Mr Matthew Van Zyl

Field: Applied Artificial Intelligence

Motivated by his experience as a software engineer, one of Deakin’s PhD students is working to improve artificial intelligence-infused software systems so that in the future when we shop online, post on social media, or stream the latest binge worthy series our user experience is seamless.

We sat down with Matthew to talk about his Higher Degree by Research (HDR) journey.

I got to work directly with researchers on their projects that all had a tangible impact on the wider community. This inspired me to pursue a career in research.

Matthew's HDR Journey

Why did you choose to study a PhD at Deakin?

Prior to starting my PhD, I worked at Deakin’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A²I²) as a software engineer for two years. During this time, I got to work directly with researchers on their projects that all had a tangible impact on the wider community. This inspired me to pursue a career in research.

Some of the projects I worked on included:

Launched in 2019, The Future Proofing Study aims to prevent depression and anxiety in young people. This ground-breaking initiative will engage up to 20,000 Year 8 students and follow them over a 5-year period.

Supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council, this trial is exploring how a new mobile cardiac rehabilitation program can be used to improve the management and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

What is your PhD research project about?

Modern artificial intelligence-infused software systems are made up of multiple distributed interconnected components. When failures occur in these types of systems, they are a challenge to diagnose. My PhD research projects looks at improving how we observe and understand the behaviours of these systems.

What have you achieved that you never thought possible before beginning your PhD?

I was introduced to new ways of thinking about the world which encouraged me to apply more rigor to how I problem solve. Studying my PhD has given me a greater understanding of my research area and has showcased to me exciting, cutting-edge possibilities in artificial intelligence. This experience within research has helped me reach new levels of self-actualisation and gain a deeper respect for myself and my fellow researchers.

How is your PhD helping you make an impact on society?

It is still early in my career, but my research has application potential in all distributed systems, which make up many of the widely used software systems. Some examples are social media websites and applications, streaming services, and ecommerce websites.

My findings will help streamline and speed up the process of identifying and fixing errors. This will result in better user experiences and more efficient, cost-effective debugging.

How has Deakin supported you to achieve your goals?

At A²I², the researchers and engineers are very approachable, always willing to help and allow me to draw on their wealth of experience. My supervisors are supportive, highly knowledgeable and provide me with excellent direction and guidance. Deakin provides me with the state-of-the-art equipment I need to pursue my research.

What are your future career ambitions? How has your PhD helped you realise these?

I would like to go into the field of research engineering, where I can work on operationalizing technology from the lab into the real world. My PhD is providing me with the experience, capabilities and connections I'll need to realise this ambition.

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