Researcher Spotlight : Miks Kundegorski
This week, Elle has put Miks Kundegorski under the spotlight. Miks is a 2nd year PhD student working between IBAHCM and the School of Mathematics. With an MSc in Computational Software Engineering, he also works as an IT consultant for Fjelltopp, a company that helps developing countries with epidemiological surveillance. Not satisfied with the scientific stereotype, Miks has many other interests, including music, poetry, art and philosophy.
Remind us about your background.
I studied electronics before working for a few years in computer vision at Durham University. It was then that I was invited to join a very good team of software engineers that were helping WHO with epidemiological surveillance in Jordan, Madagascar and Somalia.
What can you tell us about your PhD?
I’m trying to understand how group size affects the movement of salmon and, if possible, to quantify their behaviour in the context of their social interactions. It is a very broad project and I am involved with many aspects of it. We film animal movement in the lab, but we also plan to film them in the wild. I use software engineering to extract the tracks from videos, but also mathematical modelling to draw conclusions from the data.
Why did you decide to do your PhD at UofG?
I wanted to work on something cross-disciplinary in a northern country and this project had an upcoming application deadline. I became excited by the opportunity only once I received interview questions.
What do you find most interesting about your work?
Emergent order: how relatively simple rules of behaviour can cause very complex outcomes in multi-agent systems. I study fish movement, but the same principles apply to economics or politics. I find it very amusing to see people finding simple links and explanations to anthropogenic problems when science can barely start to describe societies of the simplest non-human animals.
What has been the most positive aspect so far?
Having a very good supervision team with a broad range of experience. This has allowed me to dip my toe in many different aspects of work.
What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
Meeting my own expectations.
What advice would you give to anyone doing or considering PhD?
You must realise the value of your work first. It is one of the most interesting and fun jobs you can do, as it can be very relaxed but also genuinely useful for the progress of humanity. It breaks my heart to see stressed-out PhD students.
Tell us about your plans for the future.
I might work in a low-income country where not many would be happy to move to, because this is where my skills would be more useful.
Are you where you thought you would be a year ago?
I didn’t think much about it.
What part of your research so far have you enjoyed the most?
Studying maths is very pleasant because I have time to learn interesting and completely useless stuff. I’m happy that I can share my knowledge of programming and deep learning with other students who are only just beginning to explore those areas.
Have you come up against any unforeseen challenges?
Not really… I knew that working with animals would be very different from software engineering, but I was happy with this challenge.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt from your first year?
Biology is a huge field and it is very difficult to generalise from one system/species to another.
If you could tell your first year-self one thing, what would it be?
Don’t miss Miks’ talk (“Collective Behaviour of Salmon Smolts”) at the PhD Seminar Series on Friday 1st November at 4pm in LT1 of the Graham Kerr Building! In the meantime, to find out more about Miks, visit his website: mixmixmix.github.io
First published: 4 November 2019