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Sam Hislop-Lynch stands in front of a sandstone building in UQ's Great Court

What's it like to do a PhD in artificial intelligence?

UQ people
Published 5 Jan, 2023  ·  4-minute read

Studying a PhD in artificial intelligence (AI) places you at the forefront of cutting-edge technology.

Artificial intelligence research continues to expand and evolve every day as we appreciate what our future could look like. This type of technology can help solve all kinds of problems, from small-scale, everyday complications to larger-than-life challenges.

An artificial intelligence PhD can kickstart your research career in this fascinating field and open many other doors as you explore new ways to problem-solve using technology.

We talked to UQ Postdoctoral Research Fellow Sam Hislop-Lynch about his experience studying a Doctor of Philosophy and what he hopes his research using artificial intelligence, and more specifically computer vision (CV), will achieve.

Learn more about studying a PhD at UQ.

PhD topics in artificial intelligence

PhD research topics in artificial intelligence can vary dramatically depending on your interests. Whether you choose your own PhD topic or join an existing PhD project, you could find yourself pursuing research in the areas of:

  • data management and data science
  • computer vision and multimedia computation
  • machine learning and data mining
  • optimisation and statistics
  • human-centred AI.
Sam Hislop-lynch sits with a laptop outside UQ's Student central

Sam landed on a computer vision PhD topic after working with the technology during his undergrad and postgrad studies. His research focuses on optimising traffic flow.

“Motorways often suffer from flow breakdown around ramps and weaving segments, and with our current technology, it's difficult to investigate this and propose solutions,” he says.

“I developed a suite of algorithms and software to allow researchers and practitioners to fly many drones above a motorway, stitch the imagery together and then extract vehicle trajectories from the footage.”

There are just some things that machines can achieve more efficiently and reliably than humans, and Sam’s research is testament to that.

“Ultimately, the research will reveal strategies that can be used to alleviate or prevent traffic flow breakdowns,” he says.

“This might take the form of better road design guidelines or even real-time strategies for mitigating congestion.”

It’s all about being able to see what’s working and what’s not, and it’s computer vision that allows us to do this.

These findings have a knock-on effect on the environment too. Less traffic congestion and stalling means a reduction in vehicle emissions.

At the end of the day, AI is helping us to better understand how we can use machines efficiently and responsibly, and the research undertaken during a PhD can help us to makes strides in this area.

Is a PhD in artificial intelligence worth it?

So, what are the perks of completing a PhD in AI? According to Sam, it teaches you invaluable skills in problem-solving, which can help open many other doors down the line and expand your professional network.

Sam Hislop-Lynch quote

I began working with AI/CV technology because it allowed me to investigate problems that would otherwise be impossible to solve with human pattern recognition alone.

Sam Hislop-Lynch
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, UQ School of Civil Engineering

“AI/CV technology allows me to process large amounts of video data with only very little human input.”

Sam recognised that this type of technology was very valuable to several industries outside of transport engineering. The skills he has developed in artificial intelligence and computer vision can be applied in a range of settings and projects, to great effect.

“I’ve leveraged the knowledge that I obtained during my PhD to begin developing software for the mining industry.”

“I intend to pursue this further and expand the scope and number of products I offer,” he says.

Since the completion of his PhD, Sam has branched out into consultancy work while continuing his research. His experience is living proof that a PhD in AI is worth it, if you make the most of the professional opportunities available and think big when it comes to using the skills you’ve learned.

So, what should you consider when deciding whether a PhD in artificial intelligence is the right path for you? Sam encourages you to ask yourself the following:

  • Are you interested in the topic?
  • Does it align with your long-term goals?
  • Where else can this knowledge be applied?
  • Can the skills you will learn be used to solve other problems and leverage a better job?
Sam Hislop-Lynch stands leaning against a white tile wall in UQ's Student Central

Why study a PhD in artificial intelligence at UQ?

It isn’t just because we have a beautiful campus, state-of-the-art facilities, strong connections with industry leaders and a focus on professional development opportunities. Though all those things certainly help.

Sam explains the specific benefits of studying an artificial intelligence PhD at UQ.

“Apart from the high academic standards and many knowledgeable staff to draw upon, UQ hosts the Wiener supercomputer,” he says.

“This is a purpose-built, bare-metal cluster full of graphical processing units (GPUs) which is well suited to computer vision and AI based research.”

Furthermore, UQ researchers are making strides in several disciplines with the use of AI, including health and medicine, business, society and government, mining, agriculture, defence and energy. Our people are using AI research to protect children, detect cancer and mitigate cyber-attacks.

You too could study a PhD in artificial intelligence at UQ to create positive and lasting change with your research.

Ready to follow your passion for research with a PhD in AI?

Learn more about studying a PhD at UQ

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