Need new software or an interface? Our students can help you design it for free! First deadline Friday 20th December

We are looking for five projects from within the University that have to do with creating new software and/or hardware. Suitable projects can come from individual researchers, practitioners/companies, Schools, or any Departmental Unit that is thinking about building some software or hardware system that will be facing humans (this includes the public, but also experts of any kind or any type of populations, such as children).

The MSc students of our module CS5042 – User Centered Interaction Design – will be performing a contextual analysis of the environment, extracting user interface requirements and providing up to a medium level fidelity design prototype, with the option to further taking this on to working prototype stage during their MSc project during the summer.

In the past, our students have successfully completed designs for the following types of systems:

  • Interactive exhibitions for museums and Edinburgh City of Culture
  • A health smartphone application interface for CIGNA, a health insurance provider
  • An integrated public display messaging system for the library
  • An interactive entrance welcoming system for the entrance of the School of Computer Science
  • An interactive laterality testing tool for the School of Medicine
  • An interface design for a system which measures peoples vital signals at a distance using cameras for Beyond Medics Limited
  • Novel web-based and mobile applications to explore literary collections

If you think your project could use this kind of help, please send to us by e-mail (

  • Your name, e-mail address, and phone number
    A sentence or two about what kind of project you have in mind

We will then get in contact with you to briefly explore the options. No commitment necessary at this point. Everything is, of course, free, and this could be a great opportunity for you to explore a tentative system, even if you are not sure that you will need it.

Thank you very much for considering this.

Please feel free to forward this far and wide to other colleagues who may find this useful.

Many thanks,

Uta Hinrichs and Kenneth Boyd

IBANS drop-in session

IBANS (Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences) will be running the first drop-in session of on December 11th at 3pm in the Seminar Room in the Psychology & Neuroscience building (first floor). Niki Khan (School of Psychology and Neuroscience) writes:

The drop-in sessions are designed to be periodic social events with catering, where people can meet each other, get help with their experiments, discuss prospective collaborations, knowledge exchange etc. We are envisaging questions on study design, programming (Python, R, other), version control, visualisations, and other topics. At the first of such meetings (on Dec 11th), we will discuss with those who will come what we would like to do next. These sessions may be especially useful for those who have attended  Software Carpentry training, and now would like to further practice and master their computational skills.

Event details

  • When: 11th December 2019 15:00

Winnability of Klondike Solitaire research featured in New Scientist

Research carried out by Charlie Blake and Ian Gent to compute the approximate odds of winning any version of solitaire featured in New Scientist last week (print edition November 23rd ). Ian emphasised the calibre of research carried out by our undergraduate students and his early interaction with card games.

“This research has been hugely satisfying to me because my mother taught me games like King Albert as a child and I loved to play them with her. Now I know for the first time the chance of winning that game is about 68.5%.

It is wonderful to see work which started as an undergraduate student project feature in the New Scientist. This obviously reflects Charlie’s fantastic programming that he did. But it also shows the research-level quality work that undergraduate students can do as part of their studies in St Andrews.”

Link to the full paper on arxiv:

Online article published in Technology Nov 17th:

Talk by Roberto Castañeda Lozano: Constraint-Based Register Allocation and Instruction Scheduling

Roberto has been part of a very cool project in KTH where they used Constraint Programming to solve a number of compiler problems. He is now working for Edinburgh and we invited him to give us a talk about his research in this area. The talk will be 30 minutes + Q&A. Please come along if you are interested.

Date/time: Oct 30th, 11am

Location: JC 1.33b

Title: Constraint-Based Register Allocation and Instruction Scheduling

Presenter: Roberto Castañeda Lozano – School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

(joint work with Mats Carlsson, Frej Drejhammar, Gabriel Hjort Blindell, and Christian Schulte at RISE SICS and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden)

Abstract: This talk presents a constraint-based approach to register allocation and instruction scheduling, two central compiler problems. Unlike conventional heuristic algorithms, constraint programming has the potential to solve these problems optimally and to exploit processor-specific features readily. Our approach is the first to leverage this potential in practice by capturing the complete set of register allocation and instruction scheduling subproblems handled by state-of-the-art compilers, scaling to medium-sized problems, and generating executable code. The approach can be used to trade compilation time for code quality beyond the usual compiler optimization levels, explore and exploit processor-specific features, and identify improvement opportunities in conventional compilers.
More information can be found in Roberto’s doctoral dissertation ( and on the project’s website (

Max L. Wilson (University of Nottingham): Brain-based HCI – What could brain data can tell us HCI

Please note non-standard date and time for this talk


This talk will describe a range of our projects, utilising functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) in HCI. As a portable alternative that’s more tolerate of motion artefacts than EEG, fNIRS measures the amount of oxygen in the brain, as e.g. mental workload creates demand. As opposed to BCI (trying to control systems with our brain), we focus on brain-based HCI, asking what brain data can tell us about our software, our work, our habits, and ourselves. In particular, we are driven by the idea that brain data can become personal data in the future.

Speaker Bio:

Dr Max L. Wilson is an Associate Professor in the Mixed Reality Lab in Computer Science at the University of Nottingham.  His research focus is on evaluating Mental Workload in HCI contexts – as real-world as possible – primarily using functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS).  As a highly tolerant form of brain sensor, fNIRS is suitable for use in HCI research into user interface design, work tasks, and everyday experiences.  This work emerged from his prior research into the design and evaluation of complex user interfaces for information interfaces. Across these two research areas, Max has over 120 publications, including a Honourable Mention CHI2019 paper on a Brain-Controlled Movie – The MOMENT.

Event details

  • When: 25th October 2019 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33b
  • Series: School Seminar Series
  • Format: Seminar

Daniel S. Katz (University of Illinois): Parsl: Pervasive Parallel Programming in Python

Please note non-standard date and time for this talk

Abstract: High-level programming languages such as Python are increasingly used to provide intuitive interfaces to libraries written in lower-level languages and for assembling applications from various components. This migration towards orchestration rather than implementation, coupled with the growing need for parallel computing (e.g., due to big data and the end of Moore’s law), necessitates rethinking how parallelism is expressed in programs.

Here, we present Parsl, a parallel scripting library that augments Python with simple, scalable, and flexible constructs for encoding parallelism. These constructs allow Parsl to construct a dynamic dependency graph of components from a Python program enhanced with a small number of decorators that define the components to be executed asynchronously and in parallel, and then execute it efficiently on one or many processors. Parsl is designed for scalability, with an extensible set of executors tailored to different use cases, such as low-latency, high-throughput, or extreme-scale execution. We show, via experiments on the Blue Waters supercomputer, that Parsl executors can allow Python scripts to execute components with as little as 5 ms of overhead, scale to more than 250000 workers across more than 8000 nodes, and process upward of 1200 tasks per second.

Other Parsl features simplify the construction and execution of composite programs by supporting elastic provisioning and scaling of infrastructure, fault-tolerant execution, and integrated wide-area data management. We show that these capabilities satisfy the needs of many-task, interactive, online, and machine learning applications in fields such as biology, cosmology, and materials science.

Slides: see here.

Speaker Bio: Daniel S. Katz is Assistant Director for Scientific Software and Applications at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and Research Associate Professor in Computer Science; Electrical & Computer Engineering; and the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. For further details, please see his website here.

Event details

  • When: 18th October 2019 13:00 - 14:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33b
  • Series: School Seminar Series
  • Format: Seminar

Code4REF: Recording software outputs in Pure

Do you develop research software?  If so, you may be interested in the Code4REF project, which explains how to record it in Pure – the research information system used in St Andrews. Research software is a primary research output, and it should get the same visibility as research publications on the University research portal. You can find all current software entries in the Research Portal here, but the picture is certainly incomplete – we know many more researchers who write code. We call everyone to join efforts and help us to collect further evidence that software is vital for research!

If you have any comments about the Code4REF project, please create an issue in its GitHub repository.

Software Carpentry Workshop

Registration is open for the next Software Carpentry workshop in St Andrews on September 23-24 in the Parliament Hall. We will teach UNIX shell, version control with Git and programming with Python. Please see the workshop page for further details and the link to registration via PDMS.

Event details

  • When: 23rd September 2019 - 24th September 2019
  • Where: Parliament Hall
  • Format: Workshop

Donald Robertson awarded Brendan Murphy Prize at MSN/Cosener’s 2019!

Each year in July, the (broadly-defined) computer networking community converges at Cosener’s House for the MSN workshop. The workshop is an informal gathering where attendees – students in particular – are encouraged to present on-going work and/or crazy ideas. From among the  presentations, the Brendan Murphy Award is given to the best student presentation, generally for work that has yet to be scrutinized or peer-reviewed.

Congratulations to Donald Robertson who, this year, has brought that honour to St Andrews as co-recipient of the award (alongside Naomi Arnold from QMUL).

(In the interest of transparency, Marwan Fayed was on the judging panel but recused himself during discussion of Donald’s presentation.)

The Melville Trust for the Care and Cure of Cancer PhD award

The Melville Trust for the Care and Cure of Cancer have funded a PGR Studentship relative to the project entitled ‘Detecting high-risk smokers in Primary Care Electronic Health Records: An automatic classification, data extraction and predictive modelling approach’.

The supervisors are Prof. Frank Sullivan of the School of Medicine and Prof. Tom Kelsey of the School of Computer Science, with work commencing in September 2019. The award is for £83,875.