Rhys Compton

Bachelor of Engineering with Honors (Software Engineering)

Master of Computer Science

Advanced Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Extremely Parallel Programming, Information visualisation

Key Info

  • Bachelor of Engineering with Honors (Software Engineering)
  • Master of Computer Science
  • Advanced Machine Learning
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Extremely Parallel Programming
  • Information visualisation
  • Fulbright Scholarship

Improving the health sector using artificial intelligence is one of the aims of Masters student Rhys Compton, originally from Morrinsville.

Rhys started his MSc at New York University in January 2021 after being awarded a Fullbright Scholarship in 2020.

He says he applied for the Fulbright Scholarship to broaden his experience and was motivated to do something useful with his career, not just be successful.

“There’s a quote by an Austrian management consultant, Peter Drucker. It says people spend a lot of time worrying if they’ll be successful when the real question is, how can they be useful? It’s a quote that has always motivated me,” says Rhys.

The Fulbright award enables New Zealand academics or professionals to lecture or carry out research in the United States. Rhys’ MSc will run over two years and includes the opportunity to intern and gain work experience from leading companies in the United States, like Philips Healthcare, which is already using machine learning in health applications.

“I wanted my masters to focus on machine learning and AI applications in health and biotechnology. There is so much room to make our health systems more efficient for patients and doctors, and machine learning and AI will be at the core of this,” says Rhys.

Rhys says while machine learning will never replace doctors or specialists, it can be developed to aid them in their roles, from helping General Practitioners triage patients, to building apps where people can enter their symptoms and be given a baseline diagnosis or direction to see a healthcare provider.

“I applied for the Fulbright Scholarship because I wanted to broaden my experience and I knew I wanted to come to New York University because Dr Yann LeCun is based here. He’s considered one of the pioneers of modern deep learning internationally, so it’s a privilege to have the chance to work under him,” says Rhys.

Rhys had already been recognised for his BE (Hons) work at Waikato, before applying for the Fulbright Scholarship. As part of his Honours study, Rhys developed a process for training an algorithm that identifies what pieces of computer code do, even when the code is partially scrambled.

He says he would encourage other students thinking of applying for the Fulbright Scholarship to get their application in. The Fulbright award is open to graduate and postgraduate students in both New Zealand and the United States.

“At the time I remember thinking it seemed like an insurmountable task, going up against all of New Zealand to win one of the scholarships but the scholarship office at Waikato Uni was so helpful.”

Rhys says one of the biggest benefits of studying at Waikato was the work-integrated learning component of the degrees.

“Internships can be difficult to land otherwise.  Every internship gave me a wide range of experience even if it wasn’t in the subfield I wanted to work in, and each one taught me something I use almost every day in my job.

“Now I’m doing my masters in Computer Science at New York University  - and I feel that Waikato really set me up for success in this field.”

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