My PECE visit to the Arizona State University

By Dr Areti Manataki, Senior Researcher in The University of Edinburgh
22nd October 2017

In summer 2017 I visited the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the Arizona State University as part of a SICSA-funded Postdoctoral and Early Career Researcher Exchange (PECE). To say that this research visit has been successful would be an understatement. It has allowed me not only to achieve the aims I set out when planning the visit, but also to connect, learn, grow and explore new research directions in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

During my visit, I was able to work closely with my host, Dr Adela Grando, with other academic faculty and students in the University, as well as with clinical experts from the Mayo Clinic. This rich collaboration gave me a practical perspective on the importance of and challenges in biomedical technologies.

From the first day of my visit, I engaged with research in electronic health record workflow discovery and analysis. In particular, I employed process mining techniques to discover and analyse pre-operative electronic health record workflow in the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic. By combining this analysis with observational data collected by other team members in the Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic, we were able to tell a comprehensive story about electronic health record workflow, which we described in a paper submitted to the AMIA 2018 Informatics Summit. This work is also going to be presented on Monday 30th October in the University of Edinburgh (for more information see here).

This hands-on experience in clinical process mining has been an eye-opener for me. Before this research exchange I knew very little about process mining. I now understand the opportunities and challenges in this area, which I plan to continue exploring in the future. In fact, I am still collaborating with the Arizona State University team, and we are extending the previous study to consider additional Mayo Clinic sites.

As a concluding remark, I can’t stress enough how important I think such opportunities are for early career researchers like myself. The SICSA-funded visit has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and experiment with a new research approach, while building close relationships with world-leading experts. Like a breath of fresh air, it has reminded me why I love doing research and why it is worth doing it.

So if you are an early career researcher and are thinking about doing a research visit, do not hesitate. Choose the host institution that you find most intriguing, apply for some SICSA PECE funding and get ready for a life-changing experience.

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SICSAConf2017: Discovering great things in Dundee!

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I have discovered so many new things over the past two days at the SICSA PhD conference in Dundee.

First I learned a new word – smirry – which described the Dundonian weather – grey and a bit wet (I think).

Then I was inspired by our two PhD Conference keynote speakers. Chris van der Kuyl gave us tremendous insight about tech entrepreneurship. He asserted confidently that Scotland is the best place in the world, in terms of tech startups and adventurous Computer Science. Music to SICSA’s ears!

Mandy Chessell gave us a reflective talk on information management, with knowledge gleaned over decades of experience at IBM. My take-home message was that we should support collaborative open source endeavour, and learn from the past.

The PhD students attending the conference came from all of Scotland’s universities – from UHI in the north to UWS in the south-west. The engaging poster presentations and demos were fantastic. I spent so much time chatting with students over posters that I missed lunch today! We have four worthy winners for the poster/demo competition:

  • Sofiat Olaosebikan (Glasgow)
  • Xue Li (Edinburgh)
  • Andrei Boiko (Abertay)
  • Blessing Mbipom (Robert Gordon)

There were plenty of training sessions too – with topics like IBM Bluemix, Ethics, Teaching, Thesis Statements, Viva Survival, and Command-Line Hacking all under the spotlight. Students chose workshops that appealed to them – and all workshops were well-attended over the two days.

Finally, I enjoyed the local cuisine. In our jute conference bag, we each received a pot of Dundee Marmalade. I also ventured to the Tay Fry Inn for some delicious deep fried pizza and haggis. All in all, another brilliant SICSA PhD conference. Thanks to the SICSA staff, Rachel Menzies, Dundee Uni, and the student organizing committee for such a great time!

 

 

 

SICSA CDT Info Day – 31 March 2017

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SICSA Graduate Academy Director
22 March 2017

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PhD research is a vital component of every university academic activity. Over the past decade, the UK funding model has shifted from individual PhD scholarships towards centres for doctoral training (CDTs). These are large cohorts of students located in centres of excellence devoted to specific research topics. In the ICT sector there are only three CDTs in Scotland at present – Data Science, Pervasive Parallelism, and Robotics – all located in the city of Edinburgh.

Scotland faces a particular problem with CDTs – our CompSci departments are generally small and geographically distant. This is precisely what SFC research pooling aims to address. The question now becomes: can we take advantage of pooling to set up virtual centres of excellence that would form the basis for new CDTs? This requires combining smaller research groups in novel ways- which we have already done to some extent via SICSA research themes.  Now can we achieve closer integration and collaboration to build CDT sites?

We have organised a meeting in Edinburgh on Friday 31 March, to prepare for the next CDT funding call from EPSRC, probably due within the next year or so. We will have briefings from EPSRC and current CDT award holders, as well as interactive sessions aimed at fostering collaboration. Please register for this workshop on eventbrite, and let other colleagues know about it

SICSA Summer Schools

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SICSA Graduate Academy Director

Summer SchoolA summer school is a fantastic experience for a research student. Learning is much more effective when learners are having fun. And what could be more enjoyable than a residential holiday, mixing with PhD students and subject experts, focusing on a hot topic in Computer Science?

SICSA sponsors PhD summer schools hosted in Scotland. Check the details of the scheme here [http://www.sicsa.ac.uk/funding/academics-postdoctoral-researchers/event-sponsorship/summer-school-sponsorship/ ]. In short, we pay a block grant to cover attendance for a number of PhD students at Scottish Universities. Organizers can then advertise for RUK or overseas students to attend and pay a registration fee. In the past few years, we have funded a diverse range of summer schools, from Type Theory [https://eb.host.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/TPL/], through Big Data [http://sachi.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/activities/summer-schools/big-data-info-vis/ ] to Interactive Systems [ http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~jhw/computational_interaction/ ].

PhD research can be a lonely, isolating experience for a student. A summer school is a tremendous opportunity to meet peers and mentors in the same research area, for study and social activities. Personal links forged at summer schools can last for a lifetime.

Organizing a summer school, whether as a PhD student or an academic staff member, has great benefits too. CV points, prestige for you and your institution, a boost to your research area… A summer school can turn a niche area into a hot topic – with or without the help of the Scottish summer sunshine!

Please get in touch with us [http://www.sicsa.ac.uk/contact/ ] if you want to apply for funding to run a summer school in Scotland.

2017-02-14

SICSA PhD Conference 2017

By Dr Rachel Menzies, Academic Chair for the SICSA PhD Conference 2017

Planning for the SICSA PhD Conference 2017 is now underway! The Conference is organised by PhD students for PhD students and this year is no exception with 15 students on the organising committee, representing institutions from across Scotland. It is a brilliant opportunity for students to network with industry, through sponsorship by companies such as Google, JP Morgan and Think Analytics, all of whom sponsored our event last year. Students also have the chance to discuss their own individual research during poster sessions with students in related disciplines. This collaborative environment is something that delegates love about the conference, providing opportunities for you to seek out different perspectives on your own research. Delegates also have the chance to hone skills such as presenting, reviewing and collaborative skills. With all of these benefits, I am hoping that next year we can encourage even more students to submit posters and attend the conference. Tickets are snapped up quickly, so watch out for communications in the New Year announcing that they are available!

The 2017 PhD Conference will be held in sunny Dundee, the city of Jute, Jam and Journalism. The event will be held over two days (27-28 June 2017) and I am delighted to announce that this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Chris van der Kuyl. Chris is a graduate of the University of Dundee, one of Scotland’s leading entrepreneurs and chairman of 4J Studios, leading the creation of Minecraft for Microsoft Xbox 360. Those who have seen Chris speak before will know that this is not to be missed. His insightful reflections on the state of Computing Science in Scotland and across the world are inspiring and thought-provoking. Further announcement on keynotes and workshops are still to come, but the committee is working on some very interesting options at the moment in order to make this a conference to remember.

On a personal note, I have long supported the event and have encouraged PhD students from across Scotland to attend. I was co-chair of the student organising committee in 2010 and have attended whenever I can ever since. My involvement in this event was my first exposure into the complex world of event planning for academic conferences, and it was a great experience, albeit exhausting and stressful. Now, seven years on, I am involved once again as the Conference Academic Chair and am eager to find out once again what is happening in PhD research across Scotland, and to see how these can link with my own research interests.

The conference itself has changed over the years since it’s inaugural event in 2009. It now has an improved format over two days in order to better facilitate travel.  The organisation seems to get slicker every year and all organisational decisions are based on delegate feedback from the previous years, so everyone has a say in shaping the conference.    One big change I’ve noticed since 2009 is the the inclusion of academic reviews for poster submissions, which ensures that students receive worthwhile written feedback on their submissions.

I am excited to see what the next few months hold in store for myself and the rest of the organising committee. Keep an eye on the SICSA Twitter feed and regular SICSA emails to keep up to date with our progress and be ready to book your ticket in the New Year.

Welcome to the new SICSA blog from Dr Jeremy Singer (SGA Director)

It is an absolute pleasure to be writing the first of many SICSA blog posts! I arrived at the University of Glasgow as a lecturer in 2010, newly appointed as a result of SICSA investment in academic staff throughout Scotland. Almost immediately, I launched myself into a frenzy of SICSA activity – attending research workshops; Chairing the SICSA PhD Conference 2011; taking Raspberry Pi clusters to SICSA DEMOfest; and co-supervising a SICSA PhD student at The University of Edinburgh.

I have vivid memories of a corridor conversation in our narrow, winding building at The University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science; a facility that is ideal for bumping into people and engaging in serendipitous chatter. On this particular occasion I was asked by a very senior professorial colleague “Do you think this SICSA thing actually works?”.  I told my colleague “YES!” and related how we had recently put together an EPSRC application (http://anyscale.org/) with another Scottish institution, written a paper and had lots of fun along the way!  She was mildly surprised, and said that neither she nor her fellow profs were fully convinced that SICSA would work – in terms of overcoming ancient rivalries and entrenched mistrust between the Scottish universities.

Well, here we are years down the line – SICSA has developed into SICSA2 and so the Scottish Funding Council evidently thought SICSA ‘actually does work’…..and so do we! We are in a new age of trust between Scottish Computer Science departments and we lead the way in research collaboration. My colleague’s fears were misfounded.

I have recently become the SICSA Graduate Academy Director, which means I get to help to shape PhD student interactions within SICSA for at least the next two years. Our flagship annual conference (http://sicsaconf.org) continues to grow year-on-year.  Next year it takes place in fabulous and particularly sunny Dundee. We also want to see lots of SICSA PhD research at DEMOfest at the University of Strathclyde on 11th November 2016.  And don’t forget that you can apply for many SICSA funding opportunities!!

My immediate priorities for the SICSA Graduate Academy are:

  • Finding out the state of the Computer Science PhD community in Scotland via an institutional census – watch this space for the results!
  • Raising the profile of Scottish PhDs in Computing Science – and trying to generate publicity for our great research
  • Talking with EPSRC (http://www.epsrc.ac.uk) and other parties about future PhD funding opportunities for Scottish Universities

….And of course continuing the great work the SICSA Graduate Academy does in improving the PhD experience for hundreds of SICSA-based students!

Meanwhile, if there’s anything you want us to put on the agenda, please get in touch with me via sicsa-sga-director@sicsa.ac.uk. SICSA exists for you!

Finally, we are recruiting for SICSA PhD Conference organisers for 2017. Please contact us if you want to help to shape the SICSA PhD Conference 2017.  This is a great thing to put on your CV and it could be one of the most rewarding things you do next year.

I look forward to meeting lots of you soon at various SICSA events!