I decided to pursue the MRes in Spatial Data Science and Visualisation because I wanted to learn a new way of thinking. Since finishing my first Masters degree ten years previously I had been working in digital communications roles in civil service and academia, and felt that it was time to take a new direction in my career. I was working four days a week while studying at CASA, and my employer was very supportive of my studies.
Studying at CASA was often challenging because I had to learn programming skills that I didn’t previously have. At first I was truly out of my ‘comfort zone’, but after many months of practice I learned to read and write scripts to a standard that let me solve my research questions. It was difficult, but that is why I had wanted to study these subjects in the first place.
Since finishing the MRes, I first worked at CASA as a research associate, after which I joined a design and engineering studio where I now work as a researcher and content designer. I conduct user research and develop the company’s research practices, create data visualisations for client reports and also create digital content for the company. Studying at CASA was a perfect springboard for my new career, and now I am where I wanted to be many years ago.
I wanted to acquire a wide breadth of experience so that I could have the flexibility to place myself in a broad range of demanding situations. Also, I wanted to expand my knowledge in data science while having a background in urban planning.
CASA offered me that unique combination with an innovative MRes that covers the current needs of the market. As I was looking for the next step to my career as a graduate of UCL and CASA, I realised that I had the ability and the flexibility to seek for a variety of jobs, due to the fact that at CASA we exposed ourselves to a variety of tools and to very up-to-date technologies such as VR and AR. During the MRes, we had the opportunity to co-operate and work on team projects where we developed professionalism, communication and time-management skills. I could say that I have broadened my horizons remarkably in approaching data analysis which, in combination with the spatial topics that we covered, endowed me with the valuable ability of innovative synthesis of two different fields. Thus, I was able to find job as a cloud systems developer which was beyond what I had ever dreamed.
My experience at CASA was a deep dive into the shared worlds of spatial analysis, GIS, visualisation, programming, statistics, models, and systems thinking. It was challenging but also tremendously rewarding to learn from such a diverse group of lecturers and fellow students. The program taught me how to make connections across disciplines in order to discover new methods for solving spatial problems.
Since completing my masters, I travelled to 11 countries and made it a point to map out my itinerary along the way. Now I’m working as a service designer in Toronto. In my role, I often encounter projects where I’ll need to communicate complex information through visualisation. Building on the skills I learned at CASA, I’m able to explore new programmatic ways of visualising data using Processing. I now have an expanded toolkit of knowledge, resources, and techniques that will help me tackle a wider range of projects, wherever my career takes me!
I’d recommend this course to any curious person out there who is interested in gaining a breadth of knowledge in the worlds mentioned above, while also wanting to pursue a research topic that you can really sink your teeth into.
Balamurugan Soundararaj completed his MRes in September 2013. With a background in urban and regional planning, prior to joining CASA, Bala had worked in various sectors ranging from retail, real estate consulting, traffic and transportation planning to architectural conservation, and was looking for a course which connects the common theme in his varied areas of interest – the degree provided him with necessary theoretical knowledge as well as practical skills and introduced him to recent developments in research and practice in the field.
Bala said: “The year I spent in CASA was one of the most intense and productive ones I have spent learning, practising and building new, interesting ideas around analysing and visualising built environment. Being immersed in such an inspiring place with some of the brightest minds pursuing varied research interests had an immense influence in my thought process and approach towards research and problem solving. In addition to the classes and projects, being amidst numerous events, lectures, seminars and conferences taking place in and around the department provided the potential to be in the middle of a constant flow of information, ideas and people. The design of the course had a perfect balance between research, learning and practice which encouraged innovation and provided me with numerous options to pursue after the course”
After graduating, Bala workedas a research associate with UCL, School of Construction and Project Management for the Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Transport for London, UCL and Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) in evaluating, designing and implementing collaborative teams for complex infrastructure projects through organisational network analysis.
Nicola said: “I found UCL and particularly CASA to be a really innovative and inspiring place to study, learning new techniques in social and spatial data analysis and visualisation techniques and working closely with a host of experts in the sector. As part of a group I was involved in building a 3D augmented reality model of the campus incorporating live data feeds. Through my dissertation I explored how developments in open data, big data and geospatial analysis could be utilised by the charity and voluntary sector and the challenges this sector frequently face in this“.
Since graduating, Nicola has been working for The Children’s Society as their Data Strategy Manager. The Children’s Society is a national charity aiming to transform the lives of disadvantaged children and young people. Nicola’s role as Data Strategy Manager involves ensuring the right operational performance and data and analysis is available and used to drive decision-making across the organisation. Nicola oversees four Analysts working across the country. Their data analysis informs and provides evidence for decisions about targeting and design of services and products and supports business development. The Children’s Society offers internships and volunteering opportunities.
Flora Roumpani, 2011-12, PhD Student
Flora joined the first cohort of students in 2011. Before joining CASA, Flora studied architecture engineering in the University of Patras in Greece and later worked as a Planner for 4 years.
Flora said: “I was always interested in the future of the city, virtual environments and exploring the ways in which cities evolve, which is why in my MRes dissertation I worked on the development of urban modelling theories within interactive 3D enviroments. I am continuing my studies as a PhD student here at CASA UCL and you can take a look at my research blog at http://en-topia.blogspot.co.uk/.“
Kostas studied the programme during 2013-2014. Kostas was already a graduate planner and chose to focus his research on urban sprawl prediction modelling to utilise the combined knowledge gained from both professional experience and new techniques gained from the course. After submitting his dissertation, Kostas began working as a Graduate Consultant in Planning and Regional Development at BuroHappold Engineering, with a specialisation in GIS.
Kostas said: “The knowledge and understanding gained from completing an MRes at CASA has really broadened my horizons and created a solid foundation for career development. My experience in the creation of innovative tools as well as the application of new technologies will greatly assist me with the delivery of even more accurate strategic plans.” You can visit Kostas’s personal blog at characterisespace.wordpress.com.
Agata Brok, 2013-14
Jack completed his degree in 2012. After handing in his dissertation in September 2012 he secured the role of Product Developer at the Ordnance Survey, where he helps to prototype new data products and services for the business.
Jack said: “We use a wide range of changing and new technologies in our team, and the culture of experimentation & novel ideas at CASA was a great foundation for this way of working.“