PhD viva success: Evan Brown

Congratulations to Evan Brown, who successfully defended his thesis today. He is pictured with Internal examiner Dr Tristan Henderson and external examiner Professor Chris Marsden, Professor of Internet Law at the University of Sussex.

Evan’s PhD research on using corpus linguistics to build collaborative legal research tools was supervised by Professor Aaron Quigley.

Continued success for MSc student Jessica Cooper

The work of our MSc student, Jessica Cooper, supervised by Oggie Arandjelovic on the use of deep learning for the analysis of ancient Roman coins has been attracting widespread attention. From tech media to web sites of history, heritage, and numismatics focused communities, Jessica’s work has been recognized as highly innovative, with a potential to change the direction of research in the area. Jessica will be rejoining St Andrews in a month’s time, working with Oggie Arandjelovic on deep learning in pathology image analysis.

Best paper finalist award for Xingzhi Yue and Neofytos Dimitriou

A paper describing the work of our MSc student Xingzhi Yue and PhD student Neofytos Dimitriou, supervised by Oggie Arandjelovic and in collaboration with the School of Medicine, gets the best paper finalist award at the latest International Conference on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BICOB 2019). The key contribution of the work is a novel deep learning based algorithm for the analysis of extremely large pathology image slides, capable of automating and improving colorectal cancer prognosis.

Distinguished Lecture Series: Formal Approaches to Quantitative Evaluation

Event details

  • When: 8th April 2019 09:30 - 15:30
  • Where: Lower College Hall
  • Series: Distinguished Lectures Series
  • Format: Distinguished lecture

Jane Hillston was appointed Professor of Quantitative Modelling in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh in 2006, having joined the University as a Lecturer in Computer Science in 1995. She is currently Head of the School of Informatics. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Member of Academia Europaea. She currently chairs the Executive Committee of the UK Computing Research Committee.
Jane Hillston’s research is concerned with formal approaches to modelling dynamic behaviour, particularly the use of stochastic process algebras for performance modelling and stochastic verification. The application of her modelling techniques have ranged from computer systems, to biological processes and transport systems. Her PhD dissertation was awarded the BCS/CPHC Distinguished Dissertation award in 1995 and she was the first recipient of the Roger Needham Award in 2005. She has published over 100 journal and conference papers and held several Research Council and European Commission grants.
She has a strong interest in promoting equality and diversity within Computer Science; she is a member of the Women’s Committee of the BCS Computing Academy and chaired the Women in Informatics Research and Education working group of Informatics Europe 2016—2018, and during that time instigated the Minerva Informatics Equality Award.

Formal Approaches to Quantitative Evaluation
Qualitative evaluation of computer systems seeks to ensure that the system does not exhibit bad behaviour and is in some sense “correct”. Whilst this is important it is also often useful to be able to reason not just about what will happen in the system, but also the dynamics of that behaviour: how long it will take, what are the probabilities of alternative outcomes, how much resource is used….? Such questions can be answered by quantitative analysis when information about timing and probability are incorporated into models of system behaviour.

In this short series of lectures I will talk about how we can extend formal methods to support quantitative evaluation as well as qualitative evaluation of systems. The first lecture will focus on computer systems and a basic approach based on the stochastic process algebra PEPA. In the second lecture I will introduce the language CARMA which is designed to support the analysis of collective adaptive systems, in which the structure of the system may change over time. In the third lecture I will consider systems where the exact details of behaviour may not be known and present the process algebra ProPPA which combines aspect of machine learning and inference with formal quantitative models.

Lecture 1: 9:30 – 10:30 – Performance Evaluation Process Algebra (PEPA)
Coffee break at 10:30 – 11:15
Lecture 2: 11:15 – 12:15 – Collective Adaptive Resource-sharing Markovian Agents (CARMA)
Lecture 3: 14:15 – 15:15 – Probabilistic Programming for Stochastic Dynamical Systems (ProPPA)
Venue: Upper and Lower College Halls

Encoding Egyptian quadrats in Unicode

Unicode 12, released 5th March 2019, includes 9 control characters for Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic text. These resulted from an initiative by Dr. Mark-Jan Nederhof (St Andrews) and Egyptologists at the University of Liège, CNAM (Paris) and the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, in collaboration with Unicode experts. The control characters allow hieroglyphs to be arranged horizontally and vertically much as in original inscriptions. This removes the foremost obstacle to adoption of Unicode in Egyptology.

The control characters:

Although existing fonts are not yet able to interpret the control characters directly, hieroglyphic text can now be displayed on web pages with the help of JavaScript:

Lao Characters for Pali added to Unicode 12

Congratulations to Vinodh Rajan, Ben Mitchell, Martin Jansche and Sascha Brawer on their successful proposal for additions to the repertoire of ISO/IEC 10646, which will see Pali letters added to Lao in Unicode 12. As a result, it is now possible to write both Pali/Sanskrit in Lao and represent the entire Tripitaka in the Lao script. The proposal ( submitted in 2017 was finally added to the Unicode standard this year.

Vinodh explained that the proposal allows four things. Firstly, one can now transcribe liturgical Pali (the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism) texts and by extension the whole Pali Tripitaka (the Theravada Buddhist canon) in the Lao script without any distortion, providing lay people accurate access to these liturgical texts. Previously, the texts had to go through some sort of distortion due to the lack of appropriate characters, which means they had to be approximated. Secondly, it allows people who would want to use etymological orthography for Lao (it currently uses a phonemic orthography) access to the necessary additional characters. Thirdly, there are several books printed (mostly in the 1930’s) using the expanded alphabet that need to be eventually digitized. This will enable their proper digitization by allow plain-text representation of all the Lao characters. Lastly, it will improve the transliteration accuracy between Lao and neighboring scripts like Thai and Khmer.

The expanded Lao alphabet can be found here:

Vinodh, a St Andrews Computer Science alumnus completed his PhD in 2016. His thesis, Quantifying scribal behavior : a novel approach to digital paleography was supervised by Dr Mark-Jan Nederhof.

Hugh Leather (Edinburgh): Deep Learning for Compilers (School Seminar)

Event details

  • When: 9th April 2019 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Series: School Seminar Series
  • Format: Seminar


Writing optimising compilers is difficult. The range of programs that may be presented to the compiler is huge and the system on which they run are complex, heterogeneous, non-deterministic, and constantly changing. Machine learning has been shown to make writing compiler heuristics easier, but many issues remain.

In this talk I will discuss recent advances in using deep learning to solve compiler issues: learning heuristics and testing compiler correctness.

Speaker Bio:

Hugh is a reader (associate professor) at the University of Edinburgh. His research involves all elements of compilers and operating systems, usually targeting performance and energy optimisation, often with a focus on using machine learning for those tasks. After his PhD, also at Edinburgh, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Engineering. Before returning to academia, he was an engineer at Microsoft and architect and team leader at Trilogy, delivering multi-million dollar projects to Fortune 500 companies.

Back to normal

The School will be fully open as normal from around 0800 tomorrow, Thursday 14 February.  We’re running on generator power as a result of the weekend’s fire in Chemistry, but this will be sufficient to run all our lights, alarms, systems, and other equipment. There may need to be some restrictions in 24-hour lab access, but we’re hopeful that this won’t be necessary.

Thank you everyone for your patience and understanding, as well as to all the staff in the School and the wider University who’ve both minimised the disruption and got us back into operation so quickly.


Prof Simon Dobson
Head of School for Computer Science

Reduced service because of fire

As you may be aware, there was a fire over the weekend in the School of Chemistry. While this has not led to any physical damage in Computer Science, it has meant we’ve lost all power and access to our main Jack Cole building.

The School is still open and functioning as normally as possible. Classes are being relocated to other rooms in the University whenever possible. However, staff have no access to their offices (or phones), and we will be cancelling all non-essential meetings or events.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience. We expect to be back running again as normal by the end of the week. I’m happy to (try to) answer any questions you may have.


Prof Simon Dobson
Head of School for Computer Science