Informatics Newsletter November 2017

Issue 10 of our School newsletter for staff and students.

New Staff

  • Stefano Albrecht - Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence - started on 2nd October
  • Adam Kirylczuk  - Computing Support Officer - started on 11th October
  • Lorna Adams - Senior Secretary (PA to Head of School) - started on 1st November

Recent news stories from around the School

  • Professor Alan Kay, a renowned American computer scientist has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh.

Alan Kay awarded an honorary degree

  • Robotics and artificial intelligence researchers are lending their expertise to a raft of newly funded projects with industry applications.

Robotics and AI hubs

  • Edinburgh experts and global telecoms firm Huawei are to collaborate on the development of artificially intelligent robots supported by next-generation wireless networks.

New Huawei collaboration

  • Computers are being trained to solve problems by bingeing on episodes of a popular TV crime drama.

Computers solve crime

  • School of Informatics held a workshop on electronic voting on Wednesday, 29 November. Academics discussed how their research could help address the challenges of electronic voting.

Electronic Voting workshop

  • Paolo Guagliardo and Leonid Libkin have recently published two papers that address flaws in SQL and relational databases.

Flaws in SQL databases addressed

Artificial Intelligence Zone Winner
Artificial Intelligence Zone Winner

Petros winning I’m an Engineer AI Zone

Petros Papapanagiotou recently took part in I’m an Engineer, Get Me Out Of Here and was voted the winner of the AI zone among the 6 participating engineers

Winner of AI Zone Announced

HoS Consultation with staff

Steve Rennals is holding consultations with staff regarding the appointment of the new Head of School (see below for the schedule). If you haven’t managed to attend the appropriate session yet, you can see Steve in person or contact him via email.

Contact Steve Renals

  • Monday 13 November, 12:30  (4.31/33) - Research staff
  • Monday 27 November, 12:30  (4.31/33) - Administrative staff
  • Monday 4 December, 12:30 (4.31/33) - Less senior academic/teaching staff
  • Thursday 7 December, 12:30 (1.15) - Commercialisation staff
  • Friday 8 December, 10:00 (MF-2) - Computing and technical staff
  • Monday 11 December, 12:30 (4.31/33) - Senior academic/teaching staff

Students in Informatics end-of-course feedback

Student feedback forms for all taught course are open online till Sunday 10th December.

If you are teaching a course now ending then please tell students and encourage them to provide feedback.

If you are a student you have probably already received an email titled "Course Enhancement Questionnaire". If you have misplaced it, please follow the link for your personalised course list on MyEd.

Courses List

Different questions ask for your recommendations to staff teaching each course and your advice to students taking them in future. Your comments will be published online on the student course feedback page.

Student course feedback

Please do take time to give feedback that you think will help us improve these courses and guide future students. All your feedback goes to individual lecturers and to the Informatics Director of Teaching.

Participation is voluntary and anonymous; we will not track your individual submissions or send targeted reminders.

Please get in touch with Informatics Feedback Officer, Ian Stark, if you have any questions about these surveys.

Contact Ian Stark


  • Recent grant applications table

Recent research funding successes

  • Professor Mirella Lapata and partners have been awarded £349,277 in funding from  Raytheon BBN Technologies (RBBNT) for the Foreign Language Automated Information Retrieval (FLAIR) project. Intelligence gathering has come to involve a growing number of languages. For most uncommon languages, there are few or no automated tools available for machine translation. This project seeks to develop methods for finding speech and text content in such low-resource languages that is relevant to specific information needs (e.g., finding government related documents in Somali that talk about the polio vaccine).
  • Sharon Goldwater and partners secured £368,926 for their project Modeling The Development Of Phoentic Representations. This project brings together researchers in speech perception and computational modelling from the University of Maryland and the School of Informatics in order to test a different hypothesis about the development of differences in speech perception across languages. They propose that category knowledge is not necessary for perceptual learning to begin. They plan to develop computational models to demonstrate how perceptual learning can occur in the absence of categories, and evaluate them against data collected from human perception experiments. These studies will shed light on the process of early perceptual learning in infants, and may also lead to improvements in speech technology for languages that are underserved by current methods.
  • School of Informatics have secured funding for a PhD studentship providing £140k over 3.5 years from FiveAI. The studentship will be on the topic of ‘Sequential decision making and reinforcement learning in highly dynamic and uncertain environments’. This project will address reinforcement learning, focussing in particular on how best to learn policies in environments that are continually changing and include other agents who are making their own decisions. The technical approach will build on recent developments from Dr Subramanian Ramamoorthy’s lab, such as program induction methods for making learnt policies explainable and amenable to analysis, and type-based models for structuring interactive decision making. FiveAI is a UK-based startup company developing the technology stack for a driverless car, with a view to providing Mobility as a Service in dense urban environments such as the city of London.
Tiree Tech Wave atendees
Tiree Tech Wave attendees

Student success

  • PhD student Pangiotis Stratis, won 3rd place in the ACM Student Research Competition held at ICSE 2017. As a result of being in the top three, he will now take part in the ACM SRC Grand Finals to be held later in 2017/18.

ACM Student Research Competition

  • Our students went to the Isle of Tiree to take part in Tiree Tech Wave and work on an exciting rural technology project. They plan to go back next year, if they manage to secure funding.

Talking walls and boxes on the fringes of Hebrides

  • Team from Informatics won Cyber Security Challenge again.

Cyber Security Challenge winners

In other news

New Expenses Policy

A new Expenses Policy has been introduced on 1st December. Most importantly expense claims can only be used to reimburse accommodation, travel and incidental spending (i.e. personal costs incurred in connection with University purposes).  Other key changes affect buying goods and services, expense claims submitted online, authorisation of claims, booking with our Travel Agent - Key Travel and retention of receipts. Please follow the links below for details.

Procurement Policies and Procedures

New Expenses Policy


The mumps virus is circulating and affecting young adults in Edinburgh and the Lothians.  There was a small number of cases of mumps within the student community at the University of Edinburgh. Please see the link below for prevention tips.

Mumps prevention

Edinburgh Local

Edinburgh Local is a new part of the University website which will showcase our community engagement and seek to develop it. People living and working locally will more easily be able to access information about the University and find out about the opportunities, activities and support we provide for schools, community groups and individuals.

Subscribe to their newsletter

Get in touch to tell them your stories: if your work or research involves interacting with local communities, email Edinburgh Local.

Contact Edinburgh Local

Induction: Get Connected Welcome Day

Have you recently joined the university in an academic or research role? Attend Get Connected Welcome Day! The Get Connected day is an informal induction event for new research staff and academics, in all Schools / Colleges, who have recently joined the University. It’s also suitable for new post-docs who have previously done their doctoral studies at Edinburgh.

Get Connected Day

Edinburgh Innovations

New Edinburgh Innovations website has been launched. It reflects recent rebranding and completes the evolution from the former Edinburgh Research and Innovation. The rebranding reflects their repositioning as the University’s innovation management service, and signals Edinburgh Innovations’ commitment to proactively driving benefit for industry and society in line with the University’s strategic ambitions. The new website sits alongside EI’s presence on the University of Edinburgh's website, which is primarily for academic staff and holds some content behind the EASE login for confidentiality reasons.

Edinburgh Innovations

EI on the University's website

Outreach and PE

The call for 2018 Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas shows is now live!

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (CoDI) provides an informal but high-profile platform for researchers to share, discuss and debate their work with members of the public. It has taken place at the Edinburgh Fringe every summer since 2013. In 2017, we had 48 shows that reached over 2,000 members of the public. The deadline for initial (non-binding) expressions of interest is 14th December, but it may still be possible to get involved after this point.

Expressions of interest for the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas

More information

Edinburgh Community Engagement Forum, 7th Dec, 12noon-2pm

For those interested in community engagement, the first meeting of this new forum will take place on Thurs 7th Dec, 12noon-2pm at 7 Bristo Square. For more information and to register please go to the Eventbrite website. To be added to the Edinburgh Community Engagement Forum mailing list, please contact Sarah Anderson.

Register on Eventbrite

Contact Sarah Anderson


Cyber Security Christmas Lecture

The School of Informatics is hosting the Cyber Security Christmas lectures again. The 2017 edition will take place on Thursday 14th December 2017 at 10 am-12 noon and 12.30-2.30 pm in George Square Lecture Theatre. The event is aimed at school kids.

Booking is essential

Guess who?

Which three members of staff sing in the Edinburgh Bach Choir, which meets at St Cuthbert's Church, Lothian Road, almost every Tuesday from 7:15-9:30?

Member of Staff no 1

Member of Staff no 2

Member of Staff no 3

EBC does three concerts a year. The next concert will be a cheerfully seasonal one, with some audience participation, on Sunday 3rd December, and this year's highspot will be the Bach B Minor Mass in the summer. Informatics people on EBC are happy to hear from people we can sell tickets to, and from people who might like to join - there are open rehearsals at the start of each term. Contact them directly and make sure you go to see them sing on Sunday!

EBC website

Keep in Touch

For all the latest news, keep an eye on our website and social media channels!

Informatics Communications team website



Edinburgh Informatics Alumni group on LinkedIn


The newsletter is produced by the Communications team.

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The newsletter editorial team are taking a well-deserved Christmas break. Watch this space for your next newsletter in January. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!