Success in the Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship Programme in Research and Leadership

Congratulations to Patrick Schrempf and Billy Brown who have been successful in their applications for a Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship in Research and Leadership for 2017. You can read further details about Billy and Patrick below.

Billy Brown:

I’m a fourth year Computer Science student from Belgium with too much interest for the subject. I play and referee korfball for the university, and I am fascinated by Old English and Norse history and mythology. I plan on using the Laidlaw Internship programme to get into the field of Computer Science research.

Project summary:

The Essence Domain Inference project aims to improve automated decision making by optimising the understanding of the statements used to define a problem specification. As part of the compilation of the high level Essence specification language, this project would tighten the domains to which a specified problem applies, with a domain inference algorithm.

The work is very much in the context of the recently-announced EPSRC grant working on automated constraint modelling in an attempt to advance the state of the art in solving complex combinatorial search problems. The modelling pipeline is akin to a compiler in that we refine a specification in the Essence language Billy mentions down to a number of powerful solving formalisms. The work Billy plan is to improve the refinement process and therefore the performance of the solvers, leading to higher quality solutions more quickly.

Patrick Schrempf:
I am currently a third year Computer Science student from Vienna. After enjoying doing research with the St Andrews Computer Human Interaction (SACHI) group last year, I am looking forward to the Laidlaw Internship Programme. Apart from research and studying, I enjoy training and competing with the Triathlon Club and the Pool Society.


Project summary:

This project will explore Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) which aims to create artificial intelligence and machine learning models that are combined with effective explanations. Currently most models of artificial intelligence are very intricate and complex, on the contrary using XAI models will enable their users to build a better understanding of the AI components and the system as a whole.

This project builds on Patrick’s work in RadarCat which employed machine learning techniques for material and object classification which enables new forms of everyday proximate interaction with digital devices. RadarCat (Radar Categorization for Input & Interaction) was published at ACM UIST 2016 in Tokyo, Japan, Yeo, H.-S., Flamich, G., Schrempf, P., Harris-Birtill, D., and Quigley, A. (2016) RadarCat: Radar Categorization for Input & Interaction. In Proceedings of the 29th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology New York, NY, USA: ACM UIST ’16.

Chris Norval wins best paper at Mining Online Health Reports workshop

St Andrews researchers Chris Norval and Tristan Henderson won the Best Paper award at the Mining Online Health Reports workshop, part of the ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM 2017). The workshop brought together experts from academia, industry and the health sector to discuss techniques and future priorities for analysing online data for health research.

Norval and Henderson’s paper argued that the successful exploitation of people’s social data requires new and usable methods of obtaining consent, and proposed the use of machine learning algorithms to predict when someone is likely to give consent for their data to be used. This work forms part of a Wellcome Trust funded project on understanding consent for sharing health data over online social networks.

School of Computer Science – PhD Scholarships

The School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews offers funding for up to six students to undertake PhD research starting in the Fall of 2017 in any of the areas of research carried out by its academic faculty (which includes, but is not limited to, Artificial Intelligence and Symbolic Computation, Computer Systems Engineering, Human-Computer Interaction, and Programming Languages).

We are looking for highly motivated research students willing to be part of a diverse and supportive research community.

Applicants must hold a BSc or MSc in an area appropriate for their proposed topic of study (usually Computer Science, but not restricted to it). The Scholarship covers PhD fees and provides a tax-free maintenance stipend of £14,296 per year for 3.5 years. Exceptional students can apply for an additional £2,000 per year. International applications are welcome.

We especially encourage female applicants and underrepresented minorities to apply. Admission is competitive but candidate selection takes into account the motivation, skills and previous experience of the candidates. If you are interested, please get in contact with us by e-mail even if you are not sure of your eligibility or strength as a candidate (write an e-mail to Subject: Informal PhD Inquiry). We will facilitate contact with a member of research staff in your area of interest (for a list of existing faculty and areas of research see

For further information, including the step-by-step procedure on how to apply please check our postgraduate-research web page ( The closing date for applications is March 31st 2017 and we will make decisions on studentship allocation by April 30th 2017. Before preparing a full application we recommend that you contact us by e-mail at

Announcement of the 33rd British Colloquium for Theoretical Computer Science

The 33rd BCTCS will be hosted by the School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews, from the 26th to the 28th of April 2017. The purpose of BCTCS is to provide a forum in which researchers in theoretical computer science can meet, present research findings, and discuss developments in the field. It also aims to provide an environment in which PhD students can gain experience in presenting their work, and benefit from contact with established researchers.

The scope of the colloquium includes all aspects of theoretical computer science, including algorithms, complexity, cryptography, formal methods, game theory, machine learning, languages, logics and quantum computation. Both computer scientists and mathematicians are welcome to attend, as are participants from outside of the UK.

This year the colloquium will feature the following invited speakers

LMS Keynote Lecture in Discrete Mathematics

Professor László Babai, University of Chicago

Confirmed Speakers
Perdita Stevens, University of Edinburgh
Conor McBride, University of Strathclyde
Felix Fischer, University of Glasgow
Edwin Brady, University of St Andrews
Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh, Queen Mary University of London

Registration is *now open*, and you can find more information at

PhD students are especially encouraged to offer a talk.

As an additional event, there will be a Scottish Combinatorics Meeting at the School of Mathematics in St Andrews on the 24th and 25th of April. If you would like to take part in the meeting, please contact the organisers directly.

The organisers hope to welcome you to St Andrews in April.

EPSRC Grant Success: A Constraint Modelling Pipeline

Congratulations to colleagues Professor Ian Miguel, Dr Chris Jefferson, Dr Tom Kelsey, Professor Ian Gent and Dr Peter Nightingale, who have secured an impressive EPSRC grant A constraint Modelling Pipeline, with NHS and SME project partners. The three and a half year grant, officially announced yesterday, aims to advance the state of the art in solving complex combinatorial search problems ubiquitous in many settings, such as planning, scheduling or design. Specifically, the aim is to produce a powerful, general automated modelling and solving system unique in targeting a range of powerful solving formalisms from a single abstract problem specification. The research will impact across the public and private sectors, and academia.
Read more about the grant application through EPSRC reference:EP/P015638/1

Graduation November 2016

Congratulations to the Masters Class of 2016, and PhD students Dr Vinodh Sampath and Dr Oche Ejembi, who graduated last month. Each year, students are invited to a reception in Computer Science to celebrate their achievement and reflect on their time in the School, with staff and guests.

Our graduates have moved on to a wide variety of interesting and challenging employment and further study opportunities, and we wish them all well with their future careers.




Alexander Konovalov: Certified Software and Data Carpentry Instructor

Congratulations to Alexander Konovalov who has just completed the instructor training course and subsequent assignments and is now certified to teach Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry workshops.

Software Carpentry is a volunteer organisation whose goal is to make scientists more productive, and their work more reliable, by teaching them basic computing skills. Its sibling organisation is DataCarpentry, which focuses on data analysis skills rather than programming skills. Their volunteer instructors run hundreds of events for thousands of scientists. Alexander has been teaching at several workshops, and is very enthusiastic about organising more!


Seminar: Alice Toniolo on Computational Argumentation

Event details

  • When: 1st December 2016 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Format: Seminar

Alice Toniolo, a new lecturer in Computer Science at St Andrews, will be giving a seminar to the Artificial Intelligence Research Group on Thursday 1st December 2016, 2pm, in JC 1.33a. All are welcome.

Computational argumentation: an overview of current reasoning and dialogue models and their applications

Abstract: Argumentation is the process of arriving at a decision for a controversial standpoint. Computational models of argumentation aim to imitate the human decision-making process by modelling reason for or against certain decisions and extract justifiable options. This talk will draw from philosophical studies to present the core concepts of argumentation theory in AI through a range of abstract, logical and dialogical models. I will focus on the potential of argumentation-based models employed by software agents to support reasoning and dialogue in the presence of incomplete, inconsistent and uncertain information. An application of argumentation-based reasoning is presented in the context of intelligence analysis. The agent-based tool discussed, called CISpaces (Collaborative Intelligence Spaces), employs argumentation to help analysts make sense of information in collaboration and provenance to establish the credibility of hypotheses.