Spotlight on Dr Peter Wijeratne
12 July 2021
Meet Dr Peter Wijeratne - he's a Senior Research Fellow in the UCL Centre for Medical Image Computing (CMIC) and one of our 2020 Impact Fellows.
Could you tell us about your ‘day job’ at UCL, your area of research, and its impact?
Well in the past year my day job has been sitting at my laptop in my living room! I’m a researcher in the Department of Computer Science, so a lot of my work – you guessed it – is computer-based. My research is focused on machine learning in medicine, which is a fancy way of saying I use maths, computers and data to try to make medical predictions. I’m particularly interested in diseases of the brain, such as Huntington’s disease, and trying to predict how someone’s disease will progress. In my current project funded by the Medical Research Council, my principle research question is: can we use disease progression modelling to improve clinical trial design?
You’ve been part of the IHE Impact Fellows since October 2020. How do you feel it has helped you develop?
It’s been a real privilege to be part of the first IHE Impact Fellow cohort. More than anything it’s helped me develop my social skills by communicating with a diverse group of research and professional staff at UCL. In an organisation as large as UCL it’s easy to feel adrift, particularly when working remotely, so the Impact Fellow programme has been an amazing way to connect with people and explore UCL’s diverse ecosystem.
How has the programme changed your understanding of creating impact?
It’s a team effort! Before the programme I thought of impact within quite a narrow scope – basically my own research – but being an Impact Fellow has helped me realise that the most effective impact is delivered by groups, not just individuals. A good example was the Science Showcase – professional and research staff, and a stand up comedian, made it a really accessible and varied experience.
Outside of the Impact Fellows, what impact or engagement work have you been involved in?
I’ve actually got a couple of exciting projects in the pipeline! This summer I’ll be giving a course on computer science for In2ScienceUK, which is a fantastic not-for-profit organisation that aims to get more students from underprivileged backgrounds into the sciences. And later in the year I’ll be working with a team at UCL Engineering to design a new mentoring programme for A-level students.
What would you like to do next?
I’m keen to see computer science – and more broadly, science, technology, engineering and mathematics – become more diverse. I think engagement with the next generation of higher education students and researchers is key, so I’m looking forward to the outreach activities we have planned for the coming year.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks for inviting me for this interview! I’m going to take a break now and enjoy the English “summer”...