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News > Science, Technology & Medicine > Tonbridge's Scientists: Fred Isaac

Tonbridge's Scientists: Fred Isaac

OTs answer: What can I do with my science degree?
2019 has been an extraordinary year for Science at Tonbridge. To mark the opening of the new Barton Science Centre, we asked Old Tonbridgians with a science background to write to us with their story. In the next pages, we hear from 9 OTs, whose experience demonstrate the wide range of job options available to science graduates, and many of whom have exploited the positive characteristics of their science-trained brains in some unexpected sectors. 

Product Manager, Cubic Motion

After 5 great years at Tonbridge playing sport, video games and working to get the best grades I possibly could, I left the South East to study Chemistry at the University of York. I chose York and chemistry because I was good at the subject, had a curiosity to solve problems and knew I could pursue the sport of my choosing whilst doing so. The specific choice of chemistry was secondary to the fact I felt that a solid grounding in science would allow me to pursue a technology-focused career post university. 

In my final year at university I was sure that chemistry was something I no longer wished to pursue. I felt the process was too long winded for me to see results, and I wanted to enact change and create things as soon as possible. This led me to look towards a career in technology. I realised, while having a deabte with my family about automation, that I had a passion for how computers and robots interpret the world. I pursued this passion and established myself with a job at the largest computer vision distributor in Europe as a sales engineer. Working at a large organisation in a dual role of sales and engineering allowed me to see the breadth of applications computer vision could be used in, from making cars, to goal line technology in football, and even idenitfying the most efficient method for butchering pigs. I got to play a part in specifying and building all of these systems; something which took a large measure of careful maths and a fundamental understanding of science.

The broad nature of my early work experiences really allowed me to identify the challenges I wanted to work on. This is something I think I would still be unaware of had my role been focused in one market area rather than across a technology. I found most interest in areas where traditional techniques were failing; specifically agriculture and media content creation.

Above: Cubic Motion's facial animation technology in action

I felt a special affinity towards agriculture as this was an area where chemistry could be deemed to be lacking. The fact that herbicide resistance is growing among weeds, and current methods of trying to control this is costing over $20 billion dollars a year says that using chemistry to kill these plants is no longer the right solution. We are also starting to see significant literature come out about how we are dramatically altering our eco systems with these techniques, the most prominent recent issue being the damage we have been causing to bees.

I wanted to do something about these problems; ones I knew existed from my background in chemistry, but ones I didn’t believe were being solved fast enough by the science that had created the problem. I therefore joined an Agritech start-up that was applying computer vision to the harvesting of crops by building a robot that could roam the farm and identify and pick tomatoes as soon as they became ripe. One of the key benefits of reducing human contact with the crops whilst they grow is that you dramatically decrease the chance of infection with disease, and therefore reduce the amount you need to spray the crops. Working on this project really allowed me to feel like I was meeting this challenge head on.

I have since moved on from that exciting endeavour to work for a company called Cubic Motion, who provide facial animation and animation technology to leading video games, tv shows and films. We build products that allow us to film actors and translate the performance straight to animated characters, making their expressions appear incredibly lifelike. Though this would seem like an extreme departure from Agritech and computer vision, we are all about accurately translating an actor's performance into the digital realm, just like I was previously translating the ripeness of a tomato. Both deal with how computers understand the world. This application of the fundamental knowledge I have around computer vision would have been impossible without my scientific background. Studying science and chemistry at school and university taught me that you must still apply understood fundamentals to unseen and unknown challenges, even in cutting- edge industries like Agritech and video games development.

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