Informatics Newsletter February 2023

Issue 65 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Photograph of Jane Hillston in Venice
Jane Hillston taking a city break in Venice earlier this month

Dear All,

I hope that everyone has been able to have a break of some sort during February, whether that was actual time off or a change in routine due to the Festival of Learning.  There is an old saying that a change is as good as a rest.  As someone who is perpetually sleep-deprived I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, but it is true that stepping out of our usual routine can bring the stimulus that we need to think and act a little differently, sparking creativity and innovation.

Last week I did take some time off and spent a long weekend in Venice.  It is a city I always enjoy as it seems to symbolise the triumph of innovation and optimism over the mundane.  It is hard to imagine the imagination and creativity that went into building such a fantastic city on a series of low lying islands in the northern Adriatic, not to mention sheer determination.  What the Venetians built were not just shelters to survive in, but amazing palaces and churches that remain today.  But this was not all about show, it was also extremely practical.  I don’t anywhere else where there are thoroughfares, complete with street lighting, across expanses of water, such as those that exist out to the smaller islands of Murano and Burano!

Reflecting on this in the context of our 60 year celebrations, I think that we can credit the early founders of AI and CS at Edinburgh with similar creativity and ambition.  The intellectual edifices that they constructed were every bit of as ambitious and glorious as the Venetian palazzos.  Before the 60 year anniversary event last month I had not fully appreciated the analog nature of Michie’s work on Menace, based on matchboxes.  As a discipline develops the islands suitable for development and thoroughfares through the sea become better marked but I think that it is important that we still allow the possibility of striking out in new directions.  I hope that the 60 years anniversary gives all the stimulus to think about how we may innovate across all areas of the School to ensure that the next 60 years are just as successful.

With best wishes,


New Staff

Current vacancies

We are recruiting for various academic (lecturer/reader) and research (RAs) positions within the School of Informatics, across our research fields.

Link to School of Informatics vacancies website


Help us spread the word about 60 years of Computer Science & AI at Edinburgh - use the branding toolkit!

In 2023, the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh celebrates 60 years of Computer Science and AI research. We will be celebrating in many different ways, and you can help us spread the word as well. The easiest way to do it is to use the branding toolkit that we have specifically prepared to be used throughout the year.

We encourage all staff members to add branding to their email signatures. There are two versions you can use: a school one and a corporate one.

We also encourage everyone, especially events organisers, to use other assets in the toolkit. As above there are two versions: a school one and a corporate one. The School version of the toolkit is specifically designed for internal use: any internal events connected to the celebration should be making use of this toolkit. The corporate toolkit is public-facing, so if you'd like to mark the celebrations and events, presentations etc. that you will be participating in this year, that are aimed at an audience external to Informatics - please use the corporate toolkit. There are guidelines for both toolkits provided.

If you're not sure, email the Informatics Communications team and we will advise you on the most appropriate version of the celebration branding, or indeed whether it is appropriate to use the branding.

Informatics Branding Toolkit (Informatics Branding Toolkit can also be accessed via the Corporate Toolkit link)

Corporate Branding Toolkit

Please note that the celebration badge must be used in conjunction with a full UoE or School logo and cannot be used as a stand-alone graphic unless on the University/School digital estate.

Please make sure that you include the link to the 60 years of computer science and AI website.

Any questions?

Contact InfComms

Head of School recruitment - invitation to input into criteria for a new HoS

The Head of College and Head of School selection panel would like to hear from you, with particularly interest in your views of the criteria you feel are most important in relation to your understanding of the current and anticipated future needs of the School and University.  This will ensure that they are able to represent the views of the School throughout the process.

The following opportunities for you to engage with the Head of College and Head of School selection panel have been arranged:

  • Thursday 2 March (10am to 11.30am) – open meeting for all staff in G.07 – hybrid meeting – you can join online via the Teams details emailed to all staff from Informatics dops on Friday 24 February 2023. 
  • Tuesday 8 March – drop-in session with Professor Frank Keller (intended as an opportunity for a 1:1 conversation) – IF 3.27A (Frank’s office)
  • Thursday 9 March – drop-in session with Samantha Inch (an opportunity for a 1:1 conversation) – IF 5.13

You can also use the email account in confidence if you would like to communicate directly with the staff representatives. A general synthesis of the views emailed here will be discussed  before the shortlisting meeting on 17 March.

In addition, the Head of College, Professor Iain Gordon (, is very happy to receive emails from anyone who would like to discuss any specifics about the Head of School role and this process.

Frank, Sam, Joy and Iain are currently finalising arrangements for the school visits for the shortlisted candidates.  They anticipate that the school visits will be within the period 13-17 April (interviews are being held 18 April) and will advise you as soon as practical.

EFI's Love Machine is open for booking

The Edinburgh Futures Institute's Spring programme of events, created in collaboration with partners will run between March and May 2023. The Love Machine season, and 13 specific events in it, is part of the University of Edinburgh's 60 Years of Computer Science and AI research celebrations. All events are free but ticketed so grab yours while they last.

Opening the season, held over two sessions in March 2023, the fourth Edinburgh Futures Conversations Series will feature a panel and performance that reflects on how AI and humanity can evolve alongside each other. The panel brings together leading experts from the worlds of science, politics, and civil society to debate what our AI futures may bring. The dance performance explores the delicate and intricately evolving relationship between humans and machines, through a dynamic dance between a dancer and a soft robot as the focal point.

Link to the general public events celebrating 60 years of computer science and AI

Link to the Love Machine programme


Two ICSA papers recognised by IEEE MICRO

Every year the computer architecture community selects a set of papers published in the previous year in the top computer architecture conferences. These are "significant and insightful papers that have the potential to influence the work of computer architects for years to come." This year 12 Top Picks and 12 Honorable Mentions were selected. Two ICSA papers were among those recognized. 


Co-authored by Nicolai Oswald (ICSA PhD student), Vijay Nagarajan (ICSA faculty), Dan Sorin (former ICSA visitor), Vasilis Gavrielatos (former PhD student), Carr Reece and Theo Olausson (former Edinburgh undergrad students) was recognized as a Top Picks. The work provides a formal foundation of what it means when two of more processors (e.g., CPUs and GPUs) share memory (compound consistency models), and automatically synthesizes implementations (heterogeneoys coherence protocols) to match this meaning. 

Link to Heterogen paper


Co-authored by David Schall (ICSA PhD student), Artemiy Margaritov (former ICSA PhD student), Dmitrii Ustiugov (former ICSA PhD student), Andreas Sandberg (collaborator at ARM), and Boris Grot (ICSA faculty) was recognized with an Honorable Mention. The work provides a characterization of serverless functions, proposes hardware support to optimize their execution, and unveils benchmarks and simulation tools to enable computer architecture research in the serverless domain.

Link to Jukebox paper

Research Data Management

New staff update

The RDM team are delighted to welcome Katarina Scaife, our new Research Data Officer, who joined us on 13 February.

Katarina joins us from a similar role in CAHSS, and will bring valuable experience of Pure to the School. As ever, the RDM team – and Katarina in particular – will be happy to assist with Pure entries and advice around open access.

We also wish Andrew Castle (our previous Research Data Officer) all the best, as he will begin Police College after his last day in Informatics on 28 Feb.

Recently accepted papers

Please continue to notify the RDM team as soon as your paper is accepted for publication (include the date of acceptance and the accepted manuscript if ready), and Katarina or Victoria will help deposit it in Pure and ensure open access is achieved in line with University and funder requirements.

Email RDM team

Informatics Business Development Team

As we are going through some restructuring at the moment, and with our buildings occupied once again as part of hybrid working, we thought this would be an ideal opportunity to reintroduce you to the Professional Services teams within the School of Informatics.

Our next post is brought to you by the Business Development Team.

Link to blog post

Stay tuned for an introduction to a different professional services team with each newsletter.

Visit blog

Why Fairness Matters - new blog post by Informatics People & Culture

People make the School of Informatics. Whether academic, professional services, or student, without people teaching and research would halt. And people are at their best when they feel they belong in the School’s culture. At the root of an inclusive culture lies fairness, which brings out the best in people. Fairness matters, as any child knows instinctively.

Link to People & Culture blog post

Student news

Our Mind Scholarship programme launched

Funding available for short projects to allow undergraduate and postgraduate students in any discipline and year of study at the University of Edinburgh, the opportunity to undertake short 2-month-long projects to reflect, explore and engage with others, in particular the public, on questions concerning Our minds. Please spread the word amongst people who might be interested.

Deadline for application submission- 5pm, 20th March.

The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance Logo

Link to further information about this scholarship

Justas Zelnia wins SICSA Programming Challenge

The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) hosted their Fourth SICSA Programming Challenge “humble Hamming” this month. Informatics student Justas Zelnia won first place at the event, which featured problems which required good knowledge of algorithms and data structures.

I decided to participate, because I enjoy participating in various competitive programming contests. I had a great time solving the problems and I am happy to have placed 1st due to a lot of practice in similar competitions.

Justas Zelnia, student at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Staff news

Paul Patras

Paul Patras and student Haoyu Liu research how top Android phones from China collect more user data than previously thought

Phone makers like Xiamoi, OnePlus, and Oppo Realme, some of the most popular in China, are all collecting large amounts of sensitive user data via their respective operating systems, as are a variety of apps that come pre-installed on the phones. Paul Patras and his student Haoyu Liu, with their collaborator Doug Leith of Trinity College Dublin, have been researching privacy of the Android OS firmware, examining those versions available on the Chinese market.

Their recent research, findings of which will appear in ACM WiSec later this year, looked into how smartphones commercialised in China behave and how they may track their users. This information is collected even when the owners are outside of China.  

Link to full article

Volunteer with Scouts like Douglas Armstrong

Staff at the University of Edinburgh are entitled to one day of paid leave to volunteer and Professor Douglas Armstrong from the School of Informatics has been using his to volunteer at a Scouts camp. You might think that a mixture of survival camp and teenage party is not your cup of tea but there’s many ways in which you can get involved.

Over the last 8 years Douglas has participated in 30 different Scouts events, some as long as 5-8 days at a time. This year he went to the Scouts camp at the Auchengillan Outdoor Centre near Glasgow. 

Link to full article


Europe Regional Datathon

Monday 13 - Monday 20 March 2023 Virtual event open to undergraduates, graduates, PhD, and post-doc researchers

Datathons are data science competitions that challenge students from the world's best universities to tackle real-world social challenges in topics such as urban traffic, renewable energy, and education. 

Prizes : $15,000USD + Exclusive recruiting opportunities with Citadel and Citadel Securities

Apply for Datathon

Europe Regional Terminal

Tuesday 11 April - Tuesday 18 April 2023 Virtual event open to undergraduates, graduates, Ph.D., and post-doc researchers

Terminal Live is an online game where software engineers and computer scientists (or anyone else interested in coding!) build an algorithm to play a tower defense game in a team-based setting.

Prizes : $15,000USD + Exclusive recruiting opportunities with Citadel and Citadel Securities

Apply for Terminal

Diego Oyarzún will be running a Turing Workshop 'AI, Engineering Biology & Beyond'

Monday 13 - Tuesday 14 March 2023

Recent years have witnessed massive advances in lab automation and high-throughput DNA synthesis and sequencing. The scale of such biological big data has triggered interest in the use of AI and machine learning for the design of biological circuitry.

The Turing Workshop on AI, Engineering Biology & Beyond will gather leading experts at the interface between AI and biological design. This is the first of its kind in the UK and will showcase recent success stories of how AI can help to accelerate biological design.

Event details

Invitation to workshops on experiential learning

Workshop 1: Friday 3rd   March, 10.00 to 12 noon; 

Workshop 2:  Friday  10th  March, 09.30 to 11.30;

Workshop 3: Friday 17th March, 10.00 to 12 noon.

Explore from your perspective as staff or student, what is working well, the resources needed to run experiential learning, the challenges and opportunities presented by experiential learning as a core element of the student experience, and how experiential learning can support and extend disciplinary knowledge and skills. We will also share the results of research undertaken by the Working Group, including findings from interviews undertaken with universities across the globe which deliver experiential learning at scale and for credit within their degree programmes. The learning from the workshops will inform a report which is being prepared for the Curriculum Transformation Project Board, and this report will be shared with Schools as well as workshop attendees.

Experiential Learning Sign-Up Form

Quantum Computing for Chemistry and Materials Science: Resource Estimation and Outlook

- A talk by Phalgun Lolur from the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC)

Tuesday 28 February 2023, 14:00

In-person: Bayes Centre room 5.02 Online:

Meeting ID: 879 1312 4722 Passcode: kw2anu3L

As we approach the limits of classical computing, quantum computing offers an alternative to solve certain types of problems. From the very onset of the field, quantum computing is expected to provide an advantage in simulating many body physics of quantum systems. This is relevant to several problems within physics, chemistry, materials science, and beyond. In this talk, I will provide a summary of today’s computing prospects for chemistry and materials science problems. I will then highlight the prospects of quantum computing for improving such simulations along with the capabilities of the current noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) computing devices. I will also provide resource estimates for running industrially relevant problems to identify practical quantum advantage.

Join on Zoom

African Caribbean Society Ball

Saturday 08 April 2023 Venue: National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh)

The Scottish Universities African and Caribbean Societies Ball is an annual black tie event held by 7 Scottish University ACS Societies in Scotland.

This year, the ball is being hosted by Edinburgh ACS and will be held at The National Museum of Scotland. 7 ACS Societies of Scottish Universities will come together on the 8th of April for Afrofuturism: A Black-Tie Affair. This will be a night of cultural celebration and exposition, held at The National Museum of Scotland.

Link to full event details and registration

Outreach and Public Engagement

If you have participated in an outreach and public engagement activity in the last six months, please make sure it has been recorded by the comms team in the directory below.

Informatics Outreach and Public Engagement Directory

If you need to add an entry, would like to get involved in a public engagement activity or promote an opportunity that you are aware of, please use the webform below.

Public Engagement webform

Interested in outreach in public engagement? Join Informatics Outreach Allies!

Calling all students and staff members interested in outreach and public engagement!

The School is getting queries and calls from local schools, organisations, and festivals looking for scientists to get involved in various outreach and public engagement activites. If you are interested in helping out and spreading the word about your research, perhaps you’d like to become an Outreach Ally? We will have a Teams channel where the calls for help will be advertised and allies will be able to team up and work together.

If you’re interested join the Outreach Allies Team!

Outreach Allies on Teams

Best of InfGeneral

This month's best of inf-general award goes to Steven Chien for sharing his experience of dealing with false hotel charges.

Inf-general is a mailing list used to carry informal discussions, postings, requests to and from staff within Informatics. Not for official purposes. Julian Bradfield is the guardian of inf-general who steps in to point out misuses and confirm when inf-general should most definitely be used. If you’re new to Informatics inf-general emails can be a great source of knowledge for you: ask and you will be informed, but do remember to share the information back with the mailing list users.


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