Informatics Newsletter June 2017

Issue 6 of our School newsletter for staff and students.

Updates from the School General Meeting

New Staff

Research Staff

We’ve had a number of new academic appointments (and some soon-to-start):

  • Benjamin Bach (Design Informatics & Visualisation) started on 10 April
  • Ivan Titov (Natural Language Processing) started on 1 May
  • Dorota Glowacka (Machine Learning) started on 1 June
  • Aaron Smith (Computer Systems Architecture) starting on 21 June
  • Paolo Guagliardo (Database Systems) starting on 1 July

Support Staff

  • Stacey Rudkin - IGS Recruitment Administrator started on 20 February

  • Zoe McGonigle - CDT Administrator (RAS) started on 15 May

Student Admissions

We are up on undergraduate offers and the same as last year on PG ones. To help manage the numbers applicants will now have to pay a £1500 non-refundable acceptance fee.

Curriculum Review

Long needed curriculum review is under way to address the growing numbers of students, staff, research areas and students’ expectations.

Workload Allocation Model 

Changes are required to School policy and model including name change (‘workload allocation’ to ‘work allocation’), ‘right of appeal’ to Head of School, explicitly including research (current School model is teaching and admin, only), and moving to an hours-based model. Proposed review will be introduced for academic year 2018/19.

Teaching and admin policy and work allocation model

Estates updates

‘3for2’ conversions in the Forum are continued. Wolfson Wing decants and works due to be completed by end August. See slides for more updates.

Check our dedicated page on the School's intranet for updates on Appleton Tower.

Appleton Tower updates

Recent news stories from around the School


University of Edinburgh has been recognised as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research, the only one based in Scotland and among 13 others around the UK. Academic Centres of Excellence specialise in developing the latest cyber security techniques and contribute to the UK's increased knowledge and capability in this field.

University of Edinburgh to become Centre of Excellence for Cyber Security Research

Cyber Security and Research Network

New labs

Two new labs are being established in the School of Informatics:

  • Blockchain Technology Laboratory, in collaboration with IOHK, a leading blockchain research and development company. The Laboratory will be led by Prof Aggelos Kiayias, Chair in Cyber Security and Privacy at the University of Edinburgh and Chief Scientist at IOHK.

Beyond Bitcoin - IOHK and University of Edinburgh establish Blockchain Technology Laboratory

  • Distributed Data Management and Processing Laboratory, a collaboration with Huawei. Prof Wenfei Fan, who has been long engaged with Huawei database engineers, will lead the new lab. Huawei is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world and has extensive interests across the entire systems engineering “stack”, from hardware through to artificial intelligence.

Huawei and the University of Edinburgh to open joint lab


The School has recently succeeded in securing alternative funding routes to broaden our portfolio. Some of the most recent grants awarded to our researchers are from the Wellcome Trust, Huawei Technologies Co., EIT Digital, Hitachi, UKIERI and Scottish Enterprise, on top of awards from the UK research councils or the European Commission.

Some of the recent research funding successes

  • Prof Chris Willliams is part of the team awarded funding to study alternative diagnostic techniques. A team led by Dr Kev Dhaliwal (UoE, School of Clinical Sciences) has recently received £2M from the Wellcome Trust and will receive up to £0.9M (US $1.12M) from CARB-X, a major international initiative to tackle antibiotic resistance co-funded by the US Government and Wellcome Trust.
  • Institute for Perception, Action and Behaviour has recently attracted new funding from a variety of sources. Three grants awarded to Statistical Machine Learning and Motor Control Group tackle challenges in dynamic motion planning in pick and place tasks in cluttered environments:  DST-UKIERI joint project with IIT-Kanpur, India titled "Learning Robotic Motor Skills, Visual Control and Perception for Warehouse Automation" (£119,000 UoE Share), EiT Digital grant 'iLEVATOR: intraLogistics Enabled by autonomous Vehicles cooperATing with Operators and Robots' (£158,000 UoE Share) and Hitachi funded translation project on ‘Motion Planning for Intelligent Warehousing Solutions' (£120,000).
  • Professor Mike O'Boyle has been awarded £100K as a partner in a multi-institution European technology transfer project TETRAMAX (Technology Transfer via Multinational Application Experiments). The major objective of TETRAMAX is to provide an implementation of the European Smart Anything Everywhere (SAE) initiative in the domain of customized low energy computing for the Internet of Things. 
  • Dr Kartic Subr won a prestigious grant from the Royal Society for his CAT-SPATS project, which addresses the escalating problem of human-wildlife conflict, focusing on trends in India.
  • Dr Murray Cole secured £422,706 in funding for his Pattern Discovery and Program Shaping for Heterogeneous Manycore Systems Project.
  • Professor Steven Renals and partners won over £1M from EPSRC to fund their project Ultrax-2020. It is a partnership between the Centre for Speech Technology Research at the University of Edinburgh, Speech and Language Therapy at the University of Strathclyde, Edinburgh-based SME Articulate Instruments, NHS Lothian, NHS Grampian, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
  • Professor Mark Steedman has been awarded £1.5M from ERC for his project SEMANTAX to tackle some of the most persisting problems in natural language processing.
  • Paul Anderson, Timothy Hospedales, Ross McKenzie and Anna Wood (School of Education) secured funding from the Principal's Teaching Award Scheme for the project aiming at improving students’ assessment process.


  • Professor Jon Oberlander was this year’s recipient of Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science. Professor Oberlander gave his prize lecture to a sold-out audience. It was a second Tam Dalyell Prize for a researcher from the School of Informatics in a row, and a third overall. Previous winners were Professor Sethu Vijayakumar (2015) and Professor Chris Bishop (2009).
  • Professor Wenfei Fan’s team received the Best Paper Award from SIGMOD 2017 for their article “Parallelizing Sequential Graph Computations”. ACM SIGMOD Conference on Management of Data (SIGMOD) is one of the top four international conferences on the subject of data management. The remaining three are ACM Symposium on Principles of Database Systems (PODS), International Conference on Very Large Data Bases (VLDB) and International Conference on Database Engineering (ICDE). Wenfei’s team has collected Best Paper Awards or Test-of-Time Awards from all these leading conferences: SIGMOD Best Paper Award (2017), The Alberto O. Mendelzon Test-of-Time Award of ACM PODS (2015 and 2010), The Best Paper Award for VLDB (2010) and The Best Paper Award for ICDE (2007). Moreover each and every of Wenfei’s alumni PhD students has received an award from at least one of these four conferences.
  • Professor Perdita Stevens’ paper "Bidirectional Model Transformations in QVT: Semantic Issues and Open Questions" has been selected as the most influential paper from MODELS 2007 Conference that was held in Vanderbilt, USA. The Models Steering Committee decided that with 10 years of perspective, Prof Stevens’ paper turned out to have been the most influential from that particular year. Incidentally, the paper won the Best Paper award in the MODELS 2007 conference.
  • Dr Pramod Bhatotia and his team received the best paper award at EuroSys'17, a top conference in computer systems for "SGXBounds: Memory Safety for Shielded Execution”. SGXBounds proposes an efficient technique to achieve memory safety for shielded execution, which is most critical for ensuring software reliability and security.

In the media

Sharon Goldwater’s research into using Scots by pro-independence Twitter users gathered a significant interest from Scottish news outlets. In the first large-scale study of its kind in the UK, Dr Goldwater and her collaborators found that people whose tweets suggested they identify as Scottish nationalists were more likely to use language that reflected this.

Pro-independence tweeters dial down Scots language for debate

Student success

A team from the School of Informatics competed in the National Finals of CyberCenturion, a countrywide cyber defence competition led by global security company Northrop Grumman and Cabinet Office-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK, with support from the US Air Force Association. Ten teams competed in a high-pressured, face-to-face challenge to protect a fictional company from vicious cyber-attacks.

Team from School of Informatics in CyberCenturion finals



CDT in Data Science

In April Day 1 of Amazon’s three day workshop ‘Academic Engagement Programme in NLP & Machine Learning’ took place in the Forum. The event brought was an opportunity for Amazon’s scientists and academic leaders to discuss current advances in the area..  

Day 2 was hosted in collaboration with AWS and provided attendees with hands-on use of Amazon services to accelerate machine learning research, particularly in the areas of deep learning (on-demand GPU machines) and processing large datasets with Spark.  This practical experience gave a sense of how on-demand cloud computing can simplify and expand students’ research.

In other news

Words from Computing Services

Lectures recording name poll

Choose a name for University’s new lecture recording service.  There are four options: Review, Record, Revise, Replay.

Vote for your preferred choice

What’s being delivered

Reporting faults in the Forum

To report faults in the Forum, contact your local admin office or email In both cases, a request to Estates to fix the issue (if it can't be fixed locally) will be generated. (and for other Informatics buildings) is an Informatics email address picked up by Informatics people. It is not run by Estates, nor does it carry out any Estates related work but the issue will be reported if required.

In instances when a response may be needed with some real urgency (people trapped in lifts for instance) then the Estates fault desk can be contacted directly on 502494.

Out of hours all urgent help requests should go through Security on 502257.

Staff Equality and Diversity survey

The survey is to be completed by all staff (including support staff) by the 7th of July, unless you've already done so at the General Meeting.


School of Informatics Hoodies available to buy now

The School has been able to secure the ‘Playerlayer’ style  hoodie with the Informatics moniker on the back. You cannot order this directly through the normal website and the School has also been able to secure a preferred price. Normally these tops cost £43 (including delivery) per item however by ordering through Informatics we are able to offer them at £25. Sizing options are included on the right- please check before you order as changes cannot be made.

Deadline for final ordering is 10th July however if enough are ordered sooner than that, we can order in batches. There are no plans for subsequent orders at this time, however at the earliest would be at some point in the next academic year. Delivery is anticipated to Informatics within 3 weeks of the order made. You can use the below to make your order, please check your size at the time of purchase! Any questions, please contact Informatics Student Services.

Informatics Student Services

Informatics hoodie

Guess who?

Can you guess the identity of the School of Informatics member of staff, from the fun fact below?

  • Collects and appreciates pineapples and everything about pineapples (trivia, models, etc). 

And the mystery pineapple aficionado award goes to...

Keep in touch

This newsletter was produced by the Communications Team. If you have any questions or comments please get in touch!

Email us

Informatics Communications team website



Edinburgh Informatics Alumni group on LinkedIn