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Luke Jenkinson

A Laidlaw Scholar case study

I want to develop new technologies that will be used to save lives.

Luke Jenkinson has always been interested in computers so it was no surprise that he decided to undertake a degree in Computer Science. He wants to go on to do a PhD and his area of interest is how software and machine learning can be used to diagnose patients, with the aim of reducing misdiagnoses.

There are an estimated 850,000 medical mistakes in the UK each year costing the NHS around £2 billion thus making Luke’s field of research relevant and necessary:

“Using machine learning to diagnose patients is an area with a lot of funding at the moment and I believe that software holds the key to reducing, if not eliminating, medical misdiagnoses. I want to develop new technologies which will ultimately be used to save lives.”

Luke’s research project, as part of the Laidlaw Scholarship, focuses on how computers can detect when a patient is exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. This neurodegenerative disease, which affects the motor system of the brain, is exhibited through three main symptoms: involuntary shaking, slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles. Current conventional tracking methods rely on patients self-reporting which isn’t always deemed to be 100% reliable.

In the last two years advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have proven that computers can now have a higher success rate than humans at recognising images. As Luke says:

“The speed of change in AI is overwhelming and fascinating. I was watching an episode of ‘House’ with Hugh Laurie playing a medical genius and just thought ‘why can’t a computer do what he is doing?’”

During his research project Luke has learnt what working habits work best for him and he structures his days accordingly. On the leadership side he was rated highly on a presentation he gave which has increased his confidence in public speaking:

“I was always a shy child and that’s how I still see myself but this programme has taught me that others don’t necessarily view me in this way and that has given me much more confidence in my abilities.”

One day Luke is considering running his own medical analysis business. Whatever Luke goes on to do he thinks that the skills he is learning during the Laidlaw Scholarship will be vital to his long-term future success.