Informatics Newsletter June 2018

Issue 16 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

New Staff

Professional Services

  • Kirsty Derrins - Facilities Assistant – started on 1st June 2018
  • Sophie Leaver - Informatics Communications Intern - started on 4th June 2018


  • Guiyang Xin - Research Associate – started on 28th May 2018
  • Yi-Shan Tsai - Research Associate – started on 1st June 2018
  • Amelie Levray - Research Associate – started on 15th June 2018

Informatics Historical Trivia

Have you missed any of the historical articles we have published so far this year? Here they are all are:

This was then (in the 80s), this is now

Photos of Informatics, then and now
Top: examples of robotic arms | Middle: examples of chips | Bottom: students working.

'Did You Know?' Series #1

Informatics Artworks

Brief History of Informatics

Pioneers of Informatics

If you’re interested in contributing to future articles about the history of the School, please contact Infcomms.

Contact Infcomms

Research successes

Ada Lovelace Medal

Gordon Plotkin awarded Ada Lovelace Medal

Innovation Fellowship awarded to Lexi Birch

Lexi Birch has been awarded a 3 year Innovation Fellowship by EPSRC to work on her project: MTStretch: Low-resource Machine Translation

Neural machine translation (NMT) has recently made major advances in translation quality and this technology has been rapidly adopted by industry leaders, such as Google and Amazon, and international organisations, such as the UN and the EU. However, high performing neural models require many millions of human translated sentences for training. For many real-world applications, there is not enough data to build useful MT systems. In this project researchers plan to stretch the resources and capabilities, in order to develop robust machine translation technologies which are capable of being deployed for low-resource language pairs and for highly specialised low-resource domains. Inspired by human learning, researchers will study Bayesian models which build up meaning compositionally and are able to learn to learn, thus creating models which only need a few training examples. The team will provide translations for language pairs which were not previously well served by automatic machine translation. This will allow their partners, BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring, to cover under-resourced languages. The projects builds on an existing collaboration with BBC through Scalable Understanding of Multilingual MediA (SUMMA) and with industry partner Quorate. In the long term, this project will have a wider impact on British industry by breaking down language barriers affecting international trade, and by significantly improving the quality and resilience of transformative AI language technologies.

ICSA researchers' paper presented at ACM Conference

ICSA researchers, Dr Mahesh Marina and his PhD student Mohamed Kassem, have presented a paper conceptualising a novel DIY mobile network deployment model for rural and developing regions at the ACM Conference on Computing & Sustainable Societies (COMPASS’18) on 21st June 2018.

The importance and transformative potential of mobile Internet connectivity needs little reiteration. Yet it is out of reach of nearly 60% of the global population according to GSMA’s 2018 Mobile Economy report. As per the recent estimates from Ofcom, more than a third of UK premises do not have access to 4G services. With this backdrop and recognising the limits of the current market-driven approach to realise universal mobile Internet connectivity, ICSA researchers in collaboration with researchers at Microsoft Research Cambridge propose a novel DIY mobile network deployment model to enable and ease deployments at low cost by a new set of non-traditional operators (e.g., communities, local small-scale mobile network operators) in areas with market failure, thereby empowering them to leapfrog towards 5G through bottom-up initiatives. The proposed model embraces some of the key 5G trends including cloudification of mobile networks, the rise in open-source platforms and the use of shared/unlicensed spectrum. To demonstrate the feasibility of this model, a particular instance has been trialled in the village of Balquhidder, Central Scotland in April 2018 through a unique partnership between the University of Edinburgh, Microsoft Research Cambridge, the Balquhidder community and WhitespaceUK.

News from around the School

New AI and Blockchain Accelerator

Wayra UK and University of Edinburgh to launch new AI and Blockchain Accelerator

Publicity videos

Some of you might have noticed a filming crew around the Forum, and some of you have been interviewed about your research. The crew is from a small friendly company Wee Dog Media and together we are working on a number of videos presenting our researchers and their projects. Watch this space for the announcement of the launch of the videos later this summer!

Petros and Alex at their interviews

Wee Dog Media

Lego Appleton Tower
The Lego version of Appleton Tower

Lego Appleton Tower

The model of our award-winning building in LEGO® form has arrived! It should be on display in the School by the start of the next academic year. This summer’s graduating students will also be gifted a LEGO® figure on their graduation day. They will be encouraged to customise their figure and return it for placement in the Lego tower.

Commissioned by the School, local artist Warren Elsmore and his team from LEGO® build, built the replica of Appleton Tower using 12000 bricks. Warren was also responsible for constructing the National Museum of Scotland LEGO® to celebrate the Museum’s 150-year anniversary.

Warren Elsmore website

Student News

Students get funds for educational trips

The School of Informatics made funds available to support students’ travel to attend activities related to their programme of study. The following 3rd year students were awarded;

  • Dylan Angus (Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics), awarded £500 towards travel to California to undertake an internship in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • Susanne Koster (Computer Science and Mathematics), awarded £250 towards travel to undertake an internship at CWI Amsterdam.
  • James O'Donnell (Computer Science), awarded £100 towards travel to Oxford to take part in the UKSEDS Lunar Rover Competition
Masterclass with David Dunson

Masterclass on Scaleable Bayesian Inference

The Masterclass on Scaleable Bayesian Inference delivered by Professor David Dunson took place here at the Forum on 6th and 7th June, with a small Drinks Reception on the evening of the 6th. The session had around eighty participants, with the majority from Edinburgh, but with many others coming from further afield including the universities of St Andrew's, Bristol, Oxford and Dublin, amongst others. Host of the Masterclass, Professor Williams, commented 'David gave a tour-de-force class, lecturing for six hours without notes, and with lots of interaction from the class.  Thanks also go to the CDT in Data Science who helped host the Masterclass.' PhD student, Luke Dyer, attending the Masterclass from the School of Maths, added 'I found it a really useful introduction and summary of the area.' Prof David Dunson, from Duke University (USA), is Carnegie Centenary Professor 2018 at the University of Edinburgh.

Staff Training

Defibrillator training

The School has recently purchased a defibrillator which will probably be housed near reception in the Forum.  John Nimmo will give an in-house training course on Wednesday 18th July between 9.00am and 1.30pm, spaces for which are limited to a maximum of 12.

Contact Carol Marini in the School Office if you wish to attend. There will be a reserve list in case anyone drops out.

Contact Carol

Erasmus photos from staff
Erasmus photos (first row: Krakow and Lodz, second row: Valencia, third row: Granada, 4th row: Tallinn)

EU Erasmus+ Staff Mobility Programme

Over the past few months, a number of professional services staff participated in training opportunities funded by the EU Erasmus+ Staff Mobility Programme. The programme supports the professional development of HEI staff.  Any member of staff, whether academic or professional services, employed by the University of Edinburgh may apply for this funding.

Our staff have visited the below partner institutions for staff training weeks:

  • April 2018 – Carol Dow (Computing Support), Vicky MacTaggart and Angela Muir (ISS) - Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain
  • May 2018 - Kasia Kokowska (InfComms) – Tallin University of Technology, Estonia
  • May 2018 - Jennifer Oxley (Computing Support) and Ségolène Gallus (InfComms) – University of Granada, Spain
  • June 2018 – Sarah Taylor (InfComms) – Jagiellonian University and University of Lodz, Poland

If you have been or are planning on going, please get in touch with us. If you want to know about Staff Mobility you can find information on the web or come and speak to the InfComms team.

Contact Infcomms

More about staff mobility

Outreach and Public Engagement

Call for participation: RAiSE Edinburgh, Leith Cluster Science and Technology Fayre, 21-22 Sept

This free event is being developed by the local arm of the RAiSE project to take STEM learning into the Leith community and raise the aspirations of learners and their families. The SCI-FUN Roadshow will be in the Theatre space, and there is plenty of scope for additional hands-on experiences to enhance the overall plans. Sat 22nd Sept will be the main community event, with some activities for the Leith Academy pupils and local authority teachers on Fri 21st Sept.

If you are interested in becoming involved, then please contact Juliet Lunniss.

Contact Juliet

More about the RAiSE project

Call for participants - Summer Holiday Fun Clubs, Stirling Council, 9th July - 10th Aug

Around 50 P1-P7 children have signed up to these Summer Holiday Fun Clubs. They are centred in the Bannockburn and Borestone areas, which are communities experiencing social disadvantage. Alongside other activities, the organisers are keen to include some interactive science experiences for the attendees. The club will run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the period 9th July - 10th Aug. If you are interested in providing something, then please contact Linda Perkins as soon as possible.

Contact Linda

Call for participants - Teeny Tiny Toddler Fest, taking place January 2019

Camera Obscura are once again planning their Teeny Tiny Toddler Fest aimed at under 5s. They are seeking contributors to provide interactive drop-in activities for a few hours on a couple of days of the 5-day run which starts on 7th January 2019. Stalls will be set-up in the exhibition floors, so people can stop and interact as they are exploring the building.

If you are interested to participate, please contact Camera Obscura.

Contact Lindsey at Camera Obscura

Reminder: Call for Participation - Explorathon (European Researchers' Night), deadline: 6th July

Explorathon - part of the largest public celebration of academic research in Europe - returns on Fri 28th and Sat 29th September. All researchers from any discipline are welcome to become involved and you don't need to be funded by the European Commission.

Express your interest

More information about Explorathon

Reminder: Call for Contributors, Midlothian Science Festival Schools Programme, deadline: 2nd July

The Midlothian Science Festival Schools Programme runs from Monday 8th to Friday 12th October. If you'd like to be involved through providing an inspirational activity for either primary- or secondary-school groups, please fill in the online form (link below) with details of your workshop/session. The deadline for proposals is 5pm on Monday 2nd July.

If you would like to contribute to the 2018 Midlothian Science Festival Schools Programme, please fill in the form via the link below.

Fill in the form

If you have any queries, please direct these to Jayne Quoiani.

Contact Jayne

Refreshed CSE public engagement webpages

The CSE public engagement webpages have been updated to improve signposting to resources and support:

Public engagement at the College of Science and Engineering


  • The College of Science and Engineering is looking to appoint a Dean of Quality Assurance in succession to Dr Gordon McDougall.  See below for advert and job description for the role. The closing date for applications is Friday 6 July.


  • The College of Science and Engineering to appoint a Dean of Learning and Teaching in succession to Prof Graeme Reid, whose term of office finishes on 31 July 2019.  The CSE is making an early appointment to allow the successful candidate to shadow Graeme during session 2018/19. See below for advert and job description for the role. The closing date for applications is Friday 6 July.
Auld Alliance French Movie Club poster


The Auld Alliance French Movie Club is now ready!

Come watch French movies (with English subtitles) and socialise with like-minded folks - the first showing will take place on Thursday 19 July, at 6pm in MF2.

Please contact Alex or Ségo if you have any question, or to sign up if you haven't done so already!

Contact Alex

Contact Ségo

Guess who?

Spend the first 8 years of their life in Australia before moving to Scotland?

Rumour has it he is the Crocodile Dundee of Scotland


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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