Informatics Newsletter July 2022

Issue 59 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from the Head of School

Photo of Jane Hillston sitting at a desk

Dear Colleagues,

Photo of Professor Dame Muffy Calder wearing graduation gown
Honorary graduate Professor Dame Muffy Calder

Earlier this month saw our first undergraduate graduation ceremony in McEwan Hall in three years.  It was great to be back celebrating the achievements of our graduating students in the magnificent surroundings of the McEwan Hall.  In addition to students who have completed their degree this year, we had a number of students who completed in 2020 and 2021, and our honorary graduate Professor Dame Muffy Calder, who had been waiting for her ceremony since 2020.  For most of our graduates this summer will see them starting new jobs or new programmes of study, marking a major transition in their lives and Muffy’s graduation address reflected this.  But the students are not the only ones who are facing changes at this time.  Albeit on a smaller scale, many colleagues in the School will be taking on new roles and responsibilities in the coming weeks.  


As July comes to a close we reach the end of the academic year 2021/2022 and approach the start of the academic year 2022/2023.  Many academic staff are taking on new roles, for example as cohort leads and programme directors; we also have new student advisors in the teaching office team.  These changes reflect the University's new student support model.  Some of the other changes are the more usual rotation of roles, and the increasing positions of responsibility for those who have been promoted.  There are also more changes to the way we work that will come into effect when the next phase of People and Money goes live at the end of August, and further change programmes such as Curriculum Transformation and Growing Research Together, are likely to bring other shifts in how we do things.  So we are all looking at changing roles and new challenges.


For me, this is one of the appeals of a career in academia — the opportunity to develop new skills and interests through changing roles over the course of my career.  The next year is going to be a major transition for me as my term as Head of School will come to an end in July 2023.   So I will have particular sympathy with the final year undergraduates in the coming year as they contemplate which direction they would like to go in next.  I am sure that I will return to the advice that Muffy Calder gave to this year’s graduates, to find something that they love and pursue it wholeheartedly!

With best wishes,


New Staff

Abbey Morgan started as Finance Admin (CDT) on 11 July 2022.


Get involved with the Science Festival!

Calling all Informatics thinkers - we need your ideas! 2023 is the 60th Anniversary of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science research at the University. Let’s have a strong Informatics presence at the next science festival.

For those who know the drill

Please use the form below please submit your ideas by 26th August:

Submit your idea for 2023 Edinburgh Science Festival

Discount for Edinburgh International Festival 2022

A 25% discount for Edinburgh International Festival standard price tickets is available for University of Edinburgh staff.

This August, the Edinburgh International Festival celebrates 75 years of bringing world cultures together, with its first full programme since the pandemic.

To mark the University's partnership with the Festival, all staff can get 25% off all standard price tickets for shows in the 2022 International Festival programme, up to a maximum of 4 tickets per event.

This offer is available until 31 July 2022, subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply.

Find out how to access the offer on the Pay and Reward SharePoint site for staff:

Edinburgh International Festival offer  

We are now on TikTok!

The School of Informatics is now on TikTok, where we plan to showcase all the amazing events and learning opportunities available through the School.

Please go and have a watch, give us a follow, and we look forward to sharing a wide range of content with you soon. Follow the handle @schoolofinformatics.

Link to the School of Informatics profile on TikTok


Researchers at Institute for Computer Systems Architecture enable research in serverless clouds

To address the disconnect between the cloud vendors who keep their infrastructure proprietary, IT professionals, businesses and computer systems researchers and enable more open research in serverless clouds, the experts at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Computer Systems Architecture (ICSA) have devised vHive, an open ecosystem for serverless benchmarking and experimentation, with the goal of enabling researchers to study and innovate across the entire serverless software stack.

Building on top of state-of-the-art open-source software projects, vHive integrates industry-leading technologies efficiently in an end-to-end architecture representative of cutting-edge commercial cloud offerings, offering similar high performance and high information security guarantees.  The scientific community has recognized vHive with a Distinguished Artifact Award at a top computer systems conference. Finally, thanks to the connection with the industry, vHive has demonstrated knowledge transfer from academia to industry leaders, with the REAP technique support added in Amazon Web Services’ Firecracker hypervisor v1.1.

Link to article

Meet our Professional Services

Informatics Communications 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 Kasia Kokowska, telling us what happens in the Communications team.

Link to blog post

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

Visit blog

Health and Safety Update

New Health and Safety Manager

Eilidh Guild started as Health and Safety Manager in June and since then has been getting to know Informatics and how everything works. She will be working on a number of projects over the coming months, but if you would like to raise anything in particular, or even just say hi, you can email her either directly or via the shared mailbox below.

Email Inf Health and Safety

Travel Risk Assessments

Travel risk assessments are now approved by Health and Safety so if you are planning travel, please email completed copies to shared mailbox.

Email Inf Health and Safety

A new form, which includes more guidance and examples, is available from the Health and Safety Risk Assessment website linked to below:

Risk Assessments - Guidance and forms

Student news

Rimvydas Rubavicius presents at North American Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL) Conference

Rimvydas Rubavicius, Research Postgraduate Student at the School of Informatics x UKRI CDT in Natural Language Processing, presented at NAACL 2022 on his paper 'Interactive Symbol Grounding with Complex Referential Expressions', co-authored with Prof. Alex Lascarides.

This work presents a procedure for learning to ground symbols from a sequence of stimuli consisting of an arbitrarily complex noun phrase and its designation in the visual scene.

Link to paper

Bálint Gyevnár presents autonomous driving natural language explanation prototype at IJCAI-ECAI 2022

One way to build trust in autonomous driving is to ask the system to explain its decisions. Bálint Gyevnár, PhD student from the School of Informatics, is developing a natural language explanation system for planning and prediction in autonomous driving.

Bálint presented a first prototype at the IJCAI-ECAI 2022, which took place on Saturday 23 July 2022.

Link to paper

Staff news

Taku Komura and colleagues win best paper award at SIGGRAPH 2022

Sebastian Starke, Ian Mason and Taku Komura won Best Paper Award at SIGGRAPH 2022 Conference for their paper DeepPhase: Periodic Autoencoders for Learning Motion Phase Manifolds in which they presented the Periodic Autoencoder that can learn the spatial-temporal structure of body movements from unstructured motion data. The network produces a multi-dimensional phase manifold that helps enhance neural character controllers and motion matching for a variety of tasks, including diverse locomotion, style-based movements, dancing to music, or football dribbling. 

Technical Papers is a pillar of the annual SIGGRAPH conference where scientists and researchers come to disseminate new scholarly work and propel the industry forward. This year, the program offered two ways to submit research — Journal Papers, which is the continuation of the same program from previous years, and Conference Papers, where ideas are shared in a shorter format but still make a significant impact. 

SIGGRAPH 2022 is the premier conference for computer graphics and interactive techniques worldwide which takes place this year in August in Vancouver.

DeepPhase: Periodic Autoencoders for Learning Motion Phase Manifolds - Link to YouTube video


Ratish Puduppully awarded SICSA PhD Award for Best Dissertation in Scotland

Ratish Puduppully was awarded the SICSA PhD Award for Best Dissertation in Scotland for his thesis on Data-to-Text Generation with Neural Planning.

The award recognises high quality, innovative and ground-breaking research taking place in Computing Science across Scotland.

Shortlisted candidates were invited to present their work in person at the SICSA Conference 2022, which took place at Glasgow Caledonian University on the 28th & 29th June 2022.

Ratish is a PostDoc researcher at the School of Informatics with Prof. Mark Steedman. Earlier, he finished his PhD in Natural Language Processing advised by Prof. Mirella Lapata.

Link to SICSA Conference 2022 webpage

Staff Training Courses

We now have a page listing training courses attended by staff. You can submit your own feedback on a particular training you attended. 

List and feedback on training courses

Submit feedback


Data Summit: 3-4 November 2022

A festival of data innovation running across Scotland - Data Summit 2022, tickets on sale now!

Elham Kashefi, Professor of Quantum Computing at the School of Informatics, will be discussing her cutting-edge research and delving into the quantum realm at the DataFest Data Summit, which will be held on 3-4 November 2022 at EICC, Edinburgh.

DataFest showcases Scotland’s leading role in data science and artificial intelligence on the international stage, while offering an unparalleled networking platform for local and international talent, industry, academia and data enthusiasts. It is run by The Data Lab – Scotland’s innovation centre for data and artificial intelligence, hosted by the University of Edinburgh.

Register for tickets

Day of Data Teachers Edition: 1-2 September 2022

Are you a teacher looking for Microbit training? Data Education in Schools are hosting a Data Literacy conference and microbit workshop bringing together teachers who want to learn more about data literacy.

Data literacy helps learners make informed decisions, solve everyday problems and understand the world around them.

  • 1st Sept 2022: BGE and beyond (secondary teachers)
  • 2nd Sept 2022: Data across the curriculum (primary teachers)

Link to Data Education in Schools events webpage

Best of InfGeneral

This month the best of inf-general award goes to all colleagues who contributed their tips for hunting down a flat in Edinburgh!

Michio Honda's tips: 

  • Set email alert and respond to the ad within 1 hour (ideally earlier). Otherwise the flat is gone.
  • Use the university email address instead of gmail/outlook etc - back in Germany, this doubled the response rate.
  • For or similar, just pay - it's not that much amount.

Michael Rovatsos' tips:

  • One should not even bother with e-mails and call the agency as soon as the ad appears (it seems that most viewing slots go within a few hours from advertisement). Many agencies apparently also already ask for a deposit just to view the flat.
  • Agree to take the flat right away even if unsure (at the viewing, or even over the phone before viewing it), and then simply not sign when the time comes – not a very nice practice, but at least one won’t lose an opportunity once offered.

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 the inf-general who steps in to point out misuses and confirm when the 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.

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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