Informatics Newsletter September 2017

Issue 8 of our School newsletter for staff and students.

Updates from the School General Meeting

New Staff

Academic staff

  • Volker Seeker (University Teacher) started on 1st August
  • Cristina Alexandru (University Teacher - p/t) started on 1st August
  • Pavlos Andreadis (University Teacher - p/t) started on 1st August
  • Rico Sennrich (Machine Learning) started on 1st August
  • Hakan Bilen (Image and Vision Computing) started on 1st September
  • He Sun (Algorithms and Complexity) started on 1st September
  • Heng Guo (Algorithms and Complexity) started on 4th September
  • Arno Onken (Data Science for Life Sciences) started on 4th September
  • Stefano Albrecht (Artificial Intelligence) will start on 2nd October
  • Vassilis Zikas (Security and Privacy) will start on 3rd January 2018
  • Markulf Kohlweiss (Security and Privacy) will start on 8th January 2018
  • Laura Seville Lara (Image and Vision Computing) will start on 1st September 2018

Support staff

  • Jim Ashe (Director of Commercialisation) started on 3rd July
  • Laura Ferguson (Trainee Workshop Technician) started on 11th September
  • Serena Lambley (Senior Administrative Secretary) started on 14th September
  • Adam Kirylczuk (Computing Support Officer) will start on 11th October


  • Guido Sanguinetti, Personal Chair of Computational Bioinformatics
  • Mark Van Rossum, Personal Chair of Computational Neuroscience
  • Christophe Dubach, Reader
  • Hugh Leather, Reader
  • Michael Rovatsos, Reader
  • Bruno Bodin, Senior Researcher
  • David Sterratt, Senior Researcher

Undergraduate admissions

We have 820 undergraduates (209 matriculated in year one), 320 taught postgraduates (currently 233 matriculated). Actions are underway to reduce the number of applications (and thus improving the quality of applicants).

PGR admissions

303 research students are currently studying in Informatics: 81 new recruited this year, 47 new PhDs, 2 new MScR and 37 in CDTs

Bayes Centre

Building Projects

Appleton Tower: levels 3-7 are open to teaching, level 8 is being prepared to be open in early October, level 9 at the end of September

Informatics Forum: new meeting rooms on level 1 and 2, minor works in the Wolfson Wing.

The Bayes Centre: handover is planned for April 2018, with migration over the summer months and opening in September 2018

Commercialisation and industry engagement

Edinburgh continues to be the hub for innovation, with the Bayes Centre hoping to bring together corporate R&D teams, researchers, start-ups and innovation groups and Informatics Ventures supporting technology entrepreneurs and helping companies to scale up through events and training.

Recent news stories from around the School

Professor Johanna Moore

Head of School wanted

Professor Johanna Moore completes her term of office on 31 July 2018 and we are looking for an outstanding candidate with a strategic vision and the management skills to take the post from August 2018, to ensure that the School continues to build on its existing success and to steer a course through the many opportunities available.

More information


  • Ciaran Martin, CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre visited the School on 5th September 2017

UK cyber security head sees cutting-edge research


  • Paul Patras led the study that found the security of wearable fitness trackers could be improved. The findings were presented at the International Symposium on Research in Attacks (RAID) on 18-20 September.

Fitness trackers could benefit from better security, study finds


Recent grant applications

Recent research funding successes

  • Kenneth Heafield and partners at the University of Cape Town secured funding for their Medical Machine Translation Project.

With eleven official languages, doctors and patients in South Africa often do not speak the same language.  To support communications with patients doctors translated a small set of common medical phrases and bundled them into the Mobile Translate MD app. However, the app is only useful to a certain extend as it is limited to selecting pre-translated sentences from a menu. 

In collaboration with the University of Cape Town, this project will add machine translation functionality between English and isiXhosa to the app, enabling a much broader range of conversations to make the doctor-patient consultations more effective.

This enhancement is enabled by recent and new research at the University of Edinburgh on creating machine translation systems for languages with small amounts of translations available to learn from.


  • Christophe Dubach from Institute for Computing Systems Architecture secured funding from Huawei Technologies to work on generating Efficient Neural Network code on mobile GPUs.

Informatics collaboration with Huawei on Efficient Neural Networks for mobile devices


  • QUANTICOL, recently finished EU-funded project co-ordinated by Professor Jane Hillston has been recognised by being featured on the CORDIS web site. The project developed a descriptive language for ‘smart networks’, building on recent breakthroughs in the field of Formal Methods.

Emergent behaviour from collective systems underpins the success of ‘smart networks’


  • Researchers working on Enhance project have been awarded the Best Work in Progress award at ACM Designing Interactive Systems 2017 for their paper ‘Co-Designing Innovations for Energy Saving in Large Organisations’. Enhance is a research project which is taking a Living Lab approach to understanding and reducing energy demand in public sector buildings. The project is a collaboration between the School of Informatics, School of Social and Political Science, and Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh. It is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and is a member of the EPSRC Network of (Build) TEDDI projects known as TEDDINET.


  • CSA and PPar CDT student Chris Cummins has taken the Best Paper award at PACT 2017, for his work on "End-to-end Deep Learning of Optimization Heuristics". PACT (the International Conference on Parallel Architectures and Compilation Techniques) brings together researchers from architecture, compilers, applications and languages to present and discuss innovative research of common interest. 


  • Perdita Stevens’ 2017 paper "Bidirectional Transformations in the Large" was given a Foundation Track Best Paper award at MODELS 2017 : ACM/IEEE 20th International Conference on Model Driven Engineering Languages and Systems. Prof Stevens has already been awarded with the most influential paper from MODELS 2007 Conference that was held in Vanderbilt, USA award for her paper "Bidirectional Model Transformations in QVT: Semantic Issues and Open Questions" at the same session of the same conference, which we reported in our June newsletter.
Peking University summer research students

Student success

  • Maria Gorinova’s research has attracted the attention of the Stan team and was featured in their blog.

Stan team blog

Probabilistic programming languages provide a concise and abstract way to specify probabilistic models while hiding away the complicated underlying inference algorithm. Stan is one such probabilistic programming language, which is increasingly used for real-world scalable projects in statistics and data science. Even though very powerful, Stan sacrifices some of its usability and flexibility to make automatic inference possible. To address this problem, Maria and colleagues designed and developed SlicStan --- a probabilistic programming language that compiles to Stan, and uses static analysis to reduce the work needed to be done by the programmer. This work demonstrates that efficient inference can be the result of joint efforts between programming language and machine learning researchers.


  • We hosted four Peking University summer research students: Zhuojin Li who was working with David Aspinall, Yutong Shao, working with Bonnie Webber, Ziyang Xu, working with Charles Sutton and Yuren Zhong, working with James Cheney.

In the Forum

Fire Stewards required for the Informatics Forum!

We also have a few major posts within the Stewarding role that could need additional support.

  • Assembly Controller (Stands by the main door and marks off areas as they are reported by Stewards)
  • Fire Coordinator (Stands by the refuge communication panel, takes any calls and directs rescue teams as appropriate).

Contact Dave Hamilton for more information

In Appleton Tower

Over 100 visitors came to visit level 7 of the newly refurbished Appleton Tower on Doors Open Day

Newly refurbished Appleton Tower popular on Doors Open Day

In other news

  • Edinburgh Global has changed the way it delivers news to staff about the University’s global activities and strategy and they are inviting staff to subscribe to Edinburgh Global’s news channels.

The channels include staff newsletter (The Flag), a new set of Themed News Alerts. The themes you can select include: Partnerships & Networks; Go Abroad; Global Community plus 8 Regional themes (Africa, Europe, Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Australasia, North America and Latin America).

If you’re not already signed up, you can read more about the channel, subscribe and personalise your news.

More information Edinburgh Global's news channel


  • The Festival of Creative Learning have issued a call for applications to participate in the second ever curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning, taking place from 19th – 23rd February 2018. This is a unique opportunity for you to embrace your creative spirit and find space for your imagination to flourish. The deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday 23rd October 2017.

Call for applications #FCL18

Outreach and Public Engagement Opportunities

  • Beltane are re-establishing their Public Engagement Fellowships programme for academic and research staff with up to £1k available for appointed Fellows for training, travel, or other activities. Fellows will have access to mentoring, advice and practical assistance to develop a portfolio of public engagement activities. The deadline for applications is the 30th October, with Fellowships to run January - June 2018.

More about Beltane Public Engagement Fellowships


  • Apply to take part in 'I’m an Engineer, Get Me Out Of Here!' The call is issued to researchers working in specific research areas, with AI, Health and Future Transport all applicable to researchers in the School of Informatics. Deadline is tight: Monday, 2nd October!

More about 'I'm an Engineer, Get Me Out Of Here!'


  • Calling all undergraduates 1-3, MInf 4 and PhDs 1-3!

Come on Tuesday, 3rd Oct 2017 11am - 12pm (IF G.07) to learn from Google engineers about the work they do, from software engineering to product management.

Interested in internships, scholarships, and other opportunities for students? Google reps will discuss the programs available to you, as well as how to prepare for technical coding interviews. Pizza will be served after the talk, so please RSVP via the link below.

Google event


  • In conjunction with the Asia Scotland Institute, Edinburgh Global are bringing Narayana Murthy to Edinburgh to give a talk next month. He is the co-founder of InfoSys, so a special link to the School of Informatics and I’m sure some of you will be interested. The event is tickets only, but through the University’s partnership, we have an access code that can be shared with all UoE students and staff.

Event info and registration


  • The next Senate meeting will take place at 14.00 on Wednesday 4 October in St Cecilia's Hall, Niddry Street. The theme for the presentation and discussion section of Senate will be 'The Future of Distance Learning.' The session will provide an overview of the University's current position and future objectives for expanding its distance learning provision. It will also explore the opportunities and implications in terms of pedagogy, assessment and student experience.

About the next Senate meeting

Book onto the event via MyEd

Please advise Catherine McDonald in the School Office if you wish to attend the above, on behalf of the School.

Contact Catherine McDonald


  • Information Security Awareness Week will be held on 2-6 October 2017. The week will focus on why information matters to all University staff and students, the threats that we all face as users, and how you can take some very simple steps to quickly protect your personal data and research content.

The main event on the afternoon of 4 October will see invited internal and external speakers present and discuss some of the issues. These will be very accessible and are aimed at all audiences, regardless of technical abilities.

Information Security Awareness Week Keynotes


  • Our Changing World lecture series, which showcases research happening at the University that examines global challenges was launched. Topics this year include human-nature relationships, religious violence, immigration, mental health, sleep, epistemology, political journalism and sustainability. The 9 lectures are free to attend and open to staff, students, and the general public.

Book your place

Undergrads can also take it as a credit bearing course.

More information about the course

Guess who?

Mastered the pronunciation of the most difficult Polish surname despite never having learnt the language (and not being Polish).

Nazywam się...

PS: Wanna try yourselves? Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz


Keep in Touch

For all the latest news, keep an eye on our website and social media!

Informatics Communications team website



Edinburgh Informatics Alumni group on LinkedIn


The newsletter is produced by Communications Team.

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


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