Alumni Stories - Symon Cotton

Symon is Scientific Director at Astron Clinica, and the inventor of SIAscopy. He completed his MSc in Computer Science and PhD at Birmingham University.

I completed a Physics undergraduate degree but didn't have an interest in the career opportunities Physics offered. Most Physics graduates went on to careers in research or teaching.

I was attracted to the career opportunities in computer science, and decided to complete an MSc Computer Science conversion course. This was a real life transforming decision for me. The degree brought together a group of students from a wide range of backgrounds. In my year, we had students that had studied Science, Engineering, Ancient Greek, and Business students - a real mix. We learned a great deal and all found good jobs in the industry after graduating.

The campus community at Birmingham is great. It is a very social campus, you meet people all the time. I also joined the rowing club while I was at the University.

After completing my MSc in Computer Science ...

After completing my MSc in Computer Science I secured a job as a software engineer at Capita, a leading supplier of information systems to the education sector.

I returned to Birmingham University to complete my PhD. I had completed a project in medical imagining during my final year which developed my interest in this area.

After completing my PhD with a thesis entitled "A non-invasive imaging system for assisting in the diagnosis of malignant melanoma." i joined Cambridge Design Partnership to continue to develop this technology, which led to the formation of Astron Clinica Limited in November 1998 , when it became apparent that the technology had a significant commercial future.

Since starting up the company, Astron Clinica has grown from two members of staff to forty employees both in the UK and Australia, where there is a large incidence of skin cancer. We sell to both hospitals and GP's. We have doubled turnover every year since we started. We have also moved into other areas such as cosmetic companies where we have developed a close relationship with P&G.

I set up with my friend Astron Clinica. We have since grown to 40 employees both in the UK and Australia. Australia obviously has a large incidence of skin cancer. We sell to both hospitals and GP's. We have doubled turnover every year since it started

My role is very much applied research and developing software applications. I apply computing and technology to solve problems outside the computer field - in health and medicine, for example.

Astron Clinica has developed a unique product suite that enables doctors and skincare specialists to look beneath the surface of the skin. DERMETRICS and SIAscopy, Astron Clinica's patented technology, examine the main components of the skin - haemoglobin, melanin, dermal melanin and collagen - and provide a detailed set of images that add up to a powerful tool in diagnosis and monitoring. Originally developed to address the growing problem of malignant melanoma, SIAscopy and DERMETRICS have a range of applications across skin conditions, wound management and cosmetics development.

The University of Birmingham still own the patent to SIAScope and receive royalties from Astron Clinica each year which is invested back into research in the School of Computer Science.