EDM, a “nurturing familial environment”

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Picture features (L-R) April Coombes (UWE), Professor Melvyn Smith (UWE), Dr Gytis Bernotas (UWE), Dr Mark Hansen (UWE), Geraint Jones (Innovate UK), James Theobald (Agsenze) at the Agri-EPI Centre in Shepton Mallet. (Originally published here)

Senior Research Fellow in EDM’s Machine Vision group, Mark Hansen, researches machine learning and computer vision, with a particular focus recently on agritech applications. This has included successfully moving many technologies into industry, from dairy herd monitors, to facial and emotional recognition in pigs, to counting and sizing potatoes as they come out the ground. (Read this blog post on the latest developments from the Machine Vision Team).

Mark worked as a software engineer in industry for 10 years, before coming to the BRL in 2008 for his PhD. And he’s never looked back.

“There’s a lot of freedom and I direct a lot of my own work. I never feel micro-managed or that someone is breathing down by neck at any time. I will get the work done and my line manager knows that. 

I feel very trusted, it’s a nurturing familial type of environment to work in.” 

When Mark’s children were much younger, he made use of the nursery on campus and adaptable working hours to schedule work around his childcare responsibilities. 

“There’s flexibility if I need it for my family. I have two children, 10 and 7, and my wife is a successful solicitor, so she works a lot.” 

Crisis in the family 

Mark highlights a particular occasion when UWE’s flexibility was invaluable for his family: 

“My wife had just left to go to court in London, when my eldest fell on the youngest, embedding his tooth into his forehead.” 

Although initially stitched up okay, Mark’s son soon developed a very serious infection. He was hospitalised on intravenous antibiotics, and there was a real fear he might develop sepsis. 

“As opposed to many other jobs I’ve had in the past, I was just able to tell my line manager I’m not going to be in for…I don’t know for how long. And I knew I didn’t have to worry about work at all.”  

Mark’s son made a full recovery, and the experience has given Mark an acute appreciation for EDM’s staff support, “it would be hard to get that level and trust and balance anywhere else.” 

The friendly, international culture 

Alongside EDM’s culture of supporting family life, Mark points to the great collegial and collaborative working culture within the department, which drives its success. 

“I get to work with people who are all really passionate about what they do and have a very wide range of skills to call on.” 

Mark enjoys the international diversity and friendly atmosphere within the department, fondly remembering an international lunch where 40 different dishes were authentically prepared, “I think it was probably the best meal I’ve ever eaten!” 

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