Informatics Newsletter November 2019

Issue 30 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Jane Hillston

There is much success to reflect on in this month’s newsletter with significant achievements from both staff and students.  It is great to see recognition being gained through prizes and awards.  On Saturday I was very pleased to host the graduation reception for our graduating MSc and PhD students.  This is always a joyful occasion and a real pleasure to see all the graduands and their families and friends taking time to celebrate and reflect on their achievements. This year the weather was against us, and it was rather wet and gloomy outside.  But in the Forum it was warm and bright with pride and optimism. 

Inevitably graduation makes me think of things coming to an end.  I’m sure that, like me, everyone is reaching the point in the year where the hard work of semester is taking its toll and they are really looking forward to a good break over Christmas with a chance to spend time relaxing and recharging the batteries.  But I think that we can look back on a successful semester, with much achieved both personally and collectively.  I hope that everyone has a restful break at the end of December and comes back refreshed and reinvigorated in January.

With best wishes,


New staff

Professional Services staff

Christine Gerstenberger, Senior Administrative Secretary started on 20th November

Sophie Mills, Student Support Officer starts on 25th November

Industrial Action

Industrial action will be taking place from next Monday 25th November. This follows the University and College Union (UCU) securing a mandate for action short of a strike and for strike action, in a ballot on both pay and pensions issues:

  • Continuous Action Short of a Strike from 25 November 2019 (examples of these actions include working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of the strike, not rescheduling lectures or classes, and not undertaking voluntary duties)
  • Strike action from 25-29 November and 2-4 December 2019

More information is provided on dedicated websites.

Industrial Action 2019 - information for staff

Industrial Action 2019 - information for students


CISA is changing its name

As of 1st December 2019, CISA (Centre for Intelligent Systems and their Applications) is changing its name to Artificial Intelligence and its Applications Institute (AIAI). The change reflects CISA’s history and identity and builds upon the historical and distinguished record set by the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute, currently part of CISA.

CISA to become Artificial Intelligence and its Applications Institute

We Need to Talk about AI – To Err is Machine

Fifth in a series of public discussion, the event covering issues around machine biases, failures and fairness takes place on 29th November. Come and listen to our panel discussing the consequences of the failures of AI systems and methods of developing, deploying, and utilising them. In particular, we will be trying to establish how well we understand the decision-making processes of different AI systems? How to ensure public accountability and transparency of decisions made by AI? How to prevent algorithmic bias and other undesirable consequences? We will also wonder whether we should refrain from using AI systems when making certain decisions, like criminal sentencing? Come and join the discussion.

To Err is Machine - Book Your Tickets

Murder Mystery banner

Informatics Murder Mystery

Thank you, everyone, who joined us for the third edition of the Informatics Murder Mystery. The winners this time are Christine Friesen and Jonathan McBride. Congratulations!

Many thanks to Jane for joining the investigation and getting really close to the answer 30 minutes into the game! And thanks to all the participants for investigating, bribing, gambling and forming alliances. Hope you've enjoyed the game.

A note from Institutes Admin Services

There have been a few changes within the Institutes Support Team recently. Judy Pilley has joined us in the Level 2 office and will be providing dedicated support to the IANC and CISA institutes. Allison Kruk has moved into the Level 4 office and will provide support to the ILCC institute.

We are currently trialling earlier opening times for the offices and for the month of December, the offices will be open from 8 am.

A word from Research Services

Please continue to send details of recently accepted papers and open access questions to, and Victoria or Sam will respond to your query.

With the winter closure approaching, we encourage you to share details of papers accepted in September/October in time for entry in Pure by Friday 20 December.

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

Email RDM Team

Updates about Health & Safety and Facilities

PAT testing

Our annual round of Portable Appliance Testing of University equipment is due to happen in the Forum imminently and perhaps before this note reaches the newsletter. For those who are not familiar with the process: a portable electrical appliance is any electrical item that plugs into the mains sockets with a standard 3 pin plug. The tests, which are part of the University's procedure to ensure they are complying with the regulatory guidelines, relate to University supplied equipment only. Sometimes the ownership of a device is unclear. In these cases (in order to err on the side of safety) the tester will assume the item is University-owned and test it. No damage claims will be accepted for any items wrongly identified and damaged in the process of testing (keep your own items out of the way if you do not want to land in this situation). If testing runs to schedule it will be completed by the end of the first week in January and we will get some respite (for a year).

Please note:  There is no University insurance which will cover loss or damage to personal items you bring to work, or will cover any injury those items may cause to others.

Occupants who bring in their own items of equipment (electrical or otherwise) require to conform to the same standards that the University is held to and should arrange their own checks and tests. 

Sockets and extenders

General information you may know: All mains extenders in the Forum (including those built into desks) have individually fused sockets which are limited to 3.15A, enough to run general office equipment but not high current items (heaters, kettles, etc.). If you find dead sockets in any extender chances are that someone has blown the fuse. Put an email in to forum-issues, or building-issues with the location of the socket and we will arrange to replace blown fuses. If you are running any kind of a heater over the winter months, plug them directly into the floor sockets (where at least they have the chance of drawing the required current).

E-mail forum-issues

E-mail building-issues


Professional Development Framework for staff supporting students

University has launched a new online Professional Development Framework for staff supporting students. Work on this Framework began following the University’s internal audit of student support in 2017. The project has involved colleagues from all three Colleges, HR, the Students’ Association, IAD, ISG, Student Systems and SEP.  This Framework can be used as a ‘one-stop shop’ for guidance and training resources relating to the support we offer students. You can read policies, book onto relevant training courses and find appropriate contacts across the University regarding specific situations. 

Supporting students website

2019 University Travel Survey (vouchers to win!)

In order to improve transport services, the Transport Office needs to understand how everyone travels to the University. Please complete their travel survey by Friday 20th December. The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete, and will also provide you with the opportunity to receive an estimate of your carbon footprint accumulated from your travel to and from University. Staff who submit a completed survey and agree to be entered into a prize draw will have the opportunity to win one of four £50 high street shopping vouchers; or one of ten £10 high street shopping vouchers

University Travel Survey

Mapping Scotland's AI landscape

The Data Lab has been tasked by the Scottish Government to convene the development of an AI Strategy for Scotland. You can find details about the process on the Data Lab website. A dedicated website for the process will be launched soon. Meanwhile, you can follow the process on Twitter @ScotAIStrategy. As part of the process, they need your help to map all of the AI activity in Scotland. If you wish to support this initiative, please fill in the form below.

Mapping AI landscape webform

Developing an AI strategy for Scotland

Follow Scotland's AI Strategy on Twitter

Research news

Mahesh Marina among ACM Distinguished Members

Mahesh Marina is among 62 Distinguished Members recognised by ACM (Association for Computer Machinery) in 2019 for Educational, Engineering and Scientific Contributions to Computing.  The ACM Distinguished Member program recognizes up to 10 percent of ACM worldwide membership based on professional experience as well as significant achievements in the computing field contributing to the field beyond the norm. Mahesh is a Professor in the School of Informatics and a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute. His research broadly falls under networks and distributed systems and in particular within wireless networks and mobile systems.

EPSRC Early Career Fellowship for He Sun

He Sun has received an EPSRC Early Career Fellowship for ‘Efficient Spectral Algorithms for Massive and Dynamic Graphs’. This £1.51M award is to advance the mathematical foundations of spectral techniques by designing efficient algorithms for massive graphs, and to study their performance by developing the first open-source library of state-of-the-art spectral algorithms for several important graph problems. Due to its cross-disciplinary nature, this fellowship will have impact not only in computer science but also in several mathematical fields such as geometry and optimisation. The open-source algorithmic library from the fellowship will further pave the way for many potential industrial applications of the advanced spectral algorithms in the long term.

Ajitha Rajan wins 2019 Facebook testing and verification award

Ajitha Rajan has been awarded the 2019 Facebook testing and verification research award. She is among the 10 winners selected from more than 100 submissions. The title of her project is "Test oracle inference - supervised learning over execution traces" that aims at automatically classifying software test executions as pass or fail without requiring an expected output or relying on a domain expert.

Paul Patras wins funding for Ogma project

Paul Patras was awarded £134,418 from Cisco for his project Ogma: Deep Learning Powered Mobile Network Analytics, Security, and Control. A new wave of applications, including assisted-living robotics and self-driving cars, is placing unprecedented demands on mobile networks. To overcome the looming network performance and cyber security crisis, this project will build intelligence into next generation mobile systems. They will develop deep learning tools tailored to the mobile networking domain, aiming to discover precise knowledge of mobile service usage and predict future content demands, accurately recognise in real-time previously unseen network anomalies, and develop network management tools that optimise application performance without human intervention.

Mohsen Khadem's project to help diagnose ICU patients

Mohsen Khadem was awarded £115,000 from the MRC Confidence in Concept scheme for his project ROBO-SEEK: A mechatronic endoscopic platform for autonomous distal lung sampling in critical care. Pulmonary infiltrates such as pus, blood, or protein, which lingers within the parenchyma of the lungs are the leading cause of pneumonia or tuberculosis.  Pulmonary infiltrates in mechanically ventilated (MV) critically ill patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) are a major diagnostic challenge and due to the poor sampling methods available. Despite the high cost and attributable morbidity and mortality, sampling of the distal lung in these patients is not standardised, lacks reproducibility and requires expert operators. The aim of this project is to develop a Mechatronic system (ROBO-SEEK) for autonomous lung sampling for MV critically ill patients.

James McKinna and Perdita Stevens to work on Mechanising the theory of build systems

James McKinna and Perdita Stevens received £80,000 from UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)/Royal Society Research Institute in Verified Trusted Software Systems (RIVeTSS) to work on their project 'Mechanising the theory of build systems'. Build systems form part of the critical infrastructure of modern software development, but unlike compilers they have not been so much the focus of formal modelling or verification.  Many users might be familiar with the Unix workhouse tool 'make', but notwithstanding superficial advances, progress beyond it has been slow.  This 9-month pilot project aims to develop formal models of some existing systems (make, pluto) in an interactive theorem proving system, with a view to providing more secure foundations for future work in this area. The ultimate aim is to develop new conceptual, and formal foundations in this area, and use them to increase confidence in contemporary software engineering practices.

Ram's group wins Best Paper Award at CoRL 2019

A paper by members of Robust Autonomy and Decisions Group led by Subramanian Ramamoorthy has been awarded Best Paper Runner-up at the Conference on Robot Learning (CoRL) 2019, taking place in Osaka, Japan in November. As robots become more commonplace in the world and become used by non-experts, there is a need for us to be able to 'program' a robot in intuitive ways. This is the problem of Learning from Demonstration (LfD). The authors present ways to achieve LfD from natural language instructions, where those instructions contain spatial relations, and sequential instructions, enabling instructions such as "Make 2 cups 'face' each other" or "Put the green cube in the red bowl". This is work done as part of Ramamoorthy?s Turing fellowship project, on Safe AI for Surgical Assistance. 

Y. Hristov, D. Angelov, A.Lascarides, M. Burke, S. Ramamoorthy, Disentangled Relational Representations for Explaining and Learning from Demonstration, Conference on Robot Learning (CoRL), 2019.

Taku to demonstrate his research at ACM SIGGRAPH Asia

Taku Komura's group and their collaborators from Adobe Research developed a novel, data-driven technique that uses deep neural networks to precisely guide animated characters by inferring a variety of motions-sitting in chairs, picking up objects, running, side-stepping, climbing through obstacles and through doorways--and achieves this in a user-friendly way with simple control commands. The researchers will demonstrate their work, Neural State Machine for Character-Scene Interactions, at ACM SIGGRAPH Asia, held Nov. 17 to 20 in Brisbane, Australia. Using motion capture data, the researchers' framework learns how to most naturally transition the character from one movement to the next - for example being able to step over an obstacle blocking a doorway, and then stepping through the doorway, or picking up a box and then carrying that box to set on a nearby table or desk. The technique infers the character's next pose in the scene based on its previous pose and scene geometry. Another key component of the researchers' framework is that it enables users to interactively control and navigate the character from simple control commands. Additionally, it is not required to keep all the original data captured, which instead gets heavily compressed by the network while maintaining the important content of the animations. The technique essentially mimics how a human intuitively moves through a scene or environment and how it interacts with objects, realistically and precisely. The research has already gathered a substantial interest from technical media.

Student news

Student Experience Videos

Thanks to our current students and graduates for starring in our new student experience videos. Videos are now available on MediaHooper and our YouTube channel.

Watch Student Experience Videos 

Informatics student won a scholarship to participate in Grace Hopper celebration

Ojasvi Jalal (final year student, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence) was one of the 50 women to receive a Facebook scholarship to attend Grace Hopper Celebration, the world's largest gathering of women technologists. It is produced by and presented in partnership with ACM. The 20th edition of GHC took place in Orlando, Florida between 29th September and 2nd October. Informatics graduate, Ramona Comanescu (BEng, Computer Science, 2018) presented a poster at the Conference.

Informatics students win at Hack UPC Barcelona

Group of 31 students from the School of Informatics participated in Hack UPC in Barcelona, one of the largest hackathons in Europe. It attracted 700 participants, and 128 teams submitted a project. One of Informatics teams (Ben Elo, Alex Rader, Justin Glibert, and Conrad Cardona Piñol) won 1st prize in the overall competition and came 3rd in Facebook's challenge and 1st in Itequia's challenge. The team worked on a project called MemeSpace which combined a beautifully crafted UI and AI to link people together based on their shared interest in memes. Judges loved the submission as it brought the world closer together using innovative AI technologies. They also loved how complete and technically impressive the app was. We also really stretched ourselves during the event, sleeping very few hours over the weekend to produce the best possible product.

SIGINT students win HackBack 2

Students from SIGINT (cybersecurity society) won the national capture the flag competition: HackBack 2. They were competing against over 200 teams from 27 universities around the UK.

Informatics student wins Best Paper Award

Nora’ayu Ahmad Uzir, first-year PhD student in the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation, and her colleagues received the Best Paper Award at The 14th annual European Conference for Technology-Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL)  organized by the Leiden Delft Erasmus Center for Education & Learning. The conference took place at the University of Technology in Delft, The Netherlands on 16-20 September 2019.

The paper entitled: "Discovering Time Management Strategies in Learning Processes Using Process Mining Techniques" by Nora’ayu Ahmad Uzir, Dragan Gaševic, Wannisa Matcha, Jelena Jovanovic, Abelardo Pardo, Lisa-Angelique Lim, and Sheridan Gentili.

This paper reports the findings of a study that proposed a novel learning analytic methodology that combines process mining with cluster analysis to study time management in the context of blended and online learning. The study was conducted with first-year students (N=241) who were enrolled in blended learning of a health science course. The study identified four distinct time management tactics and three strategies. The tactics and strategies were interpreted according to the established theoretical framework of self-regulated learning in terms of student decisions about what to study, how long to study, and how to study. The study also identified significant differences in academic performance among students who followed different time management strategies.

Informatics hosts UKIEPC, the UK and Ireland Programming Contest

CompSoc and the School of Informatics hosted again this year UKIEPC, the UK & Ireland Programming Contest. 25 teams and around 70 students took part in the event. It was five long hours of problem-solving, followed by awards for the top teams and pizza for everyone. Out of the eighteen co-organising UK and IE universities, the UoE site was the largest with one in eight competing teams being from Edinburgh. In terms of the highest-ranking team, we were only behind Cambridge and Oxford. Our top three teams were: Bobby++ (8th overall): Justas Zelnia, Nicholas Zhang, and Eduards Gankins; EliyaGlinskiSzczesniak (20th overall): Stan Szcześniak, Michal Glinski, and Roy Eliya; Compile 'till Five (24th overall): Evripidis Papaevripidis, Stylianos Charalampous, and Alexandru Chelba. Bobby++ and EliyaGlinskiSzczesniak will represent the UoE in the next ICPC round, the Northwestern Europe Regional Contest (NWERC) in Eindhoven next month.


Jon Oberlander Memorial Lecture, 12th December

You are warmly invited to attend the Distinguished Lecture, jointly sponsored by Informatics and UKRI CDT in NLP, which will be delivered by Professor Mari Ostendorf, University of Washington on Thursday 12th December 2019 in G.07/G.0a, Informatics Forum. The Lecture will be followed by a short drinks reception in the atrium/café area. Title: Contextualised Language Processing with Explicit Representations of Context. To attend, register by 8th December.

Book tickets to attend Jon Oberlander Memorial Lecture

IT Futures Conference

The University’s IT Futures conference returns this year with the title: Automating our future: opportunities and threats. It will take place all day on Friday, 13th December 2019, in G07 Informatics Forum. Speakers include Alan Bundy, Jane Hillston and Kobi Gal.

IT Futures Conference

Outreach and Public Engagement

For latest opportunities please check CSE PE blog for more info.

CSE Public Engagement update

Dance Your PhD contest, Science magazine / AAAS, deadline: 21st Jan 2020

The 12th annual edition of this competition is now live and open to those who are currently doing a PhD or completed one (no matter how long ago) in a science-related field. To enter, you need to turn your PhD into a dance, put it on YouTube, and send the link to the organisers. The winner will receive $1k. 

Dance Your PhD

Call for proposals - Glasgow Science Festival - June 2020, deadline: 20th Dec

The call for the 14th Glasgow Science Festival - running 4th-14th June 2020 - is now open. The festival's overarching theme will be "Glasgow Making Waves", which will enable links to marine, sound, gravitational, electromagnetic themes and many more ideas! Proposals from the sciences, arts, and more are all very much welcomed.

Glasgow Science Festival proposal

Call for contributors - Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2020, Beltane network / Edinburgh Festival Fringe; deadline: 7th Dec

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas has taken place at the Edinburgh Fringe each summer since 2013. It’s a unique blend of serious academic research, irreverent comedy and a liberal dose of controversy. There is a heavy emphasis on audience involvement – these are not lectures – and a complete ban on slides. The Cabaret is also a researcher-development process, with all performers strongly encouraged to take part in a series of ‘bootcamps’.

The call to take part in the Cabaret at the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe is now live: 

Non-binding registration

If you have never taken part in the Cabaret before, you can familiarise yourself with what’s involved by reading the information for 2020 performers and supporters, as well as joining their Facebook group. 

Info for 2020 performers 

Facebook group

And to see what a CODI show is all about, you can head along to one of their monthly slots at the Stand Comedy Club.

“What changes when you become bilingual?” and “Fake News Kills World” (5th December)      


Call for contributions - public events at the Scottish Parliament, various dates; submission 'deadline': 30th Nov

Scotland's Futures Forum is currently developing events for 2020 that highlight the research findings and innovations that aim to support Scottish citizens meet the challenges of the future during different stages of human life. These challenges can be broad in their interpretation: e.g. climate change, agricultural advances, medical innovations, etc...

For these events, the organisers are looking for interactive activities to illustrate the challenges as well as the potential solutions to these issues. The events, regularly reaching several thousand people, are:

Open Days [aimed at teenagers and adults] - 4th and 11th April 2020 [i.e. during the Edinburgh Science Festival]

Festival of Politics [primarily an adult audience] - 8th-10th October 2020

If you have any contributions that you wish to make, you can either complete the form at the link below or contact Nicole Barth 


Ideally, submissions should be received by the end of November, although it is likely (especially for the October event), that submissions would still be possible after this deadline.

Events at the Scottish Parliament webform

Contact Nicole

Call for talks / workshops - STEM Festival, Coatbridge High School, 19th Feb; deadline: 13th Dec

Coatbridge High School in North Lanarkshire is developing a STEM Festival for their S1-S3 pupils (11-15 year olds) and are looking to incorporate as many talks / interactive workshops as possible for the day taking place on Weds 19th Feb 2020. Sessions should ideally be 50 mins to fit with the school timetable, but there is some flexibility here and group sizes are also negotiable.

If you would like to contribute to the day, or you would like further information, please contact Leslie Morrison directly. The initial deadline for getting in touch is Fri 13th Dec.

Contact Leslie

Updated - Scottish Science Festival list

Now that the big cluster of science festivals is over, please find the updated list of science festivals, dates, and organiser contacts here:

Scottish Science Festivals

List and feedback on the training courses page

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

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, Informatics Forum, 3.42

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

Informatics Social Events

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 Déjà Brew

Informatics Déjà Brew is a drop-in coffee session. Staff are welcome to come and go as their workload permits. If you are unsure about cover for your office or how long you can come along for, then speak to your line manager. The meet-ups are primarily aimed at all Informatics professional services, technical and computing staff. Bring along your cuppa and see you there!

Informatics Déjà Brew

Informatics Football

Informatics Football is open to all Undergraduate, MSC, PHD and staff members from the School of Informatics.

Informatics Football

Board Game Nights

The Board Game Nights are for those wishing to play some games once a month, in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. There is a good variety of board games available, with regular additions to the collection.

Board Game Nights

Informatics Open Artspace

Informatics Open ArtSpace takes place on Tuesdays, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm in MF1. All materials for acrylic painting, linocut and origami are provided. If you have your own project to work on, you can bring it, too. Everyone is welcome, just come by, hang out, make some art.

Look out for inf-general e-mails from Sabine Weber confirming dates/times.


Inf.write() are an informal Informatics writers group run by Dave Cochrane.  If you would like to come and get feedback on something you have written, please bring paper copies (six should be enough, but there are printers handy if more are needed). If you don’t have writing you’d like feedback on, but would like to come along and hear what people are working on, that’s great too. There are very few limitations on what you can bring. Fiction, poetry, scripts, screenplays and non-fiction are all encouraged. This group is not for getting feedback on the type of work for which there already are established mechanisms for getting feedback within the School. Remember that everyone who brings work needs to get their turn - so if you bring something long, be prepared for the possibility that you may have to spread it between more than one meeting.

Look out for inf-general e-mails from Dave Cochrane confirming dates/times.

Best of inf-general

Everyone tired with cloud printing issues surely appreciated the inf-general rant about it! However, we agree with Neil Brown - before you rant to the whole mailing list, go and see Computing Support on level 2 of the Forum, or submit a ticket. Let them know that there are issues!

Submit a ticket to Computing


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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