SICSA Conference 2022

Sustainability, Resilience and Recovery

On the 28th & 29th June 2022 we held our 13th Annual SICSA Conference at Glasgow Caledonian University. This was our first in person event since 2019, with an exciting programme of keynote talks, panel sessions, poster and PhD competitions. The Scottish Informatics & Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) Conference has been an annual event since SICSA began in 2008. It marks a time where PhD students and early-career researchers attending universities all around Scotland get together for a couple of days.

The focus this year was on Sustainability, Resilience and Recovery as we emerge from COVID with our opening Keynote Speaker Stephen O’Neil, Head of Digital Economy and Data Driven Business at the Scottish Government, highlighting the leading role of the new Tech Scalars in driving economic recovery.

The Keynote was followed by the SICSA Education Learning and Teaching Network Launch, that brought together colleagues involved in teaching Computing Science across Scottish Institutions. We also heard from participants in our new Learning & Teaching Scholars Programme, which aims to develop and support early-to-mid career CS academics with a focus on education’.

From left to right: Otokwala Uneneibotejit, Michael McKay, Tolga Ünlü, Charly Harbord, Iulia Paun.

We continued with the skills sessions for PhD students, co-developed with the Conference PhD Organisation Committee, starting off with a plenary session from the SICSA Peer Support Network on keeping mentally healthy while doing a PhD. The SICSA Peer Support Network (SPSN) is a group of PhD students who completed a mental health awareness course with the aim to provide additional support from within the PhD community. In this session the SPSN volunteers presented an overview of the network, focusing on what it does, how to access it and how we can all contribute to look after our mental health.

The Plenary session was followed by a number of parallel panel sessions and workshops focusing on PhD skills, CS Education and Early Career Researchers, including:

Post-pandemic computing science education
With focus on new approaches to delivering Computing Science Education that have emerged during the pandemic. The session was chaired by Dr Matthew Barr, SICSA Director of Education, joined by Dr Khristin Fabian (Edinburgh Napier University), Dr Hebatallah Shoukry (Herriot Watt University), Dr Mark Zarb (Robert Gordon University), Dr Gule Saman (Heriot Watt University) and Dr Martin Goodfellow (Strathclyde University).

PhD workshop: Intellectual Property Rights
With focus on the issues related to Intellectual Property (IP) Rights and the procedural aspects for how IP from research work may be identified, protected and commercialised. The session was chaired by Dr Andrei Petrovski, SGA Director, with Graham Carter (Robert Gordon University) presenting. 

PhD workshop: Getting the job you want after finishing your PhD
With focus on the 3 different aspects of further employability: Resume Construction, Interview Techniques, and Networking skills. This workshop was led by Robin Huggins, Director of MBN Academy.

PhD workshop: Build your own – Bricolage for Blended Spaces
With focus on the benefits of methodological bricolage, where the researcher tailors tasks, tools, and approaches to understand the subject at hand. This workshop was led by Dr Emilia Sobolewska (Edinburgh Napier University) and Mr Calum Egan (Edinburgh Napier University). 

Early Career Research Panel Session
With focus on different options for PhD graduates who are intending to continue into early career research roles. A wide variety of career steps exist, including going straight into an academic role, an independent research fellowship, a research associate working on a specific project, knowledge transfer, the emerging research software engineering. The session was chaired by Dr Mujeeb Ahmed (University of Strathclyde), joined by Dr Anjana Wijekoon (Robert Gordon University), Dr Elaine Farrow (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Sofiat Olaosebikan (University of Glasgow). 

Careers Fair and Conference Dinner at Merchants House 
The first day of the Conference concluded with a Careers Fair at the Glasgow Merchants House. We were very excited to welcome a number of companies including our sponsors Arista and The DataLab, the start – ups netAI and Crover, and also Huwei, Amazon Development Scotland and Leonardo. The session provided opportunities for PhD students to meet and network with companies in a relaxing and informal way.

As the night came to a closure we moved to the main hall in Merchants House for our Conference Dinner. We were very honoured for the warm welcome to the Conference dinner by Bailie Linda Pike.  Bailie Pike is one of the local councillors for the Calton area of Glasgow and represented the Lord Provost at the Conference Civic Reception.  We would like to thank Bailie Pike and the Lord Provost’s & International Office for their generous support of the PhD Conference.

The Journey from Research to Tech Start-Up
The second day of the Conference started with a panel session on the Journey from Research to Tech Start – up with focus on experiences of a diverse set of innovative and successful start-up founders, exploring their journeys from academia into entrepreneurialism. The session was chaired by our very own Dr Tim Storer, SICSA Deputy Director & Director of KE.  He was joined by Dr Stewart Whiting, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder of Current Health and Dr Kyle White, CEO at VeryConnect membership, CRM and Community Software.  The session was extremely popular and created lots of questions and conversations from our students; they had to opportunity to chat with both Stewart and Kyle afterwards. Thanks to our Speakers for taking the time to join us at the conference.Poster Competition
The Poster Competition at the SCISA PhD Conference is always very popular.  It provides an opportunity for our students of all years to showcase and explain their research to ECR, academic and Industry colleagues throughout the two day event.  This year 28 posters were submitted as part of the poster competition. The judging panel consisted of our academic colleagues and representatives from The DataLab; they were extremely impressed by the quality of presentations, skills, the rigor and innovative research which is evidently taking place from PhD students across Scotland.  The winners, presented with their award certificates and prize vouchers of £250 each by Heather Thompson and Cheryl Stewart from The DataLab, were: 

  • Narinder Kaur,  University of Glasgow – SICSA Best Poster Award 2022 – 1st Year
  • Nurudeen Salau, University of the West of Scotland – SICSA Best Poster Award 2022 – 2nd Year
  • Ashish Upadhyay, Robert Gordon University – SICSA Best Poster Award 2022 – 3rd Year 
  • Liangfei Zhang, University of St Andrews – SICSA Best Poster Award 2022 – People’s Choice
Reverse Viva Session 
This is the first time we have ran this workshop so we were very excited to see how it went.  The idea of the workshop was to give our PhD students a chance to be exposed to the kind of questions and answers they will face in their own vivas when the time comes.  To do this, we invited established academic colleagues to have their own PhD thesis examined by PhD students.  Three parallel workshops covering Artificial Intelligence, Networking & Systems and Theory Modelling and Computation were organised as part of the session. We have received very positive feedback from the session so this will be a definite in next year’s conference schedule.
 A huge thank you to
for putting forward their thesis for “examination” and to the following students who agreed to act as chairs and examiners: 
  • Malavika Suresh, Robert Gordon University
  • Jude Haris, University of Glasgow
  • Otokwala Uneneibotejit, Robert Gordon University
  • Stefano Sarti, University of Stirling 
  • Narinder Kaur, University of Glasgow
  • Alexander Carmichael, University of Stirling 

Per Hammer, Vice-President at JPMorgan Chase and Professor in Practice at the University of Glasgow

For our second Keynote Talk, we were very honoured to have Per Hammer, Vice-President at JPMorgan Chase and Professor in Practice at the University of Glasgow. Per discussed how sustainability affects the Computing Science field. With the aid of the Karlskrona Manifesto, he went over the many aspects in which practitioners should pay attention to sustainability in their work, and how they should use their own morals to keep themselves from becoming complicit in decisions they don’t believe are sustainable. The talk was closed with a discussion involving the students where they were able to enquire about how these recommendations can be applied in practice.


Best Paper Award 

Kyle Simpson, University of Glasgow, while receiving his award from Dr. Olufemi Komolafe, Arista.

Introduced for the first time and sponsored by Arista, we were extremely happy to receive a number of submissions for the Best Paper Competition. The award was introduced as a way to provide a platform for PhD students to showcase their work and get a well-deserved recognition for the hard work that goes into writing and publishing papers. Thank you to all the PhD students who submitted their work for the competition! The winner was Kyle Simpson, University of Glasgow, who received his award from Dr Olufemi Komolafe, Manager, Professional Services (Software) at Arista

PhD Award for Best Dissertation in Scotland 

We received a number of submissions from across the Scottish research student community which demonstrated the high quality, innovative and ground-breaking research taking place in Computing Science across Scotland. The review process was rigorous and we would like to thank our academic colleagues from the SICSA member institutions who provided detailed comments and feedback on each submission.  

Following the review process four submissions were identified as finalists.  In the last session of the Conference we were very proud to have the finalists present their 5 minute talk to the conference delegates.   This was the third year running the competition as part of the SICSA Conference and  we are very grateful to Arista for sponsoring the award this year. 

The four finalists were: 

  • Natascha Harth, University of Glasgow – Thesis: Quality-Aware Predictive Modelling and Inferential Analysis at the Network Edge 
  • Ioannis Chalkiadakis, Heriot –Watt University – Thesis: Statistical ML for NLP and Sentiment Modelling
  • Ratish Puduppully, University of Edinburgh – Thesis: Data-to-Text Generation with Neural Planning
  • Alessandro Suglia, Heriot-Watt University – Thesis: Visually Grounded Representation Learning using Language Games for Embodied AI
The ultimate winner was Ratish Puduppully, University of Edinburgh, who received the award certificate from Dr Olufemi Komolafe, Manager, Professional Services (Software) at Arista, along with the prize of £2,000 (photo below).

Ratish Puduppully, University of Edinburgh, while receiving his award from Dr Olufemi Komolafe, Arista.

Thank you! 
We would like to thank our sponsors, Arista and The DataLab for their generous sponsorship, continuous support and engagement for delivering a very special event for our PhD students. 

We would also like to thank Jacob Koening, the Academic Chair of the Conference for his  input in the months leading up to the Conference and for his energy during the two days of delivery.

Huge thank you to the SICSA Conference PhD Organisation Committee for coordinating the PhD Skills Workshop Sessions and for their enthusiasm during the two days of the Conference.

The members of the Committee were: 

Always grateful to Dr Mike Crabb, University of Dundee, for his help with the poster competition and continuous engagement with SICSA.  

Thank you to the Events Team at Glasgow Caledonian University for helping us deliver a smooth experience for our delegates  and meeting our demands. 

And finally we are extremely grateful to all the research students, academic colleagues and industry partners for joining us! We hope that you all enjoyed the Conference and we are looking forward to seeing you again!

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