Having completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Bath, Violet is currently in her final year of PhD study. She is supported by a studentship funded by the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust, with whom she is also working in partnership on her research.
She tells us about societies, going above and beyond, and the impact of philanthropy...
My PhD research has been working on a smartphone app to benefit patients with a condition called axial spondyloarthritis. It’s a form of arthritis that primarily affects the lumbar spine, and it can heavily impact mobility and general quality of life.
The progression of the disease is measured using the Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Metrology Index (BASMI), which is primarily focused on evaluating mobility. It needs to be measured by a trained physiotherapist and their time is quite constrained, so many people don't have access to this as often as would be ideal.
The app I’m developing can do the BASMI calculations for users – they just need a friend or family member to take the measurements with a tape measure. The app also provides instruction, feedback and guidance for taking the measurements, which we found is a lot more reliable than using the smartphone’s camera.
What brought you to Bath?
Part of it was that it's a nice city to live in, but I also knew that I wanted to study computer science and Bath is one of the best–regarded universities on league tables for the subject.
Did you have a particular career in mind when you chose to study Computer Science?
I remember that I was in my first or second year when I decided that I wanted to go into research, but I don't think I had a particular career in mind. It just sort of happened! I did a computer science A-level and enjoyed it, so I just knew I wanted to carry on with that.
Can you tell us about your experience of studying here? Any favourite memories, or places to go on campus and in the city?
I would definitely say it's been a positive experience. It's been great for me, personally, being at a research university – being able to see and experience that first-hand. When I was an undergraduate, I was involved in quite a few societies, including [circus skills society] Gravity Vomit and the tabletop gaming society. I really enjoyed it all, but I've had less time as a postgrad!
One of my favorite places in the city is a tea house near Kingsmead Square called Comins. I used to spend a lot of time there doing uni work. On campus, the SU building is where I’d hang out a lot during the time between lectures.
What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at Bath?
As an undergraduate, it really is worthwhile going beyond the assignments and what's in your lectures, and doing your own work around it. Particularly with computer science, programming is so much a skill that you learn by repetition and exploration. Challenging yourself is very important. I particularly feel like that having marked undergraduate coursework myself – you don’t want to only be answering within the exact confines of the question. That's the difference between school work and university work, that going above and beyond.
What would you most like to achieve with your research?
The results are certainly positive so far. I don't think the version of the app that I've made would be the one that would be made properly available, but the results so far suggest that it would be worthwhile for the NHS to spend some money to outsource this to a mobile development company for a full version.
The data I’ve collected from this study shows that a lot of people have positive feelings about it. There's some stuff that needs to be iterated on and there’s room for further work, but the concept has had a generally positive response.
What would you say to people considering making a gift to Bath?
I just would emphasise that research can't happen without funding. There's been quite a lot of expenses involved – obviously there are my living expenses, but also a fair amount of equipment that we had to buy for research purposes. We had to purchase different smartphones for testing and evaluation, for example.
I’ve wanted to do a PhD for a long time – it’s always been my goal – and the funding I’ve received has been what’s enabled me to do this.