A decade of SICSA PhD Conferences

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SGA Director
17 July 2018

Last month, I attended the tenth SICSA PhD conference at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. This is the northern-most location for our annual conference so far, and I was impressed by the beautiful setting and ideal facilities at this modern university campus.

Paul Hagan from RGU opened the conference; in his speech he complimented SICSA as a ‘great model for Scotland-wide subject-specific collaboration.’ Since he was one of the architects of the SFC research pooling initiative, this is high praise indeed.

Many of the 150 student delegates brought a poster along with them, describing their research projects. As I wandered round the poster display, I encountered an amazing breadth of topics. Highlights include apps to help people with Autism, using comic strips to understand complex data, and simulating the structure of stars with parallel computing.

At an evening banquet in the Trinity Hall, we did a ‘back of the napkin challenge’ where everyone had to depict their research by scribbling on a paper napkin. There were plenty of intriguing drawings – check out #sicsanapkinchallenge on twitter for some examples.

Throughout the two days of the conference, there was a great selection of talks and workshops. Since they happened in parallel, I wasn’t able to attend everything. However, I particularly enjoyed Diane R. Pennington’s deeply personal and highly motivational workshop on student wellbeing and mental health. I appreciate that a significant proportion of PhD students experience mental health difficulties during their studies, and it’s good to see this is being addressed by institutions at last.

I also attended Michael Smyth’s cinematographically inspired presentation on how to complete your thesis. He gave us plenty of pragmatic tips on writing up, while introducing us to tenuously related films from the 1950s.

As I near the end of my term as director of the SICSA Graduate Academy, I reflect that the SICSA PhD conference encapsulates what makes SICSA so uniquely compelling. We have a vibrant, friendly community clustered around a diverse range of world-leading research teams.

Here’s to the next decade of adventure, discovery and collaboration at SICSA PhD conferences!

SICSA DVF Garbriel Murray

by Gabriel Murray
9 July 2018

Gabriel Murray is visiting Scotland on a SICSA Distinguished Visiting Fellowship, and will be giving talks at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Heriot-Watt Universities. The talk abstract, schedule, and Dr. Murray’s biography are below.

Talk Abstract:

The dynamics of small group interactions are an area of study for many disciplines ranging from social psychology to organizational behaviour and communication. There has been a surprisingly small amount of research on using natural language processing for understanding and predicting small group phenomena. This talk will present a variety of tasks and experimental results demonstrating that NLP can be useful for predicting aspects of group interaction, such as predicting group performance on a task, detecting hidden sentiment of group participants, and learning about unobserved group behaviours through meeting artifacts. It will also be argued that language-based predictive models are very valuable when we need to provide interpretable models or actionable feedback to a group — two scenarios where nonverbal models on their own may be insufficient.

Schedule:
University of Edinburgh, July 6, 11 AM
University of Glasgow, July 9, 12:30 PM
Heriot-Watt University, July 11, 2:00 PM

Bio:

Gabriel Murray is an Associate Professor in Computer Information Systems at University of the Fraser Valley, and an Affiliate Professor in Computer Science at University of British Columbia (Canada). His research primarily focuses on the intersection of speech and language processing and small group interaction. He teaches a variety of courses related to artificial intelligence, including machine learning and natural language processing. He received his PhD in Informatics from the University of Edinburgh, under the supervision of Drs. Steve Renals and Johanna Moore.

Manycore Summer School

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SGA Director
22 May 2018

Glasgow in summer … what a great experience! If you are enthusiastic about manycore processors, systems and parallel applications, please sign up for the Manycore summer school, running 16-20 July at the School of Computing Science, University of Glasgow.

The manycore revolution is fundamentally changing multiple levels of the execution stack from processor architecture, through systems software, to end-user applications. Moore’s law is now tracking the number of cores in a chip – such as the latest Intel Core i9 and AMD Epyc processors.

Thanks to generous sponsorship from SICSA and EPSRC, registration and one week en-suite accommodation at the Manycore summer school are provided for free to PhD students and postdocs based at UK universities.

Highlights of the Manycore summer school programme include:

  • seven world-leading academics presenting latest research topics
  • hands-on labs with FPGAs and cluster programming exercises
  • poster competition with expert feedback and prize awards
  • social events including a cruise on Loch Lomond and a traditional Ceilidh night

Check out the website for full details, including the summer school registration form.

DemoFest 2018: Bringing Research to Life

by Steven Kendrick, SICSA Executive Officer
26th April 2018

It might be the very beginning of spring, but here in the SICSA office we are already looking ahead to our main knowledge exchange event of the year “DemoFest: Bringing Research to Life”, which takes place in Edinburgh in the autumn.       

We organise a wide range of events, large and small, over the course of the SICSA year (see www.sicsa.ac.uk/events for full details); but I can personally say that organising and attending DemoFest gives me the most satisfaction of them all.  DemoFest is aimed at showcasing some of the leading technology and research within Scottish Universities at this moment in time; and it is aimed principally at businesses and the public sector.  You can think of DemoFest as a coming-together of research talent, business, the public sector and Government for an evening of cutting-edge technology demo’s; engaging keynote talks and lots of networking.  Last year we had over 300 people under the roof, with over 50 technology demonstrations and some really exciting keynote talks.  The event was held under the expansive canopy of Our Dynamic Earth, next to the Scottish Parliament. It went so well, that we’re returning to the same venue this year!      

Because DemoFest brings together so much variety (both in terms of our tech demo’s and our delegates), the benefits of attending are far-reaching.  DemoFest can be an opportunity to sow the seeds for innovative collaboration between Universities and business; or between a University and another University.  It can spark the commercialisation of a brilliant idea and begin the path to starting a successful business. It can put employers into contact with some of the brightest people working in technology in the country and vice-versa.  It provides a platform to talk about your technology or tell people about your organisation and what it does. And it provides a space for catching up with existing contacts…and making new ones!    

So naturally we’re very excited to be planning our 2018 event, which takes place at Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh on 6th November 2018.  Because of the breadth of research and technology under the roof, DemoFest is aimed at businesses of any size, operating in many sectors – including but not limited to Finance, Telecommunications, Cybersecurity, Big Data, Robotics and AI, Space Technology, Gaming, Energy, and Health & Wellbeing.  In May we’ll be opening registration for business and the public sector and it will be completely free to attend the event.  Look out for updates on Twitter and www.sicsa.ac.uk/demofest and register early to avoid disappointment – the event fills up fast!  

At the current time, we are accepting applications from potential exhibitors and if you are working in a Scottish institution in Informatics and Computer Science we would be very keen to hear from you.  Simply complete the short exhibitor survey here and we will be in touch later in the summer. 

If you are a public-sector organisation and you wish to exhibit at DemoFest as an “Event Partner”, we are more than happy to provide space in our exhibition hall, close to the research that is most relevant to your organisation.  Registration for Event Partners is open at Eventbrite now and it is completely free of charge. 

Finally, we’re keen to hear from businesses who are keen to get more involved in the event by becoming a DemoFest Sponsor.  By sponsoring this event your business will receive great exposure across our networks and at the event itself.  Sponsorship of DemoFest represents great value for your business and it also means that we can continue to deliver the event free of charge for exhibitors and delegates alike! For more information about how to get involved please download our “Opportunities for Sponsors” document or get in touch with me directly at the email address below.

You can find out more about our events, our fantastic research and our funding programmes at www.sicsa.ac.uk, or by emailing me at Steven.Kendrick@glasgow.ac.uk.

DemoFest is delivered by the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) in partnership with ScotlandIS – Scotland’s trade body for ICT. 

Steven Kendrick is the Executive Officer for the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA), which represents all 14 Scottish HE Computing Schools/Departments.  Steven is responsible for all aspects of the management of the Research Pool. 

SICSA can help with your CDT outline proposal

by Dr Jeremy Singer. SGA Director
2 February 2018

SICSA aims to maximise the success of EPSRC CDT applications from our member institutions. To this end, we want to support CDT outline bids as far as possible. SICSA has committed to providing a £75K package of in-kind support to each CDT bid. This comprises reserved places at our annual PhD conference, pre-allocated booths at our DemoFest industry-facing event, and priority access to our industrial internship funding programme.

At this outline proposal stage, we intend to get as many Scottish ICT CDT bids through to the next round. We are running a CDT Outline Writing workshop in Glasgow on 13 Feb – please sign up and come along! A professional research trainer will help us to shape outline proposal ideas, provide in-person confidential feedback on draft documents, and give focused advice on how to present balanced research and training programme proposals.

The SICSA research community represents the best of Scottish academic collaboration. In the first iteration of SICSA, cross-site PhD student supervision and supervisor partnering were defining features. This round of CDT funding is a golden opportunity to reinvigorate such cooperative initiative in postgraduate research.

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