Surrey’s New 5G Building Progress

Two years ago, just before the widespread launch of 4G, the University of Surrey announced plans to become home to the world’s first, dedicated, 5G research centre. 5G is set to become the next standard in mobile data communications, succeeding 3G and 4G. It might seem weird that work is already underway to replace a standard that has only just come to market, but historically that’s how it’s done – 4G was being worked on in the US way before 3G was even a thing.

And now the UK and European governments understand the economical importance of being in the research race to develop the next global mobile communication standard, there is a huge emphasis on getting ahead of the game before some else (read: the US) gets there first and steals all the patent and royalty goodies.

Over £40m of funding from industry partners and funding councils will be used to create a new building on the University’s main campus. I say it will… but it’s actually already half finished!

I’m quite excited about this new research centre, not only because Surrey will be showing off its research muscles, but also because it’s an exciting addition to a campus that I’ve seen change so much over my last seven years here. However, unlike the other changes – such as the new LRC block built a few years ago – I want to document this one a bit.

So, I’ve been taking photos of the development as it’s progressed, and now present to you the construction progress so far…

27 January 2014 – Site is clear and a big hole in the ground is emerging (Also, January rain mists up the viewing window)
21 February 2014 – The hole in the ground looks pretty much as finished as a hole in the ground can, maybe we’ll see some concrete go in soon…
17 March 2014 – Indeed, thefoundations have taken shape
24 March 2014 – The front wall of the building is starting to appear
3 April 2014 – The basement level has a roof. When it is finished, the basement level will house a large seminar room and a spectacular sloped entrance from the east side of the building.
10 April 2014 – More work happening on the ground floor
10 April 2014 – A giant crane appears on-site to help with the construction on the next floors
29 April 2014 – The walls have become opaque and level 1 is reached
21 May 2014 – View across PATS field, which is getting slightly smaller to accommodate the new building. The 5G centre is largely placed on the old bowls green, which I can’t imagine many students are going to miss.
5 June 2014 – Another floor has taken shape as the building continues to rise…
26 June 2014 – Looks like we’re up to the final height of the building. Ground, 1st and 2nd floor in, as well as the basement.
22 July 2014 – The glass panelling on the façade has started going in!

The 5G Innovation Centre is scheduled for completion in early 2015, and I can’t wait to get inside and have a look around! Until then, I’ll keep snapping away and keep you up-to-date on progress when something exciting happens!

If you want to see the full plans and mock-ups of the final exterior of the building, then you can see the full planning application by searching for “13/P/01052” on the Guildford Borough Planning and Building Control website. The application is titled “Construction of a new academic building (5G centre) …” and the document called “plans.pdf” is well worth a look if you’re into that sort of thing. I would post a direct link, but it doesn’t seem to work.

until next Thursday x

My first publication!

The rule of thumb is that when you’re doing a PhD you should have at least one publication under your belt by the end of your first year. After 18 months I was a bit late to the party, but on May 21st I finally got accepted to a conference – and on my first try!

Dear Mr. Charles Gray:
Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that your manuscript ‘A Particle Filtering Approach to Salient Video Object Localization’ has been accepted for presentation at ICIP 2014

The conference is the International Conference on Image Processing, which this October is being held in Paris. It’s a huge conference, but the prospect of presenting my work is actually far more exciting than daunting. As a PhD student I rarely get the opportunity to talk about my work with other people, so I’m quite excited about finally getting that opportunity and feedback.

Courtesy of

So what is the actual thing I got published? It’s a paper which describes a new method for identifying and tracking objects such as cars, people and animals in a video. While there are plenty of approaches for solving this problem already, my method has the advantage of giving motion details for the object too, such as it’s movement and rotation.

I’m excited about getting my first paper published, it’s quite a weight off my shoulders. Now I need to work towards the next publication… the fun never ends!

Songs for the Summer

I’m not usually a fan of what is going on in the music charts, the thud thud of club bass and rap verses makes every song sound the same, and not in a good way. But, recently I think there’s been an resurgence of classic song-writing techniques – especially with what Pharrell Williams has been doing – starting with Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, then Blurred Lines, Happy, Love is the Answer and most recently, SING with Ed Sheeran.

So here’s what I’ve been into the last couple months. It’s a mix of Pharrell’s groove and funk, slower soul and some hip-hop vibes for good measure. I think all of these picks provide a great soundtrack to whatever you’re doing this summer.

Pharrell Williams – G I R L. Of the back of all his success in 2013, Pharrell’s new album will get you on your feet with some great beats and unique falcetto tones.
Causic Love
Paolo Nutini – Causic Love. It’s been a long time since Paolo’s last album “These Streets”, but it was worth it! His Scottish spark is funkier than  before (which I love), but also very deep in some places. I especially love “Numpty” when he compares starting a relationship to failing to build a house, saying one day he’ll wake up and say “who’s that bitch with my second name?”
John Newman – Tribute. On the back of my love for the Rudimental album last year that just screams a BBQ party vibe, this debut album is more of the same, but with less club and more soul.
X (Multiply)
Ed Sheeran – X (Multiply). The last time I was this excited about an album release was for Daft Punk’s last year, and we all know how that went down. I loved Ed’s first album, but this takes it to a whole new level. More Hip Hop-esque in SING and more emotion in Thinking Out Loud makes this better for partying and chilling alike.
Jason Mraz – YES! Finally ending on another hotly-anticipated release. I played Love Is A Four Letter Word to death last summer, the saxophone solos and catchy tunes carried summer to euphoria. This album is more chilled, with orchestral strings playing a big part in the songs. And, having just bought tickets to see Jason Mraz at the Royal Albert Hall in September, it goes without saying that I’m wetting my pants for this to be in my earholes.

Let me know if there’s a song or album that you can’t get out of your head at the moment, I’d love to hear what you’re into and I’m always on the lookout for new music to work and play too.

Until next Thursday x

Wakeboarding in Surrey

Back in June I went wakeboarding with my PhD supervisor and my officemate. Having never been wakeboarding before in my life, I should probably have been less excited and blindly optimistic than I was, but it was such a gloriously sunny day, and I’d just had ice cream.

JB Ski – who run the wakeboarding centre we went to just next to Thorpe Park – operate a rectangular cable line circuit that hangs above the lake. It’s this cable line that the wakeboarding handles are attached to that pull you along (wakeboarding handles is probably not the technical name, but you get the idea…) Since they anticipate beginners having some problems being able to wakeboard straight away, they started us out on kneeboards. These are essentially the same as wakeboards, but shorter and padded – designed to be knelt on rather than stood on like a wakeboard.

After getting kitted up in a wetsuit and forced to watch the typical cheesy health and safety video I’ve come to expect before any activity run in the UK, we headed to the starting dock with our kneeboards. I knew my chances of getting over 10 metres on my first try were pretty slim, and after watching a few of the more experienced guys make a good getaway I started to realise how much of a fool I was about to look. But nevertheless, I still walked forward and took my pathetic beginners pose on my kneeboard.

This was it. I was on my kneeboard at the starting dock with the handle gripped in my hands. I knew I had about 5 seconds before the handle would hook into the cable and I’d be sent wizzing off on the water. And all that was going through my head was the possibility of stacking it straight away. If I could at least get 10 metres I’d be happy. And then it happened. The handle clicked into the cable and I was tugged violently forwards. Before I knew it, I was off! Rushing along the water at a considerable speed, bumping into small waves and trying to keep my balance. I’d done it! Wooosh went the bouys as I flew past, still trying to get to grips with why on earth I wasn’t neck deep in water yet. Approaching the first corner I knew I had to get out wide, so I carefully glided the board into position and then… SPLASH!

There we go. That’s more like it I thought as I popped my head up from the water. Thankfully the weather was so good that the water was more refreshing than freezing. At least I stacked it away from the crowds. For a first attempt that wasn’t bad, it could have certainly gone a lot worse. And my god that was fun! Time for take 2!

I got back to the jetty, keen to give it another shot. I just needed to get further out on the corner and I’d have nailed it. It was some consolation that my officemate hadn’t made it round the first corner either, but not that our supervisor was already waving at us as he went past the dock for his second lap!

Attempts two and three saw me fall to a similar fate as the first try – failing to make the first corner – despite my sheer determination to claw, white knuckled, onto the handle even after the kneeboard had long since left my knees.

Attempt four however I was getting the hang of it. Having spoken to the instructor I figured that if I treated each corner like a new start by going back into the starting position then I would probably have the balance to stay on. And I did! I’d nailed it!

With my new knowledge I managed the full full three laps of the circuit successfully, and it felt amazing! The water rushing past so close and the bobbing from the waves was just such a great feeling!

Now I’d conquered the kneeboard it was time to put on my big boy pants and try wakeboarding.

I put on the board and hobbled to the start. Attempt one: I stacked it after 10 centimetres. Attempt two: I stacked it at 5 metres. Attempt three: I stacked it at 10 metres.

After the third attempt we’d run out of time. I need to go back and get more tries under my belt, those wakeboarders look like they are having the time of their lives!

(left to right) Me, John and Stuart – still alive after two hours of intense wakeboarding

until next week,


How I ended up playing rugby on roller skates

Recently I’ve been introduced to the weird of wonderful sport of Roller Derby. Roller Derby is basically a contact sport played on roller skates. It involves two teams of five skating around a track, scoring points by lapping the opposing team’s skaters. Only one skater from each team can actually score points, called ‘jammers’. The other skaters try and help their jammer get through while holding up the other team’s jammer, these skaters are called ‘blockers’.

Roller Derby track
Every pink blocker the blue jammer passes would score one point for the blue team.

I saw my first game last October when Emily invited a few of us to watch the Surrey Roller Girls play a ’bout’ (that’s what the games are called). This is us eating bourbons and trying to follow what on earth was going on. As usual Will and I turned up wearing the same clothes.

I really enjoyed watching all the action, and I was surprised just how far some of the girls went flying off the track after being hit. It was certainly more violent than I was expecting! At that time I had no interest in actually participating, mainly because I’ve never been interested in team sports since the humiliations of secondary school PE.

Roller derby is predominantly a woman’s game, but there is a men’s league and in the last 12 months Surrey has formed a men’s team called the Surrey Jammerwockies. In order to raise money for the new team, the boys were asking for sponsorship to skate a marathon. The marathon consisted of 11 laps around the Goodwood racetrack as part of a track day called South Coast Roll – where the track is reserved for roller skating for a whole day.

Emily asked me if I was interested in giving the marathon a go and I jumped at the chance! My brother used to play roller hockey and ice hockey when I was younger so I’ve always been interested in roller-blading and ice skating, and this looked like so much fun!

South Coast Roll
Coming over the marathon finish line!

I bought some second hand skates and borrowed some pads from the team and off I went! It was awesome! I haven’t had so much fun while simultaneously getting so many blisters in my life! I loved just having the freedom to skate as fast as I could with so much space, something you could never do in an ice rink.

I went to a few roller derby training sessions in the two weeks leading up to the marathon, just to get used to skating again and build my confidence, but I ended up really enjoying the game-play aspect of the sessions as well. In other words, I got hooked.

The speed, agility and strength needed in order to compete is so interesting to me, but the one aspect that encouraged me to come back every week was the spirit of the boys in the team. I never liked team sports in Secondary School, not because I was lazy, but because it was driven by egos and alpha-males.

I never liked the “shower-room banter” or lad-like culture that surrounded sports like hockey, football and rugby. And I had no reason to believe that Men’s Roller Derby was any different, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Maybe it goes back to the fact that Roller Derby is predominantly a female sport, but the attitude of the guys in the team was so welcoming and friendly, without any bullshit, that I can’t believe I even thought it would be different. There’s no ‘initiation’, no fresh-meat inferiority and no disrespect.

Now I’m regularly attending the boys sessions and hoping to compete in my first game before the end of the year. I really enjoy the skating and taking on a new challenge. It’s building my fitness and introducing me to a whole group of new, like-minded people. I love it and would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt out of place in other team sports.

Until next Thursday,