Informatics Newsletter September 2018

Issue 18 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

Highlights from around the School

Informatics Jamboree

Have you enjoyed the Informatics Jamboree last year? Would you like to get involved in organising next year’s one? We are looking for volunteers to join the organising committee.

If you’d like to get involved and make the Jamboree 2019 even more successful, please email us.

Contact Infcomms

School General Meeting

School General Meeting will be taking place on 4th October, in G.07/G.07a, and will be starting at 11:10am.  A light lunch will be provided afterwards.

Following speaking will be presenting: Alan Murray (Teaching and Academic Careers), Andy Shanks (Student Wellbeing), Steve Renals (Mock REF Report), Stuart Anderson and Nigel Topham (Admissions) Jane Hillston (Introductions and the Turing Trust).

Please confirm your attendance, as well as any special dietary requirements, to the School office by midday on Monday 1st October.

Confirm your attendance

Student and Staff Coffee

Two Informatics Student and Staff Coffee Sessions are coming up in October. Please join in for an opportunity to talk to students (if you’re a staff member) and staff (if you’re a student) on Tuesday 2 October, 2pm - 4pm and/or Friday 12 October, 10am - 12pm on the ground floor of the Informatics Forum.

View from Forum

Staff survey

If you haven’t filled in the staff survey you still have a few days to do it as it will be open until 3rd October. Please check your inboxes for a personal link to the survey.

Doors Open Day

We are participating in Doors Open Day again! This time we invite the visitors to come up to level 9 of Appleton Tower and the Roof Terrace in the Forum on Sunday. The Roof Terrace tickets are all sold out but we will be realising a few more before Sunday.

More details about the Doors Open Day

Research successes


  • Jane Hillston has been elected to membership of Academia Europaea. The Academia Europaea is a functioning European Academy of Humanities, Letters and Sciences, composed of individual members. Membership is by invitation. Invitations are made only after peer group nomination, scrutiny and confirmation as to the scholarship and eminence of the individual in their chosen field. Election is confirmed by the Council of the Academia.

Members come from across the whole European continent and include European scholars who are resident in other regions of the world. Current membership stands at around 4,000. Amongst them are seventy-two Nobel Laureates, several of whom were elected to the Academia before they received the prize.


  • Jane Hillston has also been nominated to receive a Suffrage Science Maths and Computing award. These awards are handed from one woman scientist to another (Jane was nominated by Leslie Goldberg), in a form of relay, as a vote of confidence in a colleague, and respect for her achievements. The handing-on ceremony will take place at the The British Library on 8th October.


  • Vaishak Belle was elected to the RSE Young Academy of Scotland earlier in the summer. Made up of 126 young professionals, the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (YAS) fosters interdisciplinary activities among emerging leaders from science and humanities, the professions, the arts, business and civil society. Established by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2011, YAS provides a platform for innovative young entrepreneurs, professionals and academics to develop a coherent and influential voice, and to address the most challenging issues facing society in Scotland and beyond.


  • Chris Heunen has completed Category 2 Edinburgh Teaching Awards and is now Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Advance HE. Becoming a Fellow of the HEA provides national recognition of the commitment to professionalism in teaching and learning in higher education. The Edinburgh Teaching Award is open to all staff within the University who have roles which relate to teaching and/or supporting learning. Chris Heunen has also been granted a three year extension to his EPSRC Early Career Fellowship.


  • Stefano Albrecht has been awarded a Royal Society Fellowship to work with Five AI to research and develop AI technologies for autonomous vehicles. Stefano’s project is titled Fast, Accurate, and Safe Behaviour Prediction in Autonomous Vehicles. There are 6 defined levels of autonomy, starting at level 0 which is no autonomy. We are currently at level 2, which includes partial autonomy such as automatic parking assistants and cruise control. Now, a number of companies are working to achieve higher levels of autonomy, in which a car can drive safely without human intervention. FiveAI aim to demonstrate self-driving cars in London by 2020. Driving safely in traffic-heavy cities requires a number of abilities, one of which is to make quick and accurate predictions about the intentions and driving behaviours of other cars on the street. The goal of this project is to enable self-driving cars to make such predictions by drawing on research from artificial intelligence and machine learning. This involves a number of difficult questions, such as how predictions should incorporate the past behaviour of cars in various situations as well as contextual information such as road layout, traffic lights, and pedestrians. In many cases, the self-driving car will be uncertain about its predictions and a technological challenge is how the car should account for such uncertainty when making decisions.


  • Heng Guo’s paper "A polynomial-time approximation algorithm for all-terminal network reliability"(Heng Guo and Mark Jerrum, ICALP 2018) that resolves an important 30-year-old open problem in algorithms, won the Best Paper Award at the ICALP (International Colloquium on Automata, Languages and Programming) 2018 conference. Network reliability measures the probability that a network (modelled as a graph) remains connected when each of its links can fail independently with a given probability. Computing this reliability probability is a natural problem in graph theory, with obvious applications to computer networks and beyond. Whether an efficient algorithm exists for this problem has been a major open question, studied by prominent mathematicians and computer scientists over the past thirty years. Two of Heng’s papers were presented at this year's ICALP (both with Mark Jerrum, the other one is titled "Perfect simulation of the hard disks model by partial rejection sampling"). He had another paper, titled "Counting hypergraph colourings in the local lemma regime", joint with Chao Liao, Pinyan Lu, and Chihao Zhang, presented earlier this year in ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing. The latter paper studies the algorithmic side of computational phase transitions. All three papers concern efficient counting and sampling algorithms for fundamental problems.


  • Guido Sanguinetti and Giulio Caravagna (postdoc in Informatics 2015-17) are co-leading a cancer study that got a lot of hype in the media: 64 news outlets around the world picked it up, including ITV News, Independent and Daily Express. The work, in collaboration with colleagues at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, addresses one of the biggest challenges in treating cancers: the heterogeneous and dynamically changing nature of tumours. The team of researchers developed a new technique known as Revolver (Repeated evolution of cancer), which picks out patterns in DNA mutation within cancers to identify their evolutionary histories. Scientists also looked at sequences of repeated tumour mutations and found a link to survival rates, which could be used as an indicator of prognosis. The fundamental insight is that cancer heterogeneity arises from the randomness of the evolutionary history of each tumour, but that prognostically relevant markers should be found by looking at multiple patients jointly. The team then developed a new machine-learning technique which transfers knowledge about tumours across similar patients. This method identifies patterns in the order that genetic mutations occur in tumours that are repeated both within and between patients’ tumours, applying one tumour’s pattern of mutations to predict another’s. These repeating patterns constitute hallmarks of a particular cancer, and can be used to stratify more effectively patients and, ultimately, to predict the likely future development of the disease. It is hoped that this novel methodology could be used clinically in the future to allow medics to better target therapies to individual cancers. The research is published in the journal Nature Methods.

Student news

  • Amna Shahab, an ICSA/PPar PhD student, was the recipient of the Best Poster award at this year’s ARM Research Summit. Amna’s work demonstrates that existing processor cache organizations are inefficient for server applications, and proposes a radically different design using die-stacked memory modules. The full paper, co-author by Mingcan Zhu, Artemiy Margaritov and Boris Grot, will be presented at the International Symposium on Microarchitecture (MICRO) in October.

More about MICRO 51


  • 3rd year computer science and mathematics student Susanne Koster was awarded £250 from the Informatics Travel Fund to go to Amsterdam to undertake an internship at CWI (Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica). Susanne told us about her experience.

Susanne's internship


  • 4th year BSc Cognitive Science student Anita Klementiev undertook an on campus internship during the summer of 2018.

Anita's internship

Recent news from around the School

  • Kate Forbes and ANYmal
    Kate Forbes at the School of Informatics

    Kate Forbes, MSP and the Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy visited the School on 26th September. She had a brief tour that included the AnyMal and Michael Mistry’s group, Lexi Birch and Ulrich German talking about the SUMMA project, and Myrto Arapanis talking about e-Voting.


  • The Strategy Committee minutes are available on the website, please have a look.

    Strategy Committee minutes (22/08/2018)


  • The main front doors of the Informatics Forum are now open at 8.30am and close at 5.30pm, Monday to Friday (other than when servitor cover is arranged for events). Between these times, you should use your staff or student card to activate the swing gates. This is to enhance the security of the Informatics Forum and to align with the security arrangements in the Bayes Centre. Ingress and egress can be made at other times via the various other doors with card activated locks (eg Charles Street and the Pend). If you have visitors (including taught students) departing after 5.30pm, you should escort them off the premises via one of the available exits.


  • City Council has begun a process of upgrading the pavement and lighting around George Square, beginning from this coming Monday 17th September. This will result in the closure of various sections of roadside parking as the work progresses Crichton Street (outside the Forum) will be part of the first phase of works.

More details 

University news

The next Senate Meeting will be taking place here in the Forum on Wednesday 3rd October at 2pm.  All staff are invited to attend the presentation and discussion section of the meeting, which can be booked via MyEd.

Senate: Strategic Presentations and Discussions

Outreach and Public Engagement

Call for participation - I'm a scientist / engineer – get me out of here! deadline: 1st Oct

Running for two weeks in November, these online competitions return. There are different themed zones in which school pupils ask current researchers (from PhD upwards) about their work (and related topics) in a knock-out format. At the end, winners are declared based on the public vote.

Apply for the next 'I'm a scientist get me out of here!' event

Apply for the next 'I'm an engineer get me out of here!' event

Funding call - Ingenious Public Engagement Awards - deadline: 1st Oct

Ingenious is an awards scheme for projects that engage the public with engineers and engineering. Funding applications are welcome for bids in the £3k to £30k bracket. Priority is given to proposals that seek to engage underserved audiences.

Further details, advice, and the application procedure

Call for ideas - Festival of Creative Learning 2019

This festival will run 18-22 Feb, although there are opportunities to run events at other times of the year too. Engaging local groups is one of the multitude of aims of the festival, which has a central focus on creative learning and innovation. For more details and the application processes, please see the link below.

Festival of Creative Learning website

Call for contributors - Edinburgh North STEM event for girls, 5th November

The Edinburgh International Science Festival (in partnership with SHE Scotland) is organising an event to inspire 10-15 year old girls to study STEM subjects, and are looking for 30-minute talks plus interactive activities from women working in STEM.

The event will take place in the Prentis Centre, Leith on Mon 5th Nov, 2:30-5:30pm. They are particularly keen to hear from women who grew up in Scotland and who might have taken an unusual or non-traditional career path.

If you would like to take part, please contact Julie Contreras.

Contact Julie

Call for contributors: Data Fair

Data fair brings together external collaborators and Master students in Design Informatics. The goal is for the students to pick a data set and associated real-world analysis and visualisation problem to work on for the remaining duration of the course (i.e. 7 weeks). Within that course, students are required to analyze the data set (basic analysis and plotting) as well as have to work on a visualization project that can focus on exploratory or explanatory issues with the data. Students will work in groups of 3 students. You will have the chance to work with motivated and creative students as close as you wish and integrate them into your research. We hope that novel collaborations between you and the students and/or us emerge. Students will chose open projects for semester 2 as well as a master theses topic in the summer. There might be a good chance to continue working with students in these months that follow. Last year, we had quite good experiences with that.

Data Fair @ Data Science for Design website

Contact Benjamin Bach

Funding - Community Grants Scheme, opens 4th October

This new funding scheme awarding a maximum of £5k per project aims to increase engagement between the university and local communities; have a positive social impact; and create learning opportunities. If you have community partners whom you believe would benefit from this funding, then further information (including the application process) can be found via the link below.

More about community grants

Training workshop - Co-constructing knowledge with communities, 18th October (12-2pm), ECCI

This workshop is a taster of a more in-depth online Masters-level course and could be of interest to those who have some responsibility for community engagement (directly or through students). The purpose is to critique the concept of community engagement and consider how this type of interaction can be ethical and mutually beneficial.

Information about the full online course

Book a place on the taster course [EASE login required]

Mental health and wellbeing

You can find information about mental health and wellbeing via the link below.

Mental health and wellbeing in Informatics

Consent Collective Training Programme

A programme of workshops, online content and interactive events for students and staff will take place across the University in October 2018. The programme is delivered by the Consent Collective in partnership with the Students’ Association. The Consent Collective is a not for profit collaboration of experts, activists and performers who help organisations and communities talk about consent, sexual harassment and domestic abuse.

More on The Consent Collective website


Information Security Awareness Week 2018

Information Security Awareness Week will be held on 8-15 October 2018. The week will focus on why information security 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. Throughout the week talks will be taking place at different locations and campuses covering topics such as basic information security, securing mobile devices, ransomware and encryption. The main event on the afternoon of 10 October will see invited external speakers present and discuss some of the issues. The speakers include:

  • Daniel Stewart: information security consultant at Secarma Ltd.
  • Holly Grace: CREST Certified Tester Penetration Testing Team Leader
  • Scottish Business Resilience Centre

Book via Events Booking


On Tuesday 9th October 2018, the University’s Information Services team are running an edit-a-thon to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day 2018 which is an international celebration day of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

#ALD2018 website

Nasa Robotics Development

Kimberly Hambuchen, NASA Robotics Principal Technologist will deliver a lecture on Monday 8th October 2018 in Lecture G.03, Bayes Centre. The lecture will start at 4 pm and will be followed by a drinks reception. To attend this lecture, please register by Wednesday 3rd October 2018 (tickets are free but space is limited) via Eventbrite.

Register to 'NASA Robotics Technology Development' by Dr Kimberly Hambuchen

Guess who?

 ... is a spelling and grammar perfectionist (so watch out when you e-mail inf-general)?

There is a difference between YOUR and YOU'RE.


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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