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I arrived at the University of Nottingham in October 1987 to study Joint Honours Mathematics and Computer Science, not knowing the profound effect the late change from Single Honours Mathematics to the Joint Honours course would have on me. In the final year of the course I undertook a project on cryptography for the Computer Science side of the degree, and it was this work that first suggested a career in research was possible. I graduated in July 1990 with a 2.2.

Ancaster Hall of Residence

While studying as an UG at Nottingham I lived in Ancaster Hall for all three years of my course.




Working & Postgraduate

In August 1990 I started working as a Research Assistant in the Communications Research Group in the then Computer Science Department at Nottingham. The group was then led by Hugh Smith and I worked on a UK Joint Network Team (JNT) funded project called Grace, investigating Group Communication services based on OSI networking protocols.

In November 1991 I registered as a part-time PhD student, studying computer security and in particular access control mechanisms for cooperative systems.

During 1992 I was briefly involved in the early development of the Ceilidh courseware system, before starting to work on a project that was to shape the direction of my early career. The Comic project, funded under the Basic Research area of Esprit 3 (general information on the Esprit programme), was a large multi-disciplinary project investigating the basic principles, techniques and theories to support CSCW systems. This introduced me to many people across Europe, and also to the joys of European travel and mixing with different cultures.

By now the CRG was being run by Steve Benford and the direction of the group moved away from networking aspects of communication towards models of collaboration and in particular collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) and the use of virtual reality. A spatial model of communication was developed in the Comic project, and this model was implemented both in Dive and Massive-1.

After the Comic project was over I started to work on, and managed Inhabiting the Web (ITW), a project funded by BT Labs and JISC to investigate meeting support in virtual environments. We held a series of virtual meetings over six months between six UK universities and BT, including project reviews and discos! The trials were assessed from both technical networking and social usability standpoints.

After ITW I moved on to work on the ACTS funded Coven project. This was another large scale project that looked at Collaborative Virtual Environments. I was responsible for the trials of the applications and platform techniques developed within the project. This trials were used to assess both the network requirements and usability requirements of CVEs, following on from the experiences gained in ITW.

I spent the first half of 1998 writing up my thesis (in Nottingham, Paris, Middlesbrough and Preston), submitted in September and was viva’d in November.