hollie johnson, cloud computing cdt

University: Newcastle University

CDT cohort: 2015

PhD title: Topological survival analysis for comparison of random fields with an application to global wind

“The CDT gives you much more of an awareness of the different technology there is out there. Now I feel that if someone said to me ‘Do you know this? ‘I’d be able to reply that I’m familiar with it in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do before”

Prior to joining the Cloud Computing for Big Data CDT, Hollie had completed an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and a Postgraduate Certificate in Computer Science. Following this, she had then worked as a Software Developer for a large case management company before returning to Newcastle as a Technical Research Assistant.

Hollie applied to join the Cloud Computing programme as she was keen to extend her technical knowledge, and the cross-disciplinary approach offered a perfect opportunity to further develop expertise in mathematics, statistics and computing.

Her PhD research explores ways to take concepts from the topology and survival analysis fields and use these to compare or distinguish data sets, in scenarios where conventional methods may fail. The data set she is working with contains simulated global wind intensities for a number of years and realisations, although the methods she is developing may also be applied to other different contexts.

Since December 2017, Hollie has also worked for the LKQ Corporation, and has utilised this relevant employment as her PhD internship placement.  At LKQ she primarily works as a data analyst, although the company is also investigating how machine learning can enhance their business processes. Being involved in this work has demonstrated to Hollie how valuable cross-disciplinary skills are in industry, and it has increased her knowledge of the potential applications of novel data analysis methods.

In 2016, Hollie travelled to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (JAUST) in Saudi Arabia to work with academics on climate data.  During this visit, she gained valuable experience of developments of advanced visualisation methods, including VR wind simulations. In addition, she recently attended the third IMA Conference on the Mathematical Challenges of Big Data where she gained insight from expert speakers on some of the less well-known big data challenges and trends.

Over the period of her PhD, Hollie’s general focus of her project has changed and evolved due to the academic supervisors she has worked with. Although this initially provided some uncertainty about how this would impact on her research, Hollie has found she enjoyed the new focus, the opportunity to work with two supervisors with different areas of expertise, and has found this a valuable learning experience.

Hollie would highly encourage anyone considering a PhD to apply, and would particularly recommend a CDT cohort-based programme.  Of the benefits, she says “Having a large network of colleagues not only helps support your own research, but also exposes you to different research questions in related fields and provides opportunities for collaboration”.

In her spare time, Holllie trains four days a week as a powerlifter, which has been a positive release from her PhD work, and no doubt the PhD work has benefited from the health benefits of this outside interest.

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