Team NOMAD win IDEA Explosion 2017

Congratulations to PhD students Shyam Reyal and Simone Conte , from Computer Science and Senior Scientific Officer Tomas Lebl, from Chemistry who presented NOMAD (NMR Online Management and Datastore) at IDEA Explosion 2017 and emerged victorious. Shyam delivered a five-minute elevator pitch, whilst Simone and Tomas responded to questions. Judges acknowledged that NOMAD has huge potential with researchers, and were impressed that it has been used in St Andrews for the past 5 years, with other universities now lined-up to make use of its services, fully supporting the use of the prize money to set-up a company.

Shyam reflected on NOMAD’s success-

“When Tomas and I began development of NOMAD in 2012, it started as a simple lab-management system to run the NMR facility, and a mechanism for users to store and retrieve their data efficiently. We didn’t envisage that NOMAD would become what it is now, a full end-to-end data management solution for researchers with over 200 different functions, which we would like to describe as “Google Photos for Research Data”. We didn’t expect it would gain the interest of so many others outside of St Andrews, and could be taken forward as a company. I would like to thank Tomas, Simone, our wonderful dev-team, and our mentors (Professors Al Dearle, Simon Dobson, David O’Hagan, Russel Morris and Doug Philip) for their valuable guidance along the way. We have come far, but we have a long way to go and this is only a small step amongst countless other challenges we’ve faced and about to face in future”.

NOMAD is currently serving ~600 users at the School of Chemistry with storage, access, collaboration and publication of their research data, and aiding lab-managers to efficiently manage their research labs. NOMAD is currently limited to NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) services inside St Andrews, but is planned to expand into other services such as Powder-X-Ray-Diffraction, Mass Spectrometry, and to other universities outside of St Andrews with similar lab facilities. The current NOMAD team is led by Tomas, Shyam and Simone, and consists of a number of graduate and undergraduate developers and project students from the School of Computer Science.

IDEA Explosion is a competition open to all students and staff at the University of St Andrews, providing an opportunity to turn a business idea into a successful venture. Contestants submit their business idea in writing, from which 12 finalists are selected to present their idea as a five-minute “elevator pitch” in front of a panel of judges, consisting of business experts, venture capitalists, angel investors, and sponsors. The winners are awarded £1500 towards progressing their business idea and have the opportunity to meet people who can give professional business support in taking their idea from concept to creation.

DLS: Algorithms for healthcare-related matching problems

Event details

  • When: 31st March 2017 09:15 - 15:30
  • Where: Lower College Hall
  • Series: Distinguished Lectures Series
  • Format: Distinguished lecture

Algorithms for healthcare-related matching problems

Distinguished Lecture Series, Semester 2, 2016-7

David Manlove

School of Computing Science, University of Glasgow

9.25am – 3.30pm, Friday 31 March

Lower College Hall (with overflow simulcast in Upper College Hall)


Algorithms arise in numerous everyday appPicture of David Manlovelications – in this series of lectures I will describe how algorithms can be used to solve matching problems having applications in healthcare settings.  I will begin by outlining how algorithms can be designed to cope with computationally hard problems.  I will then describe algorithms developed at the University of Glasgow that have been used by the NHS to solve two particular matching problems.  These problems correspond to the annual assignment of junior doctors to Scottish hospitals, and finding “kidney exchanges” between kidney patients and their incompatible donors in the UK.

Biography: Dr David Manlove is a Senior Lecturer in Computing Science at the University of Glasgow, where he has been since 1995. He is interested in algorithms for problems involving matching agents to commodities (e.g., junior doctors to hospitals, kidney patients to donors) in the presence of ordinal preferences or cardinal utilities. He has written or co-authored over 60 papers in this area, and his book “Algorithmics of Matching Under Preferences” was published in 2013. Much of this research has involved designing algorithms to cope with NP-hard optimisation problems arising in healthcare-related settings, working in collaboration with the National Health Service in the UK. He is Vice-Chair of the ENCKEP COST Action (European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes).


9.25 Introduction

9.30 Lecture 1: Designing Algorithms for Computationally Hard Problems

10.30 Break

10.45 Refreshments (Upper College Hall)

11.15 Lecture 2: Algorithms for Junior Doctor Allocation

12.15 Lunch (not provided)

2.15 Lecture 3: Algorithms for Kidney Exchange

3.15 Discussion

3.30 Close

Lecture 1: Designing Algorithms for Computationally Hard Problems

I will begin by explaining why it is important to design efficient algorithms, and where computational hardness presents a barrier.  Through the example of the Travelling Salesman Problem I will describe algorithmic techniques for coping with hard problems, including branch and bound, integer programming and approximation algorithms.  You will see a route for an optimal pub-crawl around St Andrews!

Lecture 2: Algorithms for Junior Doctor Allocation

Between 1999-2012, NHS Education for Scotland ran a matching scheme for allocating junior doctors to 2-year foundation posts at Scottish hospitals.  I will describe the application, the underlying (computationally hard) problems, the algorithms that we developed for this application and some empirical results arising from real data connected with the matching scheme in recent years.

Lecture 3: Algorithms for Kidney Exchange

Since 2007, NHS Blood and Transplant have run the National Living Donor Kidney Sharing Schemes.  Every quarter a matching run is carried out in which an optimal set of “kidney exchanges” is sought.  Again I will outline the application, the underlying computational problems and indicate how integer programming can be used to find optimal solutions.  I will then give an overview of the transplants identified by the algorithm for recent matching runs.


SRG Seminar: Managing Shared Mutable Data in a Distributed Environment (Simone Conte)

Event details

  • When: 23rd March 2017 13:00 - 14:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33b
  • Series: Systems Seminars Series
  • Format: Seminar

Title: Managing Shared Mutable Data in a Distributed Environment

Abstract: Managing data is central to our digital lives. The average user owns multiple devices and uses a large variety of applications, services and tools. In an ideal world storage is infinite, data is easy to share and version, and available irrespective of where it is stored, and users can protect and exert control over the data arbitrarily.

In the real world, however, achieving such properties is very hard. File systems provide abstractions that do not satisfy all the needs of our daily lives anymore. Many applications now abstract data management to users but do so within their own silos. Cloud services provide each their own storage abstraction adding more fragmentation to the overall system.

The work presented in this talk is about engineering a system that usefully approximates to the ideal world. We present the Sea Of Stuff, a model where users can operate over distributed storage as if using their local storage, they can organise and version data in a distributed manner, and automatically exert policies about how to store content.

SRG Seminar: Cloud scheduling algorithms by Long Thai

Event details

  • When: 9th March 2017 13:00 - 14:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33b
  • Series: Systems Seminars Series
  • Format: Seminar

“Thanks to cloud computing, accessing to a virtualised computing cluster has become not only easy but also feasible to organisations, especially small and medium-sized ones. First of all, it does not require an upfront investment in building data centres and a constant expense for managing them. Instead, users can pay only for the amount of resources that they actually use. Secondly, cloud providers offer a resource provisioning mechanism which allows users to add or remove resources from their cluster easily and quickly in order to accommodate the workload which changes dynamically in real-time. The flexibility of users’ computing clusters are further increased as they are able to select one or a combination of different virtual machine types, each of which has different hardware specification.

Nevertheless, the users of cloud computing have to face the challenges that they have never encountered before. The monetary cost changes dynamically based on the amount of resources used by the clients. Which means it is no longer cost-effective to adopt a greedy approaches which acquires as much resource as possible. Instead, it requires a careful consideration before making any decision regarding acquiring resources. Moreover, the users of cloud computing have the face that paradox of choice resulted from the high number of options regarding hardware specification offered by cloud providers. As a result, finding a suitable machine type for an application can be difficult. It is even more challenging when a user owns many applications which of which performs different. Finally, addressing all the above challenges while ensuring that a user receives a desired performance further increase the difficulty of effectively using cloud computing resources.

In this research, we investigate and propose the approach that aims to solve the challenge of optimising the usage of cloud computing resource by constructing the heterogeneous cloud cluster which dynamically changes based on the workload. Our proposed approach consists two processes. The first one, named execution scheduling, aims to determine the amount of virtual machines and the allocate of workload on each machine in order to achieve the desired performance with the minimum cost. The second process, named execution management, monitors the execution during runtime, detects and handles unexpected events. The proposed research has been thoroughly evaluated by both simulated and real world experiments. The results have showed that our approach is able to not only achieve the desired performance while minimising the monetary cost but also reduce, or even completely prevent, negative results caused by unexpected events at runtime.”

SACHI Seminar: Dr Hagen Lehmann – Social interaction characteristics for socially acceptable robots

Event details

  • When: 3rd April 2017 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Format: Seminar

Title: Social interaction characteristics for socially acceptable robots

Abstract: The last decade has seen fast advances in Social Robotic Technology. Social Robots start to be successfully used as robot companions and as therapeutic aids. In both of these cases the robots need to be able to interact intuitively and comfortably with their human users in close physical proximity. In order to achieve a seamless interaction and communication these robots need to coordinate different aspects of their behaviors with their human interlocutors. This behavior coordination of non-verbal and verbal interaction cues requires that the robots can interpret the social behavior of the other and react accordingly. In this talk different ways to (socially) coordinate human and robot behavior will be discussed and illustrated with examples from recent Human-Robot Interaction research.

Biography: Dr. Lehmann is a Marie Curie Experienced Researcher in the iCub Facility at the Italian Institute of Technology, where he develops the SICSAR project, dedicated to generate and test social interaction behaviors for the iCub robot. Dr. Lehmann received his Diploma in Psychology from the Technical University Dresden, his MA degree in Psychology from the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Bath. In these years he has worked, from different interdisciplinary perspectives, on Evolution and Social Cognition, examining in particular possible reasons for the evolution of social structures in primates, the role of social dominance in this process, and social gaze behavior and its role in human social evolution. His current work is devoted to the application of this knowledge to the fields of Human-Robot Interaction and Social Robotics, through experimental research and with a particular focus on Robot Assisted Therapy and robotic home companions. Before his work at the IIT, he was part of the Adaptive Systems Research Group in the School of Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire, where he was involved in different European projects, e.g. iTALK, and ACCOMPANY.

Wrist Worn Haptic Feedback Device

One of our PhD students Esma Mansouri Benssassi and her supervisor Dr Erica Ye defined a requirement for a wrist worn device to group a number of Haptic feedback elements for an experiment they wished to carry out. The on-board Haptic elements are two eccentric rotating mass micro motors and an linear resonant actuator. Initial circuit schematics and printed circuit board designs were created in an Open Source Electronics Design Automation Suite KiCAD EDA. The resulting printed circuit board (PCB) design was made on the CS CNC Router , this produces the PCB by engraving the copper clad fibreglass-epoxy board with a Vee cutter.

PCBBare Circular Engraved PCB

The case for the PCB was created in Autodesk Inventor and was 3D printed using the CS Makerbot 2X 3D printer.

Blank PCB and 3D Printed Case

Haptic Wristband and Haptic Transducers

The wrist worn Haptic feedback device will be connected via an umbilical cable to the main control Feather M0 embedded ARM and Haptic Driver breadboard. This is an ARM microcontroller and wifi module which can be programmed using the Arduino IDE. Code for the ARM processor will enable stored and custom waveforms to be played on the haptic devices on the wrist.

Haptic Feedback Breadboard Assembly

Research on containers for HPC environments featured in CACM and HPC Wire

Rethinking High performance computing Platforms: Challenges, Opportunities and Recommendations, co-authored by Adam Barker and a team (Ole Weidner, Malcolm Atkinson, Rosa Filgueira Vicente) in the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh was recently featured in the Communications of the ACM and HPC Wire.

The paper focuses on container technology and argues that a number of “second generation” high-performance computing applications with heterogeneous, dynamic and data-intensive properties have an extended set of requirements, which are not met by the current production HPC platform models and policies. These applications (and users) require a new approach to supporting infrastructure, which draws on container-like technology and services. The paper then goes on to describe cHPC: an early prototype of an implementation based on Linux Containers (LXC).

Ali Khajeh-Hosseini, Co-founder of AbarCloud and former co-founder of ShopForCloud (acquired by RightScale as PlanForCloud) said of this research, “Containers have helped speed-up the development and deployment of applications in heterogeneous environments found in larger enterprises. It’s interesting to investigate their applications in similar types of environments in newer HPC applications.

Data and the User Experience in Retail

Event details

  • When: 6th March 2017 15:00 - 16:00
  • Where: Honey 110 - John Honey Teaching Lab
  • Format: Seminar

The Hut Group develop and manage a proprietary eCommerce platform that handled over half a billion pounds of revenue last year. UX within the company is responsible for optimising user flows through the website, and working with Design departments to deliver user delight. With over 30 distinct site brands internally, and several external clients, the team attempt to strike a balance between optimising sites for revenue and user delight. This talk is about the challenges of UX within a wider business organisation, and the role that Computer Science graduates can play in a multidisciplinary UX team.

Elliott joined The Hut Group in June, starting in the Research and Development department. He worked on developing a dashboard for use inside the business, and developed a series of prototypes to show users Social Media content on-site. He now heads the User Experience (UX) department. Prior to joining THG, Elliott worked at Skyscanner as a front-end developer whilst graduating from St Andrews in Computer Science with several modules in HCI.

Seminar: Slave to the Algo-Rhythm? Awaiting the Law Cavalry (Professor Lilian Edwards, Strathclyde)

Event details

  • When: 17th March 2017 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33b
  • Format: Seminar

The School of Computer Science welcomes Lilian Edwards, Professor of Internet Law at the University of Strathclyde.


There is considerable current concern about the decisions made wholly or partly by algorithms in our digital “big data society”: decisions which now include –

  • hiring, promoting and firing in the employment arena
  • profiling for surveillance by law enforcement as well as by private companies for tracking and marketing
  • dynamic alteration of pricing and access to goods
  • assessment of worth for admission to school, college or professions
  • health interventions and welfare distributions
  • access to news and political comment on social media

And many more.

This talk will discuss the underlying problems around algorithmic governance, including inter alia discrimination, social sorting, lack of transparency, restriction of human agency, acontextuality and other possibilities for error, which have received a great deal of publicity lately; and then more unusually, starts to conjecture what legal solutions may be available in the UK and EU to complement technological and other governance solutions.

Some attention has been attracted by an alleged new “right to an explanation” in the General Data Protection Regulation, art 13, which is in fact not new but has existed in the DPD since 19952. The problems with the right are twofold, one legal, one practical. First, there has always been a carve out from the right for the protection of trade secrets and intellectual property. This probably explains the absolute history of lack of use of this right throughout the EU. Recital 63 of the GDPR does however now counsel that this should not justify “a refusal to provide all information to the data subject” [emphasis added]. A second even more difficult obstacle is simply that no-one really knows how to present what goes on in the innards of a modern big data machine learning algorithm, which largely runs on correlation rather than causation, to non-experts.

While the latter may be seen as mainly a technological problem, a number of key legal issues have not yet really been ventilated. Are legal remedies concerning algorithmic transparency really best found in data protection law? Is transparency a useful remedy at all given the historic failure of notice and choice in privacy? Are individualistic legal remedies suitable for problems causing harms to society as a whole rather than noticeable harms to discrete individuals (another problem of which privacy scholars already have much experience?) Can better models for remedies be drawn from media, competition, employment or environmental law? Does the problem in the end fall so awkwardly between the stools of technological fixes and policy concern that neither camp really has the expertise or ability to produce solutions?


Lilian Edwards is a leading academic in the field of Internet law. She has taught information technology law, e-commerce law, and Internet law at undergraduate and postgraduate level since 1996 and been involved with law and artificial intelligence since 1985. Her current research interests, while broad, revolve around the topics of online privacy, intermediary liability, cybercrime, Internet pornography, digital assets and digital copyright enforcement.

She worked at Strathclyde University from 1986–1988 and Edinburgh University from 1989 to 2006. She became Chair of Internet Law at the University of Southampton from 2006–2008, and then Professor of Internet Law at the University of Sheffield until late 2010, when she returned to Scotland to become Professor of E-Governance at Strathclyde University,while retaining close links with the renamed SCRIPT (AHRC Centre) at Edinburgh. Since 2011, she has been Chair of E-Governance at Strathclyde University.

She has co-edited (with Charlotte Waelde) three editions of a textbook, Law and the Internet; the third edition appeared in 2009.She won the Barbara Wellberry Memorial Prize in 2004 for work on online privacy. A sole edited collection of her essays, The New Legal Framework for E-Commerce in Europe, was published in 2005. She is Associate Director, and was co-founder, of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Centre for IP and Technology Law (now SCRIPT). Edwards has consulted inter alia for Google, Symantec, McAfee, the EU Commission, the OECD, and WIPO. Edwards co-chairs GikII, a annual series of international workshops on the intersections between law, technology and popular culture.

Since 2012, Edwards has been Deputy Director of CREATe, the Centre for Creativity, Regulation, Enterprise and Technology, a £5m Research Councils UK research centre about copyright and business models. She is also a frequent speaker in the media and has been invited to lecture in many universities in Europe, Asia, America, Australasia and most recently, South Africa.