Informatics Newsletter May 2019

Issue 25 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Jane Hillston

Dear colleagues,

If you didn’t manage to attend the General Meeting, you might be interested in a few issues that have been discussed.

First of all, a somewhat unplanned and unstructured announcement of the repurposing of 4.31/4.33 needed a bit more context. Due to CDT successes, from September 2019 we will have a record number of PhD students in the School and they will all need desks. The repurposing of 4.31/4.33 into two PhD student offices is a temporary measure that aims to provide space for new students. Open plan space in Bayes is currently being modified to accommodate some, but it won’t house all of them. Even adapting 4.31/4.33 we are still 12 desks short for the incoming students.

In the meantime, G03 has been re-purposed to serve as a main seminar venue, and we are ensuring the sound issues are addressed. We will also restrict the bookings of the café area, in order to minimise external noise and so that it can be used for seminar/workshop catering.

Secondly, as a follow-up to the town hall meetings held to discuss the results of staff survey, we decided to run in-house PDR training sessions for both appraisees and appraisers (Monday 27th May and Wednesday 29th May at noon). There is also a lot of useful information at the website.

Annual review

We have also been holding two subsidised yoga classes on Mondays. The attendance to those has been moderate, with the evening class being more popular of the two. Yoga classes will be paused during the summer, but due to pressure on space, we will resume in the autumn with one or two classes (still to be finalised).

Last but not least, I’m sure you’ll join me in welcoming all new members of staff as well as in congratulating academic colleagues who have been recently promoted.

With best wishes,


School General Meeting slides

New staff

Research staff

  • Peter Bell - Reader in Speech Technology (started 01/05/2019)
  • Mateo Obregon - Research Associate (started 13/05/2019)
  • Chad Nester - Research Associate (started 01/05/2019)

  • Andrew Sogokon - Research Associate (started 07/05/2019)

  • Jane Crumlish - Research Assistant (started 01/05/2019)

Professional Services staff

  • Ken Scott - Business Development Manager (started 02/05/2019)
  • Eva Nueno Cobas - Research Data Officer (started 23/05/2019)
  • Georgia Cassidy-Oliver - ISS Administrator (started 27/05/2019)


Pictures from the Jamboree 2019

Informatics Jamboree

Our annual Jamboree came and went – hope everybody had fun!

  • We have raised £202.58 at the bake sale (thanks to all the bakers, all the cake lovers and Ségo and all the helpers!)
  • Did you guess the owners of the pets? See pictures for the correct matches.

Congratulations to all the winners of the day!

  • Table tennis champion: Mattias Appelgren
  • Murder mystery winners: Jacques Fleuriot and Mark Chevallier
  • Pub quiz winners: Katey Lee, Ray Finlayson, Gregor Hall, Mélanie Bavajee and Stephen Gilmore

Send us your feedback

Watch this space for the announcement on when our first after hours murder mystery will take place!

School News

11th EIE bigger than ever before

Over 900 delegates took part in this year’s Engage Invest Exploit. over 240 of whom were investors from all over the world. A total of 50 exciting technology companies, 10 of which came from outside Scotland, pitched live on the day looking to initiate or progress discussions with the assembled investors.

11th EIE bigger than ever before

First ever quantum hackathon in Scotland to be held in Informatics

QuHackEd is the first Quantum Hackathon in Scotland, and one of the first such events in the UK. It will provide participants with dedicated training by experienced researchers working in the field of Quantum Computing and Information, guided by talks given at a variety of levels.

First ever quantum hackathon in Scotland to be held in Informatics

Grant Passmore, Informatics alumnus and AI innovator, goes from strength to strength

Grant Passmore, Informatics alumnus, former research associate in LFCS and AI innovator, secured $5M seed investment for his financial technology start-up Imandra Inc. to help it move towards new areas of application for their innovative AI technology.

Grant Passmore, Informatics alumnus and AI innovator, goes from strength to strength

Research successes

Cyber Security in the Quantum Era

In a review article for Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery Petros Wallden and Elam Kashefi looked into the impact of quantum computing and quantum technologies on cyber security. They warn that with the development of quantum computing comes a threat to cybersecurity, as large parts of traditional cryptography are expected to break. To secure our current classical systems, we will need new protections, some of which may involve quantum technologies. These new solutions will provide higher levels of security. At the same time, security guarantees will be vital in a completely new field of quantum computing systems.

How quantum physics will change our views on cyber security

Probabilistic property‐based testing gets funding

James Chenney and Vaishak Belle were awarded £130000 in funding for their project Probabilistic property‐based testing. Property-based testing is an approach to improving software reliability introduced first in functional programming languages such as Haskell and Erlang, but now available in most mainstream languages. It is popular because it encourages programmers to focus on identifying the properties software should have, and automatically generates many random test cases to try to find counterexamples illustrating how software departs from programmer expectations. The aim of the project is to explore the hypothesis that property-based testing is a form of probabilistic programming. Property-based testing is a widely used and powerful form of lightweight randomized testing, but it has been developed largely independently of increasingly sophisticated probabilistic programming languages and inference algorithms. This project will study the consequences of adopting the perspective that property-based testing is a form of probabilistic programming, and investigate subproblems such as inducing good properties from programs or test data; testing complex programs using advanced sampling techniques that provide error bounds; and synthesizing suitable data generators or automatically providing concise explanations why a property fails to hold.

Alan Bundy to be featured in IJCAI 50th Anniversary Special Report

Alan Bundy will be featured in the IJCAI (International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence) 50th Anniversary Special Report. Alan, Professor of Automated Reasoning in the School of Informatics, won the IJCAI Award for Research Excellence in 2007. He was recognised for both his seminal work in the area of automated reasoning, and his wider contributions to Artificial Intelligence. In particular, he has pioneered the use of meta-level reasoning, proof planning, and has developed novel methods for automated reasoning in areas such as diagrammatic reasoning and concept formation. He is one of three Edinburgh AI pioneers to receive this honour, other two being Geoffrey Hinton and Donald Michie. He was also the first person to win both the Award for Research Excellence and the Donald E. Walker Distinguished Service Award, which he received in 2003. Only 17 people have received the IJCAI Award for Research Excellence; six recipients went on to win the Turing Award.

Sold-out Informatics events at the Pint of Science

Informatics researchers presented at sold-out events at the grassroots science festival Pint of Science in Edinburgh. Five Informatics researchers talked about developments in AI and robotics research to a non-specialist audience in an informal setting of an Edinburgh pub. Dave Roberson and Alan Bundy talked about advantages of AI as opposed to its threats whereas Barbara Webb, Ram Ramamoorthy, and Vaishak Bell took the audience on adventures with a robot on Wednesday. Dave Robertson introduced the history of AI research and how this area was shaped in Edinburgh and wonder about where it’s going to take us next. Alan Bundy tackled the question of whether we should worry about smart machines turning on us. The speakers on the second night will delved into the subject of ethics of AI and AI in robotics. Pint of Science is a worldwide science festival that takes place in May each year and brings researchers to local pubs to present their scientific discoveries.

ICSA hosted HiPEAC Computing Systems Week

School of Informatics hosted HiPEAC Computing Systems Week themed ‘Innovation and High-Performance Computing (HPC)’ in April 2019. It featured keynote talks from industry experts: Leigh Lapworth (Rolls Royce), Peter Bauer (ECMWF) and Brent Gorda (Arm). The technical programme explored software in a heterogeneous world, embedded multicore programming, micro-clusters for HPC at the edge, deep learning for resource-constrained systems and edge artificial intelligence (AI) inference/training, and more. The dedicated innovation event on 17 April provided inspiration from a host of successful innovators and investors. Dedicated sessions for students took place as well. The HiPEAC Student Challenge VI: AI for humanity – featuring Neural Compute Sticks and Intel x86 gaming CPUs as prizes, courtesy of Intel Movidius, whose staff were onsite to give demos – showcased innovations from fellow students. The ‘Inspiring Futures’ session explored possible career directions, with presentations from PRACE, Silexica, Samsung, StreamHPC and more. The poster session was accompanied by a lightning talk contest. HiPEAC (High Performance and Embedded Architecture and Compilation) is a hub for European researchers and industry representatives in computing systems. HiPEAC organizes four networking events per year: the HiPEAC conference, two Computing Systems Weeks and a summer school.

A word from Research Services

We have moved to room IF-5.33. Please come visit us with any questions for Janet or Victoria.

Eva Nueno (our new Research Data Officer) joined the team last week. Please continue to send details of recently accepted papers and open access questions to, and Victoria or Eva will respond to your query.

As always, questions and comments on PURE, open access and REF are all welcome.

Student news

EUSA teaching awards nominations

EICC Live: Hyperloop

HYPED Hyperloop Team are hosting a talk on 4th June at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC). It will give the opportunity find out what the society have been up to and view prototypes live. Tickets can be found on Eventbrite.

Get tickets for EICC Live: Hyperloop

National Student Survey

We reached 66% feedback, a solid increase on last year’s 55%. The University’s overall average was 70% with the Vet school hitting 93% and the lowest being Maths with 59%. SCE College average was 68%, within which Informatics had the biggest year on year increase in response rate.

Student Experience Videos

Over the summer, the InfComms team are working on finalising new student experience videos for the school. The 3 videos feature current students and recent alumni, and the content covers a day in the life of a student, transitions and student/alumni experiences.

Summer Interns

We have two Employed.Ed student interns starting on the 3rd of June.

  • Sam Angell, Communications Intern

Sam will be communicating via a variety of platforms to incoming students over the summer. He will be answering any questions, help build a community before arrival and look at our prospective student webpages.

  • Marius Lorek, Outreach and Public Engagement Intern

Marius will be looking at our current demos within the school, and looking sourcing more. Updating online resources and assist with outreach and public engagement related activities.

More about Employ.ed internships

Martin Asenov cycling for charity

RAS CDT PhD student, Martin Asenov, has recently participated in a charity bike ride that saw him test his endurance levels. Martin cycled between Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. The overall distance was 256 miles and he did it in 48 hours! To add to the challenge he was cycling on an old, cheap 80s bike.

Martin challenged himself for a good cause: he joined a team of cyclists who were raising funds for ARCHIE Foundation, a charity that aims to make the difference to children’s healthcare. Leading the team was a record-breaking long-distance British cyclist Mark Beaumont, Martin’s personal hero.

Martin’s fundraising page

Archie foundation

Martin with his bike and cycling map

Around the School

School Charity 2019/20

Over this academic year, the School has been supporting the Turing Trust and along with raising money, has also arranged student volunteering and been working on raising the visibility of the charity both within the University and across those who the School engages with.  Thank you to everyone who has supported the various initiatives since last September. Between the School, Compsoc and Hoppers, we raised over £2000 and helped the most recent dispatch of refurbished equipment to Malawi. Now that we have reached the end of the academic year, the School is seeking nominations for a charity for the 19/20 year. As with the Turing Trust, our goal is to support the charity in a range of ways, not only just to raise funds. Nominations (one paragraph or less) can be sent to the Informatics School Office and the Exec Group will review and select for the coming year. Any charity can be put forward, however those with personal connections or connected to the School/ Edinburgh, are particularly requested. 

Email the School Office

Solstice Potluck Dinner Party invitation

Come and join colleagues for a potluck Dinner Party celebrating summer solstice and the diversity ot nationalities and cultures in Informatics. All you need to do is bring some dish (enough for at least 4 servings) that is traditional in your country. Add a label card (including allergy information) naming the dish and which country it comes from and we have the makings of a real feast!

The School will supply plates, cutlery and soft drinks. You can bring your own beer or wine. Expect music from around the world.

If you would like to join the party, please sign up on the doodle poll.

Sign up for the Solstice Potluck Dinner Party

Contact Bob Fisher for more information

Roof Terrace link to Bayes

We remind colleagues that the designated route to Bayes Centre for Informatics staff and students is via the link on level 3. This may be used by other Bayes occupants who have reason to move between Bayes and the Informatics Forum, during work hours. This traverse the private Informatics space on level 3 of Bayes and, once the card operated locks are fully operational, such access will be restricted outside office hours (Monday to Friday 0900 to 1700) to Informatics staff and research students and to others to whom Informatics provides access to the Informatics Forum.

Please do not attempt to access Bayes using the roof terrace on level 4 leading to the Data Lab offices.

Call for Fire Stewards

We are looking for volunteers to become fire stewards in the Forum, in particular Levels 1 and 2. If you are based in AT and would like to volunteer, extra people are always required! Please e-mail Carol Marini or Dave Hamilton to volunteer.

Artificial Intelligence in the Cinema DVD collection

If you’re new to Informatics you might not be aware that the School has a collection of 450+ DVDs related to Artificial Intelligence in the Cinema.

In 2018 some titles that you might have heard of have been added to the collection: Big Hero 6, Hal, Independence Day: Resurgence, Passengers, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Rogue One, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Colossal and some that you might not have: Black Road, Cyborg X, Kill Command

Mantera, Hardcore Henry, Morgan. DVDs can be borrowed for several days by staff and students from 3rd year upwards. The DVD collection is located in IF 1.37 - just ask a member of staff to help you get the desired DVD.

The aim of this collection is to strengthen the coherence of AI as a subject in the field of Informatics, provide a resource for science studies and sociological research into AI, provide material for teaching and talk purposes, a resource for Edinburgh's AI Society, to promote some of the fun and excitement of AI. This collection was made possible by generous donations from: Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour, Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute's FEEDAI (Fund to Encourage and Expand the Development of AI) and the Informatics Library Committee.

Website dedicated to the AI DVD collection

List of movies available

Lego Appleton Tower featured at the Edinburgh Lego Model Show

The School recently lent Edinbrick our Lego Appleton Tower to take part in the 2019 Edinburgh Lego Model Show to raise money for Fairy Brick, which is a charity that donates LEGO sets to children’s hospices and hospitals. 

About Fairy Brick

Some photos of the day available on Facebook

Our Tower was well appreciated by all those who took part, both by fellow exhibitors and members of the public who bought tickets to come in. The event has raised £2849 for the charity through admission fee and donations.


KB shuttle bus scrapped

Following an external consultation of the transport options the University offers to students, the University Executive has agreed to a proposal, which concentrate our funding on creating more affordable options for students on city-wide transport services. This means that from September, all students will be able to take advantage of subsidised prices for Lothian Buses’ Ridacard and significant discounts on Just Eat Cycles. As this approach now focuses heavily on reducing of transportation prices for students, it means the funding allocated for our current transport options - including the King’s Buildings shuttle bus - will need to be diverted. These changes will come into effect from the start of our 2019/20 academic year.

While we completely understand that this will naturally affect anyone who currently uses the shuttle service, the aim of reallocating funding is to help the University provide affordable and sustainable solutions that are fair and equitable for the majority of students based in and around Edinburgh.

In light of these changes, please be aware that alternative arrangements for the small number of students who currently require urgent KB/Central intercampus travel for academic reasons will be investigated. The University website will soon be updated with further information on the alternative bus services that stop at KB.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email the Transport and Parking Office.

Contact the Transport and Parking Office

UCEA pay negotiations update

Each year the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) negotiates a national pay increase on behalf of the University and other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). This negotiation is carried out through the Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) which is made up of UCEA and the five Higher Education trade unions (EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite). These pay negotiations determine the basic, annual increase on the values of the 51 pay spine points. On 30 April UCEA made a final offer of 1.8% on all spine points, with additional increases on each point up to point 16. This offer ensures all staff receive an increase in base pay in line with the current official measure of inflation, with lower paid staff (in University Grades UE01 to UE04) receiving significantly higher increases of up to 3.65%. These will be supplemented by incremental progression increases which 63% of University staff in Grades UE01 to UE09 will receive. The HE unions are currently considering this final offer, and UCEA’s response to other non-pay elements of their claim, such as guaranteed hours and fixed-term contracts, workload allocation models and support around wellbeing. I will write again when the outcome of the union deliberations are known, which may not be until early July.

Should you have any immediate queries please email

Outreach and Public Engagement

Check out CSE PE group blog for more info.

CSE Public Engagement update

Call for contributions - Explorathon 2019, Edinburgh, 27th-28th Sept; deadline: 14th June

As part of EU Researchers' Night - taking place in over 300 cities across Europe - the Explorathon celebration of cutting-edge research returns. Any research area (science / arts / humanities) can be included and there will be a variety of venues across the city including: Botanics, WHALE Arts, Ocean Terminal, Lyell Centre, etc.

For further details including how to register your interest

If you plan to take part on 28th September, please let Kasia Kokowska know, as this day coincides with Doors Open Day in which the School will be participating.

Call for contributions - STEM Olympics, West Lothian

The STEM Olympics final - involving a set of distinct challenges - will be held at West Lothian College on 7th June for teams of primary-school pupils. Alongside this event, organisers are planning to host a range of fun STEM education and career activities for other P6/P7 pupils who will be attending. There will be around 200 pupils in attendance from a variety of West Lothian Primary Schools.

Set-up will be possible 8:30-9am, whilst take down will be 12:30-1pm.

If you are interested in piloting new activities, or delivering established favourites, then please get in touch with Colin by Weds 29th May.

Contact Colin

Call for contributions - RS STEMFest, Corby, Northamptonshire, 4-6th July

RS Components is a engineering and technology business that is operating STEMFest in Corby for the first time. On 4th-5th July, school groups will be invited in, and there will be a public event on 6th July. They are expecting to engage 700 students on the school days and 1000 visitors on the public day.

Information about the free public day

If you would like to get involved with new or existing hands-on activities / workshops, please get in touch with RS.

Get in touch with RS

Call for information - Edinburgh's summer festivals

If you (staff or students) are involved in Edinburgh's festivals over the summer period, then could you please get in touch with the University's Festivals Office. The Festivals Office are currently planning their approach to support publicity for a variety of events (web / social media / newsletters) and knowing what we're involved with as an institution will help these plans.

Get in touch with the University's Festivals Office

When getting in touch, please include the following details:

  •  Event name
  •  Event location
  •  Related festival (e.g. Film Festival; International Festival; Festival Fringe; etc.)
  •  Any existing web / social media presence

Call for applications, Scottish Parliament Academic Fellowship Scheme 2019

This scheme enables academics at a senior (post-PhD) career level to spend time working with the Scottish Parliament Information Centre on a specific project which will have mutual benefit to the academic and to the Scottish Parliament.

Bids are invited for projects related to several areas, including: Scotland’s budget and environmental plans; A critical review of Scottish forestry policy; Health prescribing data; Health Committee enquiry into medicines; and Data science/visualisation and the Parliament.

In addition, bids can be made through an open call, where academics can propose a project of their choosing. The deadline for submissions is 5pm, Friday 31st May 2019.

Find out more about the Fellowship Scheme and the application process

List and feedback on training page

We now have a page listing training attended by staff, including a form to submit your own feedback on a particular training you attended. 

List and feedback on training (secured)


Jane Hillston has held workshops this week giving advice regarding PDR’s for both Appraiser’s and Appraisee’s, should you wish to have a copy of the slides please contact InfHR who can assist. Further information into PDR’s along with copies of the PDR forms can be found on the Informatics website.

Performance & development reviews

Thank you all for your continued support completing your PDR’s in order for the School to meet the University deadline. Should you have any concerns, issues or feedback regarding your PDR or the PDR forms please get in touch with InfHR

Mental health and well being

Informatics Staff and Students

If you feel that you are being mistreated at the University because of a factor such as gender, race, age, nationality, religion, sexuality, etc, you are welcome to confidentially contact the InfHR team (for staff members), Student Support Officers (for UG and MSc students), or contact the Graduate School (for PhD students). Details are all provided below:

  • InfHR, Informatics Forum 5.39

Email InfHR

  • Student Support Officers, Appleton Tower Level 6

Email Student Support Officers

  • IGS contacts, Appleton Tower Level 5

Contact IGS

  • Staff can also speak to Fiona McGuire in the College HR Office

Email Fiona

The University has a number of HR policies, including the Dignity and Respect policy, and staff are encouraged to review these.

A to Z of HR policies

You can find information about mental health and wellbeing on the Informatics external website.

Mental health and wellbeing

Support for Physical Activity Programme (SPA)

If you would like to be more active, but feel as though you could use a little support and motivation, the Support for Physical Activity Programme (SPA) will help you build your confidence and get you started.

The SPA programme is a completely free service available to all students and staff of the university, and is now offering 1-1 consultations at Kings Buildings. At your first consultation we will have an informal chat, and set some manageable goals for you. You will have access to regular 1-1 catch ups to monitor and discuss your progress, and work through any difficulties or barriers you might be facing.

If you would like to book in for an appointment, simply contact Jocelyn and we will get you booked in for your first session!

Contact Jocelyn


Are you an organiser of a regular social event in Informatics and would like to add it to the list? Let Infcomms know!

Contact Infcomms

Informatics Open Artspace

When? Tuesdays, 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Where? At the tables in MF1

What? We will have materials for acrylic painting, lino cut and origami. If you have you own project to work on, you can bring it, too!

Everyone is welcome, just come by, hang out, make some art! 

Auld Alliance French Movie Club

There will be an update about the next event via the inf-general mailing list!

Guess who?

... gave a keynote lecture at Anglophonia - International Student Conference in English Studies in Zagreb about 'Tolkien and Language'?

They shall not pass but they shall learn!

Best of inf-general

Richard Shillcock and other updating us on various creatures eating rats in the Blackford Pond!

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.


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.

If you have any questions or comments please get in touch!

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