I’m a computer scientist with a background in R&D who is passionate about multidisciplinary work with a tangible impact.
I have a particular interest in Machine Learning and Unmanned Systems and strongly believe in using (and learning) the right tool for the job.
I have worked on a wide variety of projects and applications, requiring a very flexible set of skills. From machine learning and UAV design in aerospace, to advising governments on open data and speaking at major international conferences (see projects page).
I have solid technical roots with extensive experience in consultancy and project management. My main competencies include:
- Management and timely delivery of multidisciplinary projects, bridging the gap between domain experts and clients
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (ecosystem, recent developments, sensors, ..)
- Machine learning & data science
- Software architecture and engineering
- Surrogate modeling, optimisation, MDO
- Teaching and public engagement
In addition, my passion for solving real, practical problems has given me the privilege to work with a wide range of institutions and industrial partners, including: Rolls-Royce, Freescale, BMW, Arcelor Mittal, NXP Semiconductors, Airbus, CISRO Austrailia, BAE Systems, RWTH Aachen, and The World Bank.
Most of the projects I have worked on can be found on the projects page.
In particular I was the lead architect of the SUrrogate MOdeling (SUMO) Toolbox, now used commercially in many universities and companies for design space exploration and optimisation. My tools have also been used to design and build the worlds first 3D printed aircraft.
I also have a strong interest in projects with a social, humanitarian, and/or educational dimension. I sit on the advisory board of UAViators and The Next Generation Computational Modeling Doctoral Training Centre, am an active member of Kiva & The Southampton Makerspace, have organised multiple Random Hacks of Kindness events, and am a strong supporter of organisations such as DataKind, Engineers without borders and RLabs.
I further volunteer as a STEM Ambassador and regularly volunteer for outreach activities to help with the dissemination of research & technology advances to schools and the general public.
Additionally I co-founded the UK Community of Research Software Engineers, am the organiser of the London Big-O Algorithms meetup, co-organiser of the London Machine Learning Meetup and co-founder of the London Deep Learning Meetup.
Further details and recommendations can be found in my LinkedIn page.
Born and raised in Africa, Dirk then moved to Belgium where he received an M.Sc. degree in Computer Science and a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), both from the University of Antwerp (UA) in 2004. In 2005 he worked as a PhD student in the Computational Modeling and Programming (CoMP) research group researching lightweight desktop grids and related High Performance Computing topics. During this time he also worked as a visiting research associate at the Distributed Computing Laboratory of Emory University, Atlanta, USA. There, for half a year, he worked on distributed locking algorithms and integration of heterogeneous grid information systems. This was part of the HARNESS project with The University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Labs.
On his return he joined the Computer Modeling and Simulation (COMS) research group, supported by a grant from the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (FWO). In the meantime, from 2006 to 2007, he was also enrolled part time in the Master of Artificial Intelligence programme offered by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL). He graduated successfully in July 2007.
Starting from December 2007 he was active as a PhD student in the SUrrogate MOdeling Lab in the INTEC Broadband Communication Networks (IBCN) research group at Ghent University. There he worked on surrogate modeling methods for computer aided engineering and optimization, combining elements of software engineering, HPC, and machine learning. During this time he was also a research visitor at the University of Technology of Gdansk, Poland, and Stellenbosch University, South Africa. In addition he was a member of iMinds, an internationally recognized multidisciplinary ICT research center, and participated in many industrial projects. He also remained affiliated with the CoMP group at the University of Antwerp.
In October 2008 Dirk was awarded a research scholarship from the Scientific Research Fund Flanders to cover a 6 month research visit to the Dept. of Electronics at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. There he worked on evolutionary knowledge based modeling of nonlinear devices. In March 2010 he successfully defended his PhD dissertation, thus obtaining a doctorate in Engineering Science from Ghent University. The tools he developed during his PhD are now used in many institutions, both commercially and academically.
Starting February 2010 he joined the Computational Engineering and Design Group at School of Engineering and the Environment of Southampton University with close ties to the Airbus Technology Centre for Aeroacoustics and Noise, the Rolls Royce Centre for Computational Engineering, and the Microsoft Institute for High Performance Computing. At the CEDG he was responsible for the design and architecture of a software design suite for civilian UAVs. During the project his tools helped design multiple UAVs that flew successfully, including the worlds first fully 3D printed aircraft and a UAV for the BBC to be used during the London 2012 Olympics. During this time he was also a regular attendee of the London Python Dojo and numerous related meetup groups in London.
After 8 years he decided to leave academic research and move to industry. He started with some freelance work during which he designed and implemented an evolutionary optimization and feature selection framework for Natural Language Processing (NLP) models. In May 2013 he then took up a full time position as a principal research engineer in the Information Processing group at the Advanced Technology Centre of BAE Systems. Here he worked on a wide range of projects with general themes covering: (big) data analysis, information retrieval, machine learning, computational engineering and Integrated Vehicle Health Monitoring (IVHM) systems. Around the same time he also co-founded the UK Community of Research Software Engineers, started organising the London Big-O Algorithms and Datastructures Meetup and co-founded the London Deep Learning Meetup.
After a year a BAE Systems Research the opportunity arose to do paid work on Taarifa, an open source project he co-founded 3 years earlier. This eventually resulted in him leaving BAE and working as a consultant for The World Bank in the Global Practise for Transport and ICT. There he advised the Tanzanian Government on how to manage, update, and track data in the water sector as well as how to conduct UAV operations. He further led the R&D at UAV startup Skycap, was a mentor for the Advanced Skills Initiative science to data science fellowship programme, and contracted for Decision Lab and The University of Cambridge. He also taught multi-day Introduction to Machine Learning Courses in London and started co-organising the London Machine Learning Meetups.
Mid 2016 he joined Oxbotica to work on autonomous vehicles. Founded in 2014 as a spin-out from Oxford University’s internationally acclaimed Mobile Robotics Group, Oxbotica was singled-out early by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top ten EMEA technology startups in 2015. Oxbotica’s portfolio of technology solutions enable mobile autonomy in a wide variety of deployments from self driving cars to Mars rovers.
Finally, throughout his career he has always volunteered for outreach programmes. He is an official STEM Ambassador and has helped disseminate research to secondary schools, charities, and the general public. His interest in international development led him to participate in multiple hackathon-type events with a social dimension. He was part of the winning team at the 2011 Water Hackathon, won a special mention at the 2012 Rewired State Parliament Hack weekend, was the organiser of multiple Random Hacks of Kindness events, the founder of SouthREACH, and founding member of the Taarifa.org association and community. He is also an active member of the SoMakeIt Makerspace, on the advisory board for UAViators (the Humanitarian UAV community) and the Southampton University Next Generation Computational Modeling doctoral training centre.