Informatics Newsletter May 2023

Issue 68 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Jane Hillston

Dear All,

As May comes to an end the academic year is heading towards a quieter period.   For our final year students, I know that you have now sat your final exams and you are probably looking forward to not studying anything for a while.  For those in the lower years of their degrees, you may be contemplating a rest from studying over the summer before returning for new courses in the autumn.  We all deserve a break and a chance to refresh our appetite for the regular routine by doing something different every so often. 

The summer offers the opportunity not to stop learning, but to learn new things, possibly in new ways.  Whether you are a student taking on an internship or a member of staff focusing on a new research problem or thinking about how to improve your job, I hope that this summer gives you the opportunity to reconnect with curiosity and learn something new.

For me, one of the benefits of being in a University is the endless opportunities to learn.  During the last week I have been reading undergraduate dissertations, which exposed me to new topics and updated my knowledge of familiar ones.  I found it a rewarding experience, especially as I could also see how much the students had learned over the course of the project and then distilled into the dissertations.  I want to thank them, and their supervisors, for all the hard work that clearly went into the projects, often with impressive results. 

As I approach the end of my term as Head of School, I am contemplating a time when I will have much more time to purposefully learn in the academic sense, during my sabbatical  But the whole last five years has been a learning experience for which I am very grateful.   I have learned huge amounts through my interactions with colleagues and students through that period, and I thank you all for it.

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.



Photo of Professor Helen Hastie

Professor Helen Hastie appointed the new Head of School of Informatics

Professor Helen Hastie has been appointed as the new Head of School of Informatics. She will take over from Professor Jane Hillston in August.

Professor Hastie is currently Professor of Computer Science and Human-Robot Interaction at Heriot-Watt University. She has existing links to Informatics both through her education and recent posts. She is the academic co-lead of the National Robotarium, a world-leading centre for the development and testing of robotics and autonomous systems to address industrial and societal challenges. She is also the Director of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (CDT-RAS) at the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. The National Robotarium, the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and CDT-RAS are all joint initiatives between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. Regarding her education, she did an MA in Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh and later a PhD there, at the Centre for Speech Technology Research. This is in addition to an MSc in Computational Linguistics from Georgetown University, USA.

It is an honour to be appointed as Head of School for Informatics. I look forward to leading the School, fostering its world-class research and teaching, and enhancing its global impact. It’s an exciting time to be joining Informatics during this 60th year of Computer Science and AI, and I am very proud to become part of this vibrant academic community.

Professor Helen Hastie, incoming Head of School of Informatics

It has been a privilege to lead the School of Informatics for the last five years, working with a tremendous collection of colleagues.  I hope that Helen enjoys the role as much as I have.

Professor Jane Hillston, outgoing Head of School of Informatics

Link to full article


Photo of Phil Wadler

Phil Wadler elected a Fellow of the Royal Society

Professor Philip Wadler FRS Professor of Theoretical Computer Science at the School of Informatics, has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He joins existing fellows from the School of Informatics: Jane Hillston, Alan Bundy, Peter Buneman, Wenfei Fan and Gordon Plotkin as well as notable past fellows: Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Charles Babbage, Dorothy Hodgkin and Stephen Hawking.

Philip Wadler has advanced the theory and practice of programming languages. He introduced type classes, which solved a long-standing problem of how to provide ad hoc polymorphism (overloading) by unifying it with parametric polymorphism (generics). He introduced monads as a practical way to provide the convenience of computational effects without losing the benefits of equational reasoning. He introduced a widely-used model of Java (practice into theory) and helped introduce generics to Java (theory into practice). He was a major designer of Haskell, and his ideas have influenced numerous other languages including C#, F#, Go, Rust, Scala, and Swift.

Link to full article

Photo of Robert van Glabbeek

Robert van Glabbeek elected to membership of Academia Europaea

Robert van Glabbeek, Royal Society Wolfson Fellow and Personal Chair in Computer Science at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh has been elected a member of the Academia Europaea in recognition of his scientific standing. 

Link to full article

Photo of Jonathan MacBride and Mitchell Hunter

Changemakers from Informatics

Jonathan MacBride and Mitchell Hunter from the School of Informatics are among the University staff recognised for going above and beyond to make the University more sustainable, or to inspire others to make change.

Jonathan MacBride and Mitchell Hunter have been recognised for having a positive impact through their socially responsible and sustainable projects.

Jonathan’s contributions to making the University a better place for LGBTQ+ people are the very definition of going above and beyond.

Mitchell has dedicated his time to ensure the effective reuse and recycling of equipment and in doing so has inspired others to take positive action.

Link to full article

Research Data Management update

Accepted papers

Please continue to notify RDM of any recently accepted papers so that they can be added to Pure.

Questions about Open Access, Pure, or REF are welcome any time. Please contact Victoria and Katarina using the button below.

Email RDM team

Meet our professional services - new blog post

Informatics Teaching Organisation

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 Informatics Teaching Organisation.

Link to blog post

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

Link to blog

Student news

Pauliina Vuorinen publishes preliminary results of her research project on adults' recreational e-reading behaviour

Pauliina Vuorinen, PhD Student at the University of Edinburgh published a lay audience article on reading research following her research project on adults' recreational e-reading behaviour last summer.

The short article 'How do adults read ebooks? Exploring the connection to motivation and experience with e-reading' is part of a special issue created by Literacy Lab led by Dr Sarah McGeown in the Moray House School of Education. All of the short lay audience articles in the special editions are from the University of Edinburgh, and they give a great overview of the research on reading in Edinburgh.

Link to special BERA edition: To Read or Not to Read

Link to Pauliina's article

Informatics student wins Lovelace Colloquium poster competition

Qiuye (Chloe) Zhang, a second-year Artificial Intelligence and Computer science student won the second-year poster competition at this year’s Lovelace Colloquium that took place in Sheffield.

Chloe’s poster ‘Can artificial neural networks learn like brains?’ concerned computational neuroscience and computational psychiatry. Chloe was inspired by Peggy Seriès’ research and particularly Peggy’s course on computational cognitive neuroscience.

Link to full article

Antonis Katsarakis receives the EuroSys Roger Needham PhD Award

Antonis Katsarakis, a former Informatics student, has received the EuroSys Roger Needham PhD Award - Honorable Mention. This is the first time that an Informatics student received this highly prestigious award.

Antonis was a student in ICSA and the Pervasive Parallelism CDT. His thesis was titled “Invalidation-based Protocols for Replicated Datastores”, co-supervised by Boris Grot and Vijay Nagarajan. Today he is a Principal Researcher at Huawei Research in Edinburgh, where he researches and builds next-generation databases.

The EuroSys Roger Needham PhD award is an annual prize awarded to a PhD student from a European University whose thesis is regarded to be an exceptional, innovative contribution to knowledge in the systems area. “Systems” is interpreted broadly, and includes operating systems, distributed systems, real-time systems, transactional and database systems, language runtimes, embedded systems, computer networks, systems aspects of programming, systems security, etc. The winner receives 2000 EUR.

Link to full article

Staff news

Ram Ramamoorthy talks to NBC News about the world’s first self-driving bus being rolled out in Scotland

The world’s first self-driving bus rolled out in Scotland carrying passengers on a regularly scheduled route. 

Ram Ramamoorthy, professor of Robot Learning & Autonomy at the School of Informatics, talks to NBC News about the future of public transport and how he believes the biggest barrier with autonomous vehicles is the unpredictability of human decision-making.

Link to NBC News report

Vaishak Belle authors new book, ‘Toward Robots that Reason: Logic, Probability & Casual Laws’

Vaishak Belle has written a new book, ‘Toward Robots that Reason: Logic, Probability & Casual Laws’ published by Morgan Claypool Synthesis series in AI.

This book discusses the two fundamental elements that underline the science and design of artificial intelligence (AI) systems: the learning and acquisition of knowledge from observational data, and the reasoning of that knowledge together with whatever information is available about the application at hand. It then presents a mathematical treatment of the core issues that arise when unifying first-order logic and probability, especially in the presence of dynamics, including physical actions, sensing actions and their effects. A model for expressing causal laws describing dynamics is also considered, along with computational ideas for reasoning with such laws over probabilistic logical knowledge.

Link to publisher's website

Leonid Libkin delivers keynote at 2023 EDBT/ICDT 

Leonid Libkin has given the opening keynote at the 2023 EDBT/ICDT joint conference. 

The talk, and the accompanying paper co-authored with Paolo Guagliardo from Informatics and others, described the forthcoming international standard GQL under development in ISO as the new standard query language for graph databases. 

Both Paolo and Leonid are members of the SQL/GQL Standard committee, representing UK.

Tanya Shreedhar in the final of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science UK and Ireland Rising Talents Awards

Dr Tanya Shreedhar, a postdoctoral researcher in Mahesh Marina’s Networked Systems Group, was among the 2023 finalists for L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science UK and Ireland Rising Talents Awards.

Tanya’s research interests lie broadly in the area of networks and systems. She received her PhD from IIIT-Delhi, India and her bachelor’s degree in engineering with a gold medal from Panjab University, India. She is active in student and women mentorship programs in several technical venues and has been awarded research fellowship grants from TCS, NSF, ACM SIGCOMM, and IEEE INFOCOM during her PhD.

Link to full article

INCITS 2023 Team Award goes to SQL/PGQ working group 

The working group that developed SQL/PGQ received the International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) 2023 Team Award. 

The SQL/PQL is the extension of SQL for querying graph data, that will become a new part of the SQL Standard in 2023. The group is almost entirely industry-based; one of its very few academic members is Leonid Libkin, who together with academic colleagues provided in-depth analysis of PGQ features as they were being developed. 

This is an award presented to no more than two teams of participants who have provided outstanding service to the INCITS organization for work done on a single specification, standard, or other form of project, within a TC. 

To achieve this award, the SQL/PGQ working group have demonstrated outstanding teamwork in rapidly progressing the subgroup's national and/or international activities; and shown skill in developing technically sound standards.

Jameel Observatory small project support to University of Edinburgh staff for research on food security early action

To deepen engagement and bring in new skill sets from across the University of Edinburgh, the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action seeks proposals from University of Edinburgh staff to support or undertake action research on its key themes.

The Jameel Observatory was established in 2021 and has successfully established a vibrant stakeholder network in East Africa. As the Observatory matures there are increased opportunities for action research activities to support its overall vision that ‘vulnerable pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in East Africa are more prepared for and resilient to the effects of evolving environmental shocks and stresses on their food security and nutrition.’

The Jameel Observatory seek proposals from University of Edinburgh staff that contribute to at least one of the ‘Challenge Questions’ that frame our research, learning and innovation agenda: Data for effective early action; Coordinating for effective early action; Financing for effective early action;  Trust in data and evidence for early action; and Effective early action at Community level.

Applications should be submitted by 17:00 on 02/06/2023.

Link to full details and application


Outreach and Public Engagement

Tell us about your recent outreach and public engagement activity

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 activities. 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 Inf-general

This month's best of inf-general goes to everyone who responded to Rob van Glabbeek's questions about student accommodation and parking in the city.

  1. Is there some webpage with recourses for student accommodation?

  2. Are there any free parking areas in Edinburgh (for a foreign student with a car)?
    • Answer: Link to the Edinburgh City Council - Find Parking Bays website
      • The highlighted areas show metered parking, and the pink bays - many of which are outside the highlighted areas - are resident parking only. This at least tells your visitor where they should *not* park (unless they can get a resident permit for the 9 months). So when looking for accommodation, if they are bringing a car, I would look for areas that are "empty" in this map - neither highlighted as metered parking, nor full of pink bays - Leith, for example.

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

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