Astromed Work Experience

Astromed was based in Cambridge Science Park, Cambridge, UK, and developed very specialized CCD cameras. Their claim to fame is having developed the camera for the Hubble Space telescope! They also made cameras for medical work, such as photographing images of DNA fingerprints.

I worked at Astromed from June to September 1990, and developed software for recognizing DNA bands in photographs. The DNA bands would consist of several vertical columns, with each column having several horizontal bands. Each band would be slightly deformed or curved, but bands in the same column would tend to be similarly deformed.

The software I wrote would take as input a large image, and scan it applying several statistical techniques, such as auto-correlations to locate the DNA band spacings, and other ad hoc techniques to determine the column locations. I wrote all the code, including the statistical techniques, based upon published standard algorithms. The software was written in C.

One problem I encountered was a balky C compiler that generated faulty code. Even though I did not understand the assembly code it generated, I isolated problematic sections of C code, and demonstrated that the compiler was inconsistent as to how it compiled these sections to assembly language. This demonstrated the problem to my manager, and I also showed him that the time I wasted circumventing the C compiler's bugs cost far more money than buying a new compiler would have. Unfortunately, he had the budget to employ me, but not the capital budget to buy new software, so there the matter rested!

Rujith de Silva
Created 2001-03-01; modified 2001-10-28