Impact Talk: Xelect Ltd

Event details

  • When: 8th February 2018 13:00 - 14:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Format: Seminar, Talk

This is Impact talk as a “brown bag lunch” (i.e. you bring your lunch if you wish) and the school will provide cakes.

Xelect Ltd

– a successful spin-out from the University of St Andrews

Xelect was founded 5 years ago by Professor Ian Johnston and Dr Tom Ashton to provide genetic services to the global aquaculture industry. The company built on several decades of research in fish physiology and genetics which was funded by BBSRC through to the stage of commercialisation. Xelect develops genetic selection technology and provides associated laboratory support to breeders of finfish, shellfish and shrimps and to date has served 52 customers in 17 countries. We currently manage broodstock genetics programs for producers in Chile, Scotland (Atlantic salmon), Croatia, Greece (seabass and sea bream), New Zealand (King salmon) and Vietnam (Barramundi). The company started out in incubation space at the Scottish Oceans Institute before moving to independent premises in 2016. Xelect also has sales offices in Puerto Montt, Chile and in Hong Kong. The company employs 12 people, mostly PhDs, and is account managed by Scottish Enterprise. Xelect’s shareholders are the founders, the University, SalmoBreed A/S and the EOS Technology Investment Syndicate.

About Ian Johnston

Ian Johnston is former Chandos Professor, Head of the School of Biology and Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute. He currently works full-time for Xelect but retains a 0 FTE position as Professor of Biology.

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.

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.
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Visit by the new Principal and Vice-Chancellor ‌Professor Sally Mapstone

On Tuesday the 5th of October we were pleased to host our new Principal and Vice-Chancellor ‌Professor Sally Mapstone to visit the School of Computer Science. During this visit she was able to meet with staff and students, visit our teaching spaces and visit some of our research labs. We discussed our new Engineering Doctorate (EngD) in Computer Science, our PhD programme, our new and existing MSc programmes, our growth in undergraduate single, joint and MSci degree programmes along with changes to our teaching and research space over the past few years.

From left to right, Simon Dobson, Ruth Letham, Steve Linton, Sally Mapstone, Aaron Quigley, Robin Nabel and Dharini Balasubramaniam

From left to right, Simon Dobson, Ruth Letham, Steve Linton, Sally Mapstone, Aaron Quigley, Robin Nabel and Dharini Balasubramaniam

We were also able to showcase some of our ongoing research which included a short talk from Adam Barker, on Distributed Systems and his recent time with Google, and demonstrations from Chris Jefferson, on visualisation of constraints, Vinodh Rajan Sampath, on Scribal Behaviour and Digital Palaeography, Gonzalo Mendez, on iVolver, Gergely Flamich and Patrick Schrempf, on RadarCatHui-Shyong Yeo on WatchMi and David Morrison, on Beyond Medics.

We thank all the staff and students who made our new Principal feel welcome here in Computer Science.



Elise van den Hoven : Materialising Memories: a design research programme to study everyday remembering

Event details

  • When: 20th April 2016 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Series: School Seminar Series
  • Format: Seminar


Perhaps the term computer ‘memory’ has led people to believe that human memory has to be perfect and infallible. Many people worry when they realise they forget and some turn to recording and collecting as much as they can, e.g. photos or videos through life logging. Some people assume that by collecting they can avoid forgetting or at least have access to the information anytime later. And that is where they might be wrong. First of all, recordings are not equivalent to memories, and memories ‘can not be stored’. Secondly it has already been shown that people collect too much and organize too little for them to be able to find information later [1]. Thirdly, human memory works best when we forget… a lot.

What I want to talk about is my vision [2] that we can use design research to support human remembering by supporting our memory’s functions [3], which include a directive function (using the past to guide present and future thoughts and behaviours, e.g. solving problems), a self-representative function (creating a sense of self over time) and a social function (developing and nurturing relationships, through sharing of personal experiences). It is important to realise that in order to support these functions there is no need to improve our remembering capabilities, however it could benefit from the right type of support. Since remembering is a reconstructive process, individual memories are subject to change, continuously, and what someone experiences as a memory does not have to be the same as what happened or what other people remember from the experience.

Bits of information from the original experience can be used to stimulate and facilitate the reconstruction process. These so-called memory cues [4], which can be anything: from a photo, a song to a person or a location, are at the core of our research. We use a people-centred approach to study memory cues in everyday life, which informs the design of interactive systems that present these memory cues. Since these cues are often digital, while people prefer material objects [e.g. 5], we combine material and digital in our studies and designs.

  1. Whittaker, S., Bergman, O., and Clough, P. Easy on that trigger dad: a study of long term family photo retrieval. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 14,1 (2010), 31-43.
  2. Hoven, E. van den. A future-proof past: Designing for remembering experiences. Memory Studies 7, 3 (2014), 373-387.
  3. Bluck, S., Alea, N., Habermas, T., and Rubin, D. C. A tale of three functions: The self–reported uses of autobiographical memory. Social Cognition 23, 1 (2005), 91-117.
  4. Hoven, E. van den, and Eggen, B. The Cue is Key: Design for Real-Life Remembering. Zeitschrift für Psychologie 222, 2 (2014), 110-117.
  5. Golsteijn, C., Hoven, E. van den, Frohlich, D., and Sellen, A. Towards a More Cherishable Digital Object. In Proc. DIS 2012, ACM Press (2012), 655-664.



Professor Dr Elise van den Hoven MTD is full Professor in the School of Software, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and part-time Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Design, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). She has two honorary appointments: Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee and Associate Investigator with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders.

Her research interests span different disciplines, including human-computer interaction, design and psychology, including people-centred design, designing interactive systems, physical interaction and supporting human remembering.

Professor Van den Hoven leads the international research programme Materialising Memories, a collaboration between UTS, TU/e and the University of Dundee, which uses a design research approach to study people in their everyday remembering activities in order to come up with ways to support them.

Daniel Archambault : Effective Visualisation of Static and Dynamic Graphs

Event details

  • When: 12th April 2016 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Series: School Seminar Series
  • Format: Seminar


Visualising dynamic graphs is important for many application areas.  For social media networks, they can help us understand the interaction and interests of users online.  In biology, they can illustrate the interactions between genes and biological processes.  Understanding and designing effective visualisation methods for dynamic network data is fundamental to these areas as well as many others.  In this talk, we focus on the effective presentation of dynamic networks.  In particular, we summarise recent results on dynamic graph visualisation with respect to animation (presentation of interactive movies of the data), small multiples (presenting the data through several linked windows like a comic book), and drawing stability (the visual stability of the data presentation).  We conclude with some recent work on scalable graph visualisation and in the visualisation of sets and their intersections.


Daniel Archambault has been working in the field of information visualization for ten years. His work in this area has focused on the development and evaluation of techniques for visualizing dynamic networks and scalable graph visualizations.  His research has been been applied to many areas outside of computer science, including the digital humanities, biology, networking, sociology, and social media analysis.

Keith Cheverst: Investigating the Shared Curation of Locative Media relating to the Local History of a Rural Community

Event details

  • When: 5th April 2016 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Series: School Seminar Series
  • Format: Seminar


In this talk I will present experiences and insights from our studies involving locative media, local history and community. Our work in the village of Wray has involved the longitudinal and ‘in the wild’ deployment of ‘digital noticeboard’ displays (conceived as technology probes) that support the sharing of photos/images. A significant portion of the submitted photo content relates to Wray’s local history and features of Wray’s landscape. Residents of the village have helped shape the system through involvement in co-design workshops. A key motivation of our current studies (as part of the SHARC project) is to explore issues around the co-curation of locative media experiences. A field trial (involving both residents and visitors) and a design workshop revealed both opportunities and challenges for the co-curation approach.


Dr Keith Cheverst is a Reader in HCI at Lancaster University where he obtained his PhD in 1999. Keith has also held the position of visiting scientist at Newcastle University’s Culture Lab, at Microsoft Research, Cambridge (working with the Socio-Digital systems group), and at the University of Melbourne (Department of Computing and Information Systems).

Keith’s primary research focus is in exploring the obdurate problems associated with the user-centered design of interactive systems in complex or semi-wild settings and the deployment and longitudinal study of these systems in order to gain insights into issues of user adoption and appropriation. He is particularly interested in the design interactive systems that feature locative media and associated mobile/pervasive technologies

Launch of new St Andrews CS Alumni webpage

We now launched our new Alumni webpage for the School of Computer Science in the University of St Andrews.

This page is designed for our alumni to stay in touch with us and each other. We have a series of alumni profiles from across the last 40 years, recent news items from alumni events and links to our University alumni portal, alumni news, as well as School news and events.

Thanks to Louis Stewart for all his work on this site.

Seminar: ‘Disrupting trillion dollar industries using low power wireless sensor networks’ by Raphael Scheps and Gideon Farrell

Event details

  • When: 22nd September 2015 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Series: School Seminar Series
  • Format: Seminar

Some of the world’s most important industries are intrinsically grounded in the physical world, yet their interaction with it is still almost completely manual. Converge is a young startup, forged in the fires of Entrepreneurs First, that is building wireless, distributed sensor networks to revolutionise how these industries operate. We (Raph and Gideon, founders) will talk about our tech (and what makes it a fun challenge to build), the difficulties of working in enormous and complex industries and our first 10 months as a company.

Gideon and Raphael co-founded Converge to deal with the huge amounts of data that will be produced by connected devices. Two Physicists from Cambridge, they are obsessed with instrumenting the world with connected sensors to drive a smarter physical environment. Gideon read Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, and obtained his M.Sci with a thesis on Solar Jets. He has been writing software for over 10 years, working for companies such as Primary Energy Research and Softeam Cadextan. He worked on the first generation of IoT connected sensors at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (The WISP project) in 2009. Raphael read Theoretical Physics, obtaining an M.Math with a thesis on String Theory and Quantum Gravity. He has worked on high speed interconnect within the hardware engineering team at Mellanox as well as the experimental astrophysics team at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He was Vice President at Cambridge University Entrepreneurs, the oldest student entrepreneurship society in Europe. They both met at Cambridge five years ago and started Converge in 2014.

This seminar is part of our ongoing school series. To see all our upcoming seminar follow this link: here.

Adam Barker – Google Visiting Faculty


Congratulations to Adam Barker who has been awarded a prestigious Visiting Researcher position at Google through the Google Visiting Faculty Program.

“The Google Visiting Faculty program aims to identify and support world-class, full-time faculty pursuing research in areas of mutual interest. Each year, through the Google Visiting Faculty Program, over 25 academics visit Google from universities all over the world. They work closely with our research and engineering teams, and have the opportunity to explore projects at industrial scale, work with state-of-the-art technology, and experience Google culture up close.”

Adam will be leaving for Google’s global headquarters in Mountain View and will be working with Dr John Wilkes and Dr Walfredo Cirne on Service Level Objectives (SLOs), with the aim of contributing towards Google’s internal cluster management systems.

Commenting on Adam’s award Professor Ian Sommerville said “Adam has done a great job in building links with industry and in linking his research to practical research challenges in cloud computing. His research work with Google will deepen his understanding of the problems of scale, reveal new research challenges and will inspire his teaching.”

On a related note, Adam currently has two open positions for a Research Assistant and a PhD scholarship (including International fees) in Data Science. Please get in touch directly with Adam if you are interested.