Informatics Newsletter September 2023

Issue 72 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Photo of Helen Hastie

Dear All,

September marks the beginning of the new academic year. Two quiet weeks at the beginning of the month are followed by the excitement of Welcome Week, and then we return to our lecture theatres, labs, tutorials and seminars. I had the opportunity to welcome our new students to the School during the Informatics Welcome Fair and was delighted to talk to them about the journey they are embarking on at the University of Edinburgh.

Unfortunately, some of the Appleton Tower lecture theatres (LT4 and LT5) were identified as requiring a more extensive assessment of RAAC used in their construction, which is expected to take up to six weeks. Teaching in affected lecture theatres has been rearranged; thank you to everyone who has helped with this rearrangement and to those who have moved bookings of G.07 to accommodate teaching. Further updates will be provided when available.

In the meantime, we are getting ready for our big Alumni Gathering in October to mark 60 years of Computer Science and Al research. Thank you to everyone involved in organising this event, including Kobi Gal, Matthias Henning, Marc Juarez and Julia Sorensen. If you haven't registered yet, please do so - the full programme and the registration are available using the link below:

60 Years of Computer Science & AI Alumni Celebration Eventbrite page

Tickets are £8 for staff and £5 for PGR students (use the promotion code SOIFF). Please do pass on the invitation to any alumni you know - interactions with alumni can reignite old collaborations and friendships, as well as forge new ones.

We received some good news this month. Firstly, David Sterratt was awarded the Edinburgh Teaching Award Level 2, becoming a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Please join me in congratulating David.

Secondly at the ICFP conference this year, Dr Ohad Kammar and Dr Sam Lindley received the ACM Most Influential ICFP Paper Award for their 2013 paper 'Handlers in action', co-authored by Nigolas Oury. The paper concerns the area of research pioneered by Prof Gordon Plotkin and Dr Matija Pretnar, which was used as one of the impact case studies in the last REF. Congratulations to Ohad and Sam.

Link to Handlers in action paper

Link to 'Informatics researchers awarded for their seminal work on effect handlers' news item

Lastly, I want to emphasise that it's perfectly okay not to be okay. If you find yourself facing challenges, there are caring individuals and valuable services here to support you. You will have noticed 'Ask for Help' posters around the School buildings that list all the resources available to staff and students. The poster was developed by the School's People and Culture Committee, and you can access it online using the link below:

Link to 'Ask for Help' poster

There is also a helpful list of available support options for staff and students that can be accessed using the link below:

Link to 'Ask for Help' Linktree list of resources

Please do take some time for self-care and engage in the various health and wellbeing initiatives offered by the School and University.

With warmest regards and 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.



David Sterratt

David Sterratt Awarded Edinburgh Teaching Award and HEA Fellowship

Lecturer at the School of Informatics and Deputy Director of Learning & Teaching, David Sterratt has completed his Edinburgh Teaching Award (EdTA) Category 2, accredited through Advance HE’s Higher Education Academy.

In achieving this David has also become a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), reflecting his passion for teaching and proactive attitude to self-improvement.

The HEA promotes teaching excellence in Higher Education Institutes by creating a collaborative space where institutes and individuals can share teaching strategy and practice, promoting the overall aim of student success. This independent, non-profit organisation offers great opportunities to improve teaching and enhance learning, with their Fellowships providing national recognition of active personal development and commitment to students’ learning experience.

Link to full article


Informatics Researchers recognised for a historic paper on effect handlers

Ohad Kammar, Sam Lindley and Nicolas Oury were awarded the Most Influential ICFP Paper Award, which is presented annually to the authors of a paper presented at the International Conference on Functional Programming held 10 years prior to the award year. Informatics researchers and a former Informatics PDRA Nicolas Oury, received the recognition for their 2013 paper ‘Handlers in action’.

The findings described in the paper developed the theory of the effect handler construct that had been pioneered by Gordon Plotkin and Matija Pretnar.

Kammar, Lindley and Oury set out to popularise the handler abstraction with their paper: it includes an introduction to its use, a collection of illustrative examples, and a straightforward operational semantics.

Link to full article


DRS Ambassadors Programme - register your interest

Digital Research Services are currently registering interest in their DRS Ambassadors Programme for next year. If you’re interested you can attend a closing event for the 2023 programme on the 2nd of October. More details on this event and resources for researchers and PGR students are available on their website.

Link to Digital Research Services website

Health and Safety update


As our new students join us, this is a great opportunity to take a moment and review our health and safety arrangements. All staff and PGR students should complete certain training courses relevant to their role, and everyone should know and understand the risks they face in the course of work. If you are a supervisor of people, you are expected to monitor their progress in training and make sure they are working safely, which means you need to understand their risks as well.

Training information can be found on the intranet:

Link to Health and Safety training website

Whatever your role, if you have any questions or want some input, please get in touch! You'll find Eilidh Guild in room 1.03 in the Forum or on Teams or email.

Email Health and Safety

Human Resources update

School Expenses

As we are in the new academic year, it’s worth taking a look at our school’s expenses policy which has been reviewed recently.

Informatics staff and student expenses guidance

For those involved in hosting candidates for academic recruitment, please pay particular attention to the section on “Entertaining & hospitality: guests and external contacts”.

Promotions, Regrading and Contribution Rewards

The 2023-2024 internal deadlines and timelines for promotions, regrading and contribution rewards for all staff can all be found via the below link. You will also be able to find links to the forms and guidance notes.

Informatics internal deadlines

Family Support Fund

Our School wishes to ensure that staff and PhD students with caring responsibilities are not disadvantaged in their ability to attend work-related training. All staff and PhD students can apply for support from the School’s Family Support Fund, to assist with childcare/ dependent care costs incurred on such occasion. Eligible expenses might include, for instance, the cost of a child and partner travelling with the individual or the cost of a carer to remain at home with the dependent.

For more information on the policy and to access the application form please use the link below.

Family Support Fund

New People and Culture blog post

A Single Traveller’s Guide to starting out in the School of Informatics

Ah! The thrill of embarking on a new adventure! Whether it’s hopping on a plane to a foreign land, or starting out as a new student or staff member at the University of Edinburgh – the excitement and nervousness are almost indistinguishable. During a recent two-week holiday to Croatia, I came to realise that there are more similarities between these journeys than you might think. Here are some of the parallels I drew while travelling alone in an unknown country.

Link to full blog post

Meet our professional services - new blog post

School office

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 School Office team.

Link to blog post

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

Link to blog

Student news

 BBC Sounds Rethink

Muminah Koleoso talks to BBC Radio 4 about the impact of AI on the jobs market

Muminah Koleoso, final year Computer Science and Maths student discusses the impact of AI technology to the jobs market of the future.

Despite the rapid development (of AI technology), I am not too worried about technology jobs as some applications of AI, I feel, pose more of a threat to the arts

Muminah Koleoso

Hear more in the latest episode of BBC Sounds Rethink with Amol Rajan (Muminah Koleoso is featured at 24 minutes).

Listen to BBC Sounds: Rethink

Balint Gyevnar

Balint Gyevnar featured in Stanford’s AI100 Early Career Essay Competition top 5 essays

PhD Candidate Balint Gyevnar wrote an essay 'Love, Sex, and AI' that was selected as one of the five winning essays (out of 54 submissions) to be featured in Stanford’s AI100 Early Career Essay Competition.

Researchers from 18 countries answered the call, offering intriguing perspectives on AI and its impacts on society. In addition to the winner, AI100 selected a collection of five essays that thoughtfully consider AI at the intersection of morality, regulation, love, labor, and religion.

The artificial lover has captivated people’s imagination since ancient times. Today, technologies such as affective chatbots, AI-generated imagery, and human-like robots capture the minds, and indeed the bodies, of the amorous. Balint's essays explores the question "Should we exploit inherent human cognitive biases in pursuit of creating the perfect artificial lover?". 

Read the winning essays

Staff news

Vaishak Belle

Vaishak Belle will deliver a keynote at JELIA 2023

Vaishak Belle will give a keynote lecture at the 18th Edition of the European Conference on Logics in Artificial Intelligence (or Journées Européennes sur la Logique en Intelligence Artificielle - JELIA) taking place on 20-22 September 2023 in Dresden, Germany.

In his talk (Excursions in first-order logic and probability: infinitely many random variables, continuous distributions, recursive programs and beyond), Vaishak will review recent results on revisiting that unification. Although there are plenty of approaches in communities such as statistical relational learning, automated planning, and neuro-symbolic AI that leverage and develop languages with logical and probabilistic aspects, they almost always restrict the representation as well as the semantic framework in various ways which do not fully explain how to combine first-order logic and probability theory in a general way. In many cases, this restriction is justified because it may be necessary to focus on practicality and efficiency. However, the search for a restriction-free mathematical theory remains ongoing. In his talk, he will discuss recent results regarding the development of languages that support arbitrary quantification, possibly infinitely many random variables, both discrete and continuous distributions, as well as programming languages built on top of such features to include recursion and branching control.

The European Conference on Logics in Artificial Intelligence (or Journées Européennes sur la Logique en Intelligence Artificielle - JELIA) began back in 1988, as a workshop, in response to the need for a European forum for the discussion of emerging work in this field. Since then, JELIA has been organised biennially, with English as official language, and with proceedings published in Springer-Verlag's Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence series.

Link to Vaishak's blog post

Barbara Webb

Barbara Webb led a discussion as part of the RSE Curious programme

Bees can travel kilometres from their hive and then make a beeline back home. But why should Scotland care about the science behind this?

On Tuesday 12 September, Barbara Webb led a sold out discussion panel on 'Understanding the bee-line' as part of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Curious programme. This interactive discussion described what we now know – and what we have yet to learn – about vector calculations in an insect’s brain and why Scotland should care.

Honeybees can travel kilometres from their hive in search of food. When it is found, they take a beeline directly back home and dance on the honeycomb to tell nest-mates the direction and distance of the food. More than 70 years since this behaviour was first described, we have just started to understand the brain circuits that provide them with this unique ability.

Link to RSE Curious website

Mahesh Marina

Mahesh Marina project success in DSIT ONE competition

A project by Mahesh Marina, Professor at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh with partners Microsoft, CapGemini and Intel is among the successful projects at the DSIT Open Network Ecosystem (ONE) competition, announced by the Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure.

The project titled “PerceptRAN: Towards Maturing O-RAN based Data Driven RAN Monitoring and Control” will examine ways to enhance the interoperability of Apps across RAN Intelligent Controller solutions and ease access to large-scale Open RAN data to drive intelligent RAN operations. By doing so, taking decisive steps towards a future where Open RAN systems deliver unparalleled services to all stakeholders, embodying the true spirit of open networks.

The ONE competition was designed to demonstrate how this new way of building mobile networks can deliver fast, dependable connectivity in busy places where many people need wireless and mobile broadband connections. Instead of using only one company’s equipment, Open Radio Access Networks (O-RAN) enables different companies’ technology to work together, which can make the network better and more flexible.

Link to announcement article

Ava Khamseh

Ava Khamseh will teach Methods for Causal Inference at UNESCO AIMS

Ava Khamseh is going to be teaching her MSc course in Methods for Causal Inference at the UNESCO African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) this Autumn. The course will be delivered over a 3-week intensive teaching period in Ghana from 27 November - 15 December 2023 for the 2023/2024 academic year.

The idea behind the initiative is to bring in lecturers from all over the world to teach courses at one of the AIMS centres in Africa.

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is a pan-African network of centres of excellence enabling Africa’s talented students to become innovators driving the continent’s scientific, educational and economic self-sufficiency.

Link to AIMS website


Oisin Mac Aodha and colleagues develop models to map species using crowdsourced data

Oisin Mac Aodha and colleagues developed efficient machine learning models that can take the location where an image was captured as input to determine which species are likely to be present at that geographical location. These models are trained on the locations of observations from iNaturalist, though there are many other platforms that it can be applied to. Predictions about which species occur at a specific location can be combined with the predictions from automated image classifiers to enhance the accuracy of the final species estimate.

The researchers have found that this approach improves species classification performance in images from 75% to 82% when evaluated on a dataset that contains images from 40,000 different species from around the world. Importantly, this improvement does not necessitate any changes in the underlying image classifier being used. 

Link to blog post


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 Luna Ferrari for sharing some of the misconceptions surrounding menopause, and giving advise based on her own personal experiences.

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

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

Informatics Communications team website






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