• Alumni Spotlight

    5 Years on since leaving Bilborough, we caught up with Sara to chat about what she’s up to and find out how Bilborough, particularly Music Technology, played a role in her journey to studying her PhD in Artifical Intelligence and Music.

    Could you start by telling us your name and what you do?


     Hey! I am Sara Cardinale, I am a PhD Researcher in Artificial Intelligence and Music at Queen Mary, University of London. Specifically, I am researching and inventing new ways to use AI to generate music for film and videogames.


    What does an average day look like in your job?


    There is no average day! One of the benefits of the job is that I set my own schedule, so I can work on what I like when I like (unless a paper deadline is looming!). This brings its own challenges, I have to efficiently manage my time to keep on track but the freedom I have to explore such an interesting area is worth it.

    My time is usually split into reading papers to make sure that I am aware of other research in my area, sending/replying to emails and other admin tasks, attending seminars and research group meetings, and… doing research! I have my own research projects that will end up becoming my PhD thesis, and side projects. When I spend time working on my research project, it usually starts with reading some interesting papers in my area that inspire me and give me ideas for a new project or an insight on how to improve something that already exists. When I am excited by a new idea, I start thinking about the details such as what is the motivation for this new tool or improvement I am making, and how will it work.

    Not all ideas work! Sometimes I have to find ways to overcome problems, and sometimes it’s back to the drawing board.  Not every step is forward, but that’s the nature of research. Then, after a few weeks (or months), the project starts taking shape. When I’ve finally solved my problem, it’s time to write. I submit research papers to all sorts of venues, journals, conferences, and workshops to share my work with other researchers.

    I love how creative yet scientific this job is. Although it is hard and mentally tiring at times, I love being a researcher and wouldn’t change it for anything!

    Sara Graduates from Bilborough in 2017


    What subjects did you study at Bilborough and when?


    I attended Bilborough college from 2015 to 2017. The subjects I chose were Music Technology, Psychology and Ethics and Philosophy. I had just moved to the U.K. from Italy, where the education system is very different. I had studied music theory and performance for most of my life, so I wanted to try something new that Italy’s education system did not offer.


    When you started Bilborough, were you planning to go down this route?


    Absolutely not! I knew I wanted to go to university and that’s about it. I remember thinking that I wanted to take a break from music and maybe consider a career/degree in something else. After taking music technology at Bilborough, I decided to stay in the music world, but I would have never thought I would end up where I am now!


    After leaving Bilborough what was your next step?


    I studied Creative Music Technology at the University of Surrey, then straight onto the PhD. During my time at university, I was exposed to academic research and realised how much I enjoyed it.


    What advice would you give to your younger (college age) self?

    I would probably tell college Sara to be more confident in herself and her skills.


    Is there a highlight of your college experience that you think helped you to take the path you did?


    Absolutely! I owe a huge thank you to the Music Tech 2015-2017 staff. Before attending Bilborough College, I had never done any music production or composition, and they made me fall in love with the subject. I had the best time attending lessons and working on my projects. If it was not for them, I probably would not have chosen music technology as a subject at university, and maybe would have continued with music performance, or even chosen a completely different field.


    What’s next for you?


    Right now, I am in my second year, out of four, of my PhD. After I graduate, I plan to become a lecturer,  teaching  AI and music techniques and creative computing to undergraduate music students.


    We’d like to say a huge thank you to Sara for sharing her story and taking time from her busy research schedule to talk to us. 


    If you are an ex-student of Bilborough and you would like to share your story, please email