projects, based on image recognition, computer vision etc. After spending around a week doing this and studying images of the Fresco images (all in varying states of disrepair) it became apparent to us that maybe image matching algorithms weren’t really the best way to go with this project; due to their inherent nature to rely on visually sharp images and easily identifiable features to process the images. As some of the images we had were very faint and nearly indistinguishable, it was thought that maybe a citizen science project similar to Galaxy Zoo would be the best course of action.

So, I spent the next few days looking into citizen science, how it works, it’s advantages and disadvantages etc. Had a play around with Galaxy Zoo myself and really liked the idea, so pitched to the team that this was as thought, the best way to go. It suited our project far more than the cut and dry nature of computer vision.  So, I got plugging away!

Upon looking into the Galaxy Zoo project, I uncovered that the source code had been made open source on GitHub. Sniffing a ‘quick fix’ I instantly forked myself a copy of the repo and started hacking away, after a couple of days of messing around it became apparent that any of the back end logic that carried out the classifications was actually missing. Upon talking to Galaxy Zoo guys I was told that the API had not yet been made open source, so all I had was a beautiful front end website, with no real functionality!

With the date for a first demo looming I quickly set about rolling my own solution using what I know best, the .Net stack! I decided upon creating an ASP.net webapp, with the data being store on my good friend Windows Azure!

Over a few days I quickly put something together that looked like this:



Including Login functionality would allow us to add a name to the information given, so we could credit them with any successful classifications.

The next couple of weeks continued on with us deciding on the final set of classification questions, gathering the images together etc and myself just adjusting the project as needed, then the culmination in me doing an on camera demo and brief interview/overview of the system I’d developed.

Unfortunately I can’t share the fruit of my labours or the source code with you, as it’s all confidential etc. But what I can share with you, is what this experience has given me.

This short term Internship has given me a fantastic opportunity to work on a ‘real world’ project instead of normal University work. The experience gained and things learned from working with passionate, knowledgeable professionals has been invaluable to me and helping me in my future career; giving me a good insight into how these kinds of projects work.

I have learnt a lot during the short time working on the project, the main thing being that time spent looking into avenues that don’t turn out to be useful isn’t actually wasted time as I used to think; as it’s important to know which things don’t work or can’t be used.

Having a real world context to the work added a very interesting aspect to the project that I haven’t encountered through university work, having to read up and learn about the context made me feel more involved and interested in the project, thus helping me to work harder and keep motivation high.

Overall, I think internships are a very worthwhile use of anyone’s time and resources as they help students gain experience in working on real projects, this experience isn’t gained during normal university work. Adding this kind of real life, real project experience to a graduate’s CV is invaluable as it puts them one step ahead of an average graduate.

So basically what I’m saying is, that internships are wonderful opportunities and you should apply for any that you see!

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