Informatics Newsletter October 2022
Issue 61 of our School newsletter for students and staff.
A Message from the Head of School
We seem to be rattling through autumn and winter is approaching fast with colder air and darker mornings. The passing of the seasons also reminds us of the progression of the semester. By now coursework is taking up time for both staff and students, and it can become harder to keep our sights on the longer-term goals and ambitions.
In my career I have been fortunate to benefit from some supportive coaches, mentors and champions. It can be hard to disentangle these terms but roughly speaking a coach is someone who can help you towards a specific goal whereas a mentor is longer term and less focused, whilst a champion may not even talk to you, but will take the opportunity to talk about you when it can have a positive impact on your career! Thus a coach might help prepare you for a specific interview or application, or to plan the next stage of your career. Coaches may be assigned to you by someone else. As students, coaches can come in many guises from tutors to lecturers to fellow students (eg InfPALS), and you might expect to have many coaches during the course of your degree. For staff a coach might be colleague who is advising you on acquiring a new skill or completing a particular application.
In contrast a mentoring relationship takes a more holistic view, and aims to give you advice and support for a sustained period of your career. A good mentor never tells you what to do or think, but will give your fresh insight through discussion, often presenting a different point of view. This different perspective might be based on having more experience, but can just as well come from simply having different experience — mentoring works best when the mentor and mentee are not too similar. And champions are like fairy-godparents who try to advance your career through creating opportunities and making introductions.
I would recommend that everyone finds themselves a mentor. You might be fortunate to have one assigned to you, but if not, you can try to find one for yourself. It can be one of the benefits of networking that it gives you to opportunity to identify potential mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask someone. The worst that can happen is that they say no, but generally speaking people will be flattered to be asked. With all of these opportunities, it is important that you take the initiative to seek out the type of support you believe you need, and to take a lead on driving the relationships. I find as a coach, mentor and champion myself I am generally happy to give my time and experience, but rely on my mentee or coach to be clear on what they are looking for.
Your mentor does not need to be in the School or even in the University, as long as there is a commitment to provide support and guidance. Like any relationship it takes effort to make the relationship to work well, but when it does work well it can be very rewarding for both parties. As well as learning from my mentors, I have learned a lot from my mentees as well as having a sense of pride in their achievements. As I’ve hinted above, your mentor can be your peer; or in other cases, a group of peers. The key is a commitment to develop a relationship of trust and to set aside time to thoughtfully discuss career goals and objectives beyond the day to day tribulations.
So as the semester progresses try not to lose sight of the bigger picture and be proactive in seeking out the support and sponsorship that you need to achieve your goals.
With best wishes,
- Octave Mariotti started as a Research Associate in IPAB on 1 October 2022.
- Cheng Wang started as a Research Associate in IPAB on 10 October 2022.
To view current job opportunities within the School of Informatics, please click on the link below.
The University of Edinburgh and Informatics rankings
Some of the most popular University rankings are published in autumn. Please see below for the roundup of current University and School rankings.
The University of Edinburgh is consistently ranked one of the best universities in the world:
- The Guardian Best UK University Rankings - 12th
- The Complete University Guide - 12th
- The Times Good University Guide - 13th
- QS World University rankings 2023 - 15th
- Times Higher Education University Rankings 2023 - 29th
The University of Edinburgh is ranked #4 in the UK based on the quality and breadth of its research, according to Times Higher Education's REF power ratings.
The School of Informatics is consistently ranked in the top 30 of the subject rankings in the world.
Times Higher Education World University Rankings - Computer Science - 25th (this will be updated for 2023 in the next couple of weeks)
- QS World University Rankings - Computer Science - 26th
The School of Informatics and EPCC are ranked #1 in the UK for research power in Computer Science and Informatics Times Higher Education and Research Professional rankings based on the results of REF 2021.
Update to room allocation policy
The space allocation policy has been amended and approved by the Strategy Committee.
Chris Lu's AI fire helmet could help save lives
Pioneering technology developed by Dr Chris Xiaoxuan Lu from the School of Informatics could help firefighters more quickly map their surroundings, navigate hazardous environments and get people to safety.
Networking Event between Schools of Informatics and Engineering
A full-day Inf/Eng Networking Event took place recently and was very successful (attended by over 50 people). The event was an opportunity for those who would like to know more about what the institutes and groups in the respective other School are doing. The Head of School of Engineering remarked at the start of the event that this was the first time that the two Schools came together in such an event.
The event took place on 26 September 2022 in the Bayes Centre (G.03). It included short welcomes by Heads of Schools, overview presentations by Directors of Research, spotlight presentations by Inf/Eng lab PIs, and breakout discussion rooms about various focus areas.
Meet our Professional Services
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 Eddie Wilkinson, Operations Manager, telling us all about the Institute Admin team.
Stay tuned for an introduction to a different professional services team with each newsletter.
Health & Safety Update
Mental Health First Aid in Informatics
Informatics has a number of staff Mental Health First Aiders, trained to signpost appropriate support for staff experiencing mental ill-health or crisis. Our training allows us to spot the early signs in others so that we can start a conversation, and we’re also available if you want to seek us out for support. We’re not professionals or counsellors, but we can at least offer a friendly ear and give you some options to explore.
This is a confidential service so please do not hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to. You’ll find information on the MHFA trained staff and how to contact us by visiting the link below.
Updated Travel and Event Guidance Available
The H&S intranet now includes a dedicated guidance section, where you’ll currently find information about planning events or travel. You’ll find new versions of risk assessment templates as well, that will hopefully streamline your planning.
Mental Health Portal
The Mental Health Portal has been developed to provide Informatics staff and students with resources and information to support mental health. We cover a number of topics and highlight services available through UoE as well as externally.
Research Data Management Update
There has been much progress on open access in the past year, notably the new UKRI policy, as well as the University’s new publications policy. If you are unsure of what this means for you with regards to publishing your papers and depositing the details in Pure, please have a look at the summary of support for open access and publications on InfWeb.
We welcome feedback and further questions on the material on these pages, or indeed any matters related to open access. Please do not hesitate to contact Victoria with either.
As always, please continue to notify the RDM team as soon as your paper is accepted for publication (include date of acceptance and the accepted manuscript if ready), and Victoria or Andrew will help deposit it in Pure and ensure open access is achieved in line with University and funder requirements.
Ethics office hours
The Informatics ethics committee will continue to hold an office hour every first Monday of the month, 4pm-5pm (7 November, 5 December). These sessions are attended by one member of the ethics committee. Staff and students are welcome to join the office hour via the Teams link below and to discuss questions around ethics and ethics applications.
Please take the time to review the information available on our pages before attending, including the FAQs.
Students should discuss specific ethics questions with their supervisor before attending the office hour (open to both students and supervisors).
Informatics student wins best paper award for a study on using lessons learnt from steamboat accidents in developing AI governance
Bhargavi Ganesh, an Informatics PhD student, working on a project looking at a Responsibility Framework for Governing Trustworthy Autonomous Systems, won a best paper award at the We Robot 2022 conference. The paper co-authored by Professor Stuart Anderson from the School of Informatics and Professor Shannon Vallor from Edinburgh Futures Institute looks at lessons learned from US government responses to steamboat accidents and how they can be used nowadays in AI governance.
Edinburgh students install UK’s first Hyperloop test track
The University of Edinburgh students launched the first Hyperloop test track in the UK at the King’s Buildings campus. The Edinburgh team – HYPED – is the University’s student society dedicated to advancing Hyperloop, and the leading university team working on the technology in the UK. Student from numerous schools, including Informatics, are members of HYPED.
Informatics Students ranked second in ArgMining22-Shared-Task
Informatics students Ameer Saadat-Yazdi, Sandrine Chausson and Xue Li ranked second on both sub-tasks of the classification of validity and novelty and the comparison of two conclusions in terms of validity / novelty in ArgMining22-Shared Task.
Given a pair of premise and conclusion in natural language, the ArgMining 2022 Shared Task is concerned with automatically predicting the validity and the novelty: validity means that the conclusion “follows” from the premise and novelty means that the conclusion is related to the premise and includes extra information than the premise. Students proposed a method, KEViN (A Knowledge Enhanced Validity and Novelty Classifier for Arguments), that tackles the task by combining features generated from several pre-trained transformers and the WikiData knowledge graph, which obtains the second rank on both subtasks (A and B) of the ArgMining 2022 Shared Task.
Their paper outlining the KEViN has been accepted and will be virtually presented at the 9th Workshop on Argument Mining by Ameer.
Students are supervised by Nadin Kökciyan, Björn Ross, Jeff Z. Pan, Alan Bundy and Vaishak Belle.
Hoppers host AdaHack 2022
Edinburgh Hoppers (the society for women, non-binary and transgender people in the School of Informatics) hosted a hackathon event in collaboration with Major League Hacking. AdaHack took place on Friday 15th October in the Informatics Forum. The 12-hour hackathon was beginner-friendly and suitable for everyone, regardless of previous coding experience. Participants solved problems in teams.
The event was very successful with over a hundred participants attending. It went smoothly, and both the organisers and participants were happy to work and innovate in their gender-diverse teams. Hoppers will be sharing event feedback forms with all attendees of the event.
Edinburgh University Formula Student team bring home the trophy for FS-AI DDT Class Overall 2022 win
Edinburgh University Formula Student (EUFS) were recently crowned top student team in the UK for driverless vehicle software at the annual Formula Student competition. The EUFS team attended a trophy handover event with Jane Hillston in the Informatics Forum on Friday 21 October.
The prestigious summer event, held at Silverstone Racetrack, invites students from universities across the world to compete across different race car challenges – offering an opportunity to apply engineering knowledge to real scenarios while gaining skills in project management and business planning.
Organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), the event is seen by industry as a testing ground for the engineering stars of the future, and a kitemark of authentic motorsport engineering experience.
EUFS is the University of Edinburgh’s student society dedicated to automotive technologies. With a large and diverse membership of over 100 students from 11 different schools across the University, the group works throughout the year to design and assemble a Formula One-style race car, alongside a driverless vehicle and AI software, to compete at the event.
Informatics student named runner-up in the Young Software Engineer of the Year competition
Lilli Freischem, the final year MInf student, was named runner-up in the Young Software Engineer of the Year competition for producing a new software tool that can identify essential genes – ones that are critical to the survival of an organism – in a wide range of life forms.
The detection of essential genes is a grand challenge in personalised medicine, the discovery of new drug targets in cancer, or in the identification of genetic markers for the diagnosis of disease. Lilli’s software is able to communicate seamlessly with tools that are already widely adopted, and end users can use its improved predictive power with little additional training or technical expertise.
Informatics colleagues making the news
Our Head of School, Professor Jane Hillston, was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland's Lunchtime Live programme yesterday. She commented on the interview with Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) about the lack of women in the tech industry.
An editorial written by Professor Barbara Webb was published in today's Scotsman. In her article, Barbara looks into how engineers can learn from the circuits of an insect's brain.
University of Edinburgh-Digital University Kerala MoU signing
On the 11th October 2022, Kerala University of Digital Sciences, Innovation and Technology (DUK) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Edinburgh in the presence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Industrial Minister P. Rajeev and Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, Chair in Robotics University of Edinburgh (Academic Lead), Prof Alex James (Chair, DUK) and Prof Pankaj Pankaj (International Dean for South Asia, UoE) at St. James Court in London.
Following the State Government of Kerala’s announcement in 2022, DUK will be leading the establishment of a Digital Science Park and under this project, a Kerala Academy of Artificial Intelligence (KAAI) with a focus on Responsible AI, Explainable & Interpretable AI, AI Hardware, AI for sustainable development, will be established. DUK has invited the University of Edinburgh as the international academic partner to help set up this new initiative and initiate funded collaborative research partnerships through five strands of engagements ranging from cutting edge robotics and AI research funded through PhD studentships, postdoctoral fellowships, and translation pipeline through various AI for Social good Impact accelerator engagements of mutual interest between DUK and UoE. Similar bilateral partnerships were signed by DUK on the occasion with the University of Oxford, focusing on embedded systems and cybersecurity and with the University of Manchester, focusing their expertise on Graphene.
Stefano Albrecht awarded RAEng Industrial Fellowship
Stefano Albrecht was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering Industrial Fellowship for his project Multi-agent reinforcement learning for warehouse logistics with robotic and human co-workers
In future commercial warehouses, many robotic and human workers will collaborate to collect and deliver items. The fundamental problem that this project aims to tackle is how these workers must coordinate their actions in the warehouse to maximise performance (for example, in terms of order throughput) under given resource constraints.
Existing approaches for order-picking systems in industry based on fixed heuristics require a large engineering effort to operate under specific warehouse layouts and resource constraints, and their achievable performance is often limited by heuristic design limitations. To improve the efficiency and flexibility of warehouse order-picking systems, the project will leverage research in Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning (MARL) in which the workers learn directly through trial-and-error how to optimally collaborate with one another in the warehouse.
This project will develop and demonstrate MARL-based solutions in real-world warehouse systems involving robotic and human workers through a close partnership with Dematic/KION, a global leader in warehouse automation technologies.
Informatics researcher’s thesis earns an outstanding dissertation prize from TU Dresden
Andres Goens, who is currently a researcher in the Consistency, Availability and Persistency via Synthesis research group within Institute for Computing Systems Architecture has been awarded “Cloud & Heat Dissertationspreis” for outstanding doctoral dissertation work at TU Dresden.
Outreach and Public Engagement
Interested in outreach in public engagement? Let us know!
As more and more outreach and public engagement opportunities takes place in person, the School gets more and more queries from potential partners. Please get in touch if you are interested in doing this type of work. Requests vary from organising hackathons to visiting local (and so local) schools. Please use the public engagement form below if you'd like more information or are interested in participating.
We will soon be required to report on our annual Outreach and Public Engagement activities. If you have participated in any such activity between August 2021 and July 2022 and your activity is not listed in the directories below, please let us know by the end of October:
What kind of activities should be included?
Any activates that involve external, non-commercial and non-academic audiences, for example:
- public lectures (aimed at general non-scientific, non-technical audience, includes online)
- performance arts (music, dance, drama, etc.)
- exhibitions (galleries, museums, etc.)
- museum education
- festival engagement (science festivals and arts festivals)
- school engagements (that are not pure recruitment activity)
- TV/radio programmes
- articles written for mainstream media
- conferences open to the public to attend and not an exclusive commercial or academic event or a recruitment open day
- some social media engagement when the post doesn’t point users to another platform or advertises an activity (ask if in doubt)
If you have taken part in such activities and your name is not in the directory, please let us know by filling in a webform:
Alternatively, email the Comms team with following details:
- name of the activity,
- short description,
- dates when delivered,
- to what audience and of what size
- who else was involved (students, staff),
- prep time in hours per person
For more information about Outreach and PE, please follow the link below:
Research Support Services Conference
Monday 31 October 2022, John McIntyre Conference Centre
The conference is a full day event aimed at research support colleagues. It will provide a fantastic platform for colleagues to share experiences, build networks and hear more about the latest developments in the research environment, from across the University. The conference is open to all colleagues within the University who work within Research Support.
Best of InfGeneral
This month's best of inf-general goes to everyone who responded to Rob van Glabbeek's request for suggestions or recommendations in acquiring a dentist and GP after newly arriving in Edinburgh.
In Scotland you are not free to select any GP you like. They all have a catchment area, which is a well-defined part of the map. Some GP websites show the actual map, others are vague about it, but even so, you can only select a medical practice/GP when you live in their catchment area. Recommendations below:
Here one is not bound by the catchment areas. There are NHS dentists, which are less expensive, and non-NHS (private) dentists, who charge more. Many dental practices do both NHS and non-NHS. It is very hard to get accepted as a new patient for an NHS dentist. But with some luck you can be placed on a waiting list. Becoming a non-NHS dental patient is easy. Even when being an NHS patient, your (double practice) dentist may occasionally suggest treatment which can be done on the non-NHS side. Recommendations below:
- "Your Dentist" by campus (NHS)
- Uni Dental Care 6 Rankeillor St (NHS)
- Craigentinny Dental Care
- Minto Dental
- Grace Leek at 5 Hope Park Terrace
- Maria Ertz at Citrus Dental Care
- Stuart Steven Dental Practice
- Howard Place Dental (Private)
- Edinburgh Dental Studio, Randolph Place (Private)
- Edinburgh Dental Studio (Private)
- New Life Teeth (Private)
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 the inf-general who steps in to point out misuses and confirm when the 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!
The newsletter is produced by the Communications team.
If you have any questions or comments please get in touch!