DLS: Functional Foundations for Operating Systems

Event details

  • When: 13th February 2018 09:30 - 15:15
  • Where: Byre Theatre
  • Series: Distinguished Lectures Series, Systems Seminars Series
  • Format: Distinguished lecture

Biography: Dr. Anil Madhavapeddy is a University Lecturer at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, and a Fellow of Pembroke College where he is Director of Studies for Computer Science. He has worked in industry (NetApp, Citrix, Intel), academia (Cambridge, Imperial, UCLA) and startups (XenSource, Unikernel Systems, Docker) over the past two decades. At Cambridge, he directs the OCaml Labs research group which delves into the intersection of functional programming and systems, and is a maintainer on many open source projects such as OpenBSD, OCaml, Xen and Docker.

9:30: Introduction by Professor Saleem Bhatti
9:35: Lecture 1
10:35: Break with tea and coffee
11:15: Lecture 2
12:15: Lunch (not provided)
14:00: Lecture 3
15:00: Close by Professor Simon Dobson

Lecture 1: Rebuilding Operating Systems with Functional Principles
The software stacks that we deploy across computing devices in the world are based on shaky foundations. Millions of lines of C code crammed into monolithic operating system kernels, mixed with layers of scheduling logic, wrapped in a hypervisor, and served with a dose of nominal security checking on the side. In this talk, I will describe an alternative approach to constructing reliable, specialised systems with a familiar developer experience. We will use modular functional programming to build several services such as a secure web server that have no reliance on conventional operating systems, and explain how to express their logic in a high level, functional fashion. By the end of it, everyone in the audience should be able to build their own so-called unikernels!

Lecture 2: The First Billion Real Deployments of Unikernels
Unikernels offer a path to a more sane basis for driving applications on hardware, but will they ever be adopted for real? For the past fifteen years, an intrepid group of adventurers have been developing the MirageOS application stack in the OCaml programming language. Along the way, it has been deployed in many unusual industrial situations that I will describe in this talk, starting with the Docker container stack, then moving onto the Xen hypervisor that drives billions of servers worldwide. I will explain the challenges of using functional programming in industry, but also the rewards of seeing successful deployments quietly working in mission-critical areas of systems software.

Lecture 3: Programming the Next Trillion Embedded Devices
The unikernel approach of compiling highly specialised applications from high-level source code is perfectly suited to programming the trillions of embedded devices that are making their way around the world. However, this raises new challenges from a programming language perspective: how can we run on a spectrum of devices from the very tiny (with just kilobytes of RAM) to specialised hardware? I will describe the new frontier of functional metaprogramming (programs which generate more programs) that we are using to compile a single application to many heterogenous devices, and a Git-like model to coordinate across thousands of nodes. I will conclude with by motivating the need for a next-generation operating system to power new exciting applications such as augmented and virtual reality in our situated environments, and remove the need for constant centralised coordination via the Internet.

Distinguished Lecture Series 2017: Professor Ursula Martin

On October 10th, we were delighted to welcome back Professor Ursula Martin from the University of Oxford, to deliver the semester one distinguished lecture series in the Byre Theatre. Earlier in her career Prof Martin was professor of Computer Science here, and in fact only the second female professor in the history of the University of St Andrews.

The lectures covered numerous aspects of the history of computing. A particular highlight was to hear about Ada Lovelace’s early work, on Ada Lovelace day. As a trained mathematician and computer scientist who has studied her papers in detail, Ursula has discovered new insights about Ada’s education and work with Charles Babbage. She also focussed on aspects of computing history that are often ignored, such as history of computing in countries other than the USA or UK. Another aspect was how, even today, the contribution of women in history is often ignored, which Ursula herself has been able to correct in some cases.

The well received lectures centred around what every computer scientist should know about computer history. Professor Martin is pictured at various stages throughout the lectures and with Head of School, Prof Simon Dobson, DLS Coordinator, Prof Ian Gent and Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sally Mapstone. Read more about Professor Martin and the individual lectures in what every computer scientist should know about computer history. Recordings of each lecture can be viewed at the end of this post.

Images courtesy of Ryo Yanagida.

Lecture 1- The Early History of Computing: Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage and the early history of programming.

Lecture 2 – Case Study, Alan Turing, Grace Hopper, and the history of programming.

Lecture 3- What do historians of computing do, and why is it important for computer scientists today.

DLS: What Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Computer History

Event details

  • When: 10th October 2017 09:30 - 16:00
  • Where: Byre Theatre
  • Series: Distinguished Lectures Series
  • Format: Distinguished lecture

What Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Computer History

Prof Ursula Martin

Update: Lectures will be live streamed at this link.

Distinguished Lecture Series, Semester 1, 2017-18


Professor Ursula Martin CBE FREng FRSE joined the University of Oxford as Professor of Computer Science in 2014, and is a member of the Mathematical Institute.  She holds an EPSRC Established Career Fellowship, and a Senior Research Fellowship at Wadham College. Her research, initially in algebra, logic and the use of computers to create mathematical proofs, now focuses on wider social and cultural approaches to understanding the success and impact of current and historical computer science research.

Prof Ursula Martin

Prof Ursula Martin

Before joining Oxford she worked at  Queen Mary University of London, where she was Vice-Principal for Science and Engineering (2005-2009), and Director of the impactQM project (2009-2012), an innovative knowledge transfer initiative. She serves on numerous international committees, including the Royal Society’s Diversity Committee and the UK Defence Science Advisory Council.  She worked  at the University of St Andrews from 1992 – 2002, as only its second female professor, and its first in over 50 years. She holds an MA in Mathematics from Cambridge, and a PhD in Mathematics from Warwick.


9.30 Introduction

9.35 Lecture 1:  The early history of computing: Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and the history of programming

10.35 Break with Refreshments Provided

11.15 Lecture 2: Case study, Alan Turing,  Grace Hopper, and the history of getting things right

12.15 Lunch (not provided)

2.30 Welcome by the Principal, Prof Sally Mapstone

2.35 Lecture 3: What do historians of computing do, and why is it  important for computer scientists today

3.30 Close

Lecture 1. The early history of computing: Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and the history of programming

IN 1843 Ada Lovelace published a remarkable paper in which she explained  Charles Babbage’s designs for his Analytical Engine. Had it been built, it would have had in principle the same capabilities  as a modern general purpose computer. Lovelace’s paper is famous for its insights into more general questions, as well as for its detailed account of how the machine performed its calculations – illustrated with a large table which is often called, incorrectly, the “first programme”.   I’ll talk about the wider context; why people were interested in computing engines; and some of the other work that was going on at the time, for example Babbage’s remarkable hardware description language. I’ll  look at different explanations for why Babbage’s ideas did not take off, and give a quick overview of what did happen over the next 100 years, before  the invention of the first digital computers.

Lecture 2. Case study, Alan Turing,  Grace Hopper, and the history of getting things right

Getting software right was a theme of programming for the days of Babbage onwards. I’ll look at the work of pioneers Alan Turing and Grace Hopper, and talk about the long interaction of computer science with logic, which has led to better programming languages, new ways to prove programmes correct, and sophisticated mathematical theories of importance in their own right.  I’ll look at the history of the age-old debate about whether computer science needs mathematics to explain its main ideas, or whether practical skills, building things and making things simple for the user are more important.

Lecture 3: What do historians of computing do, and why is it  important for computer scientists today

When people think about computer science, they think about ideas and technologies that are transforming the future – smaller faster smarter connected devices, powered by, AI, and big data – and looking at the past can be seen as a bit of a waste of time. In this lecture I’ll look at what historians do and why it is important; how we get history wrong; and in particular often miss the contribution of of women.  I’ll illustrate my talk with  my own work on Ada Lovelace’s papers, to show how  detailed historical work is needed to debunk popular myths – it is often claimed that Lovelace’s talent was  “poetical science” rather than maths, but I’ve shown that she was a gifted perceptive and knowledgeable mathematician. I’ll explain how the historian’s techniques of getting it right can help us get to grip with  topical problems like “Fake news”, and give us new ways of thinking about the future.

Distinguished Lecture Series 2017: Dr David Manlove

On March 31st, Dr David Manlove from the University of Glasgow, delivered the semester two distinguished lectures in Lower and Upper College Hall. The overall title was algorithms for healthcare-related matching problems.

David started with an overview of complexity theory and solving hard problems. He gave examples of this in practice, for example how researchers constructed a best-possible tour around the best 20,000 pubs in the UK. The second lecture focussed on how to assign junior doctors to hospitals in the best way, a very practical problem but with interesting complexity issues. The final lecture focussed on the life-changing topic of how to set up exchanges of kidneys between healthy donors and patients needing transplants. David talked about how his expertise in algorithms has been translated into regularly finding the best possible matches which then result in real transplants taking place.

David is pictured above at various stages of the distinguished lecture series and outside College Hall with Head of School, Prof Steve Linton, Prof Ian Gent and Dr Ishbel Duncan,

Videos from the DLS can be accessed on Vimeo –
Lecture 1: https://vimeo.com/211633740
Lecture 2: https://vimeo.com/211634119
Lecture 3: https://vimeo.com/211634923

Images courtesy of Ryo Yanagida.

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

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.
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Distinguished Lecture Series 2016: Prof. Julie McCann

Earlier this month Professor Julie McCann from Imperial College London, delivered the next set of distinguished lectures for 2016, in Lower and Upper College Hall. The three topical, well attended and interesting lectures centred around Distributed Systems and Sensing and discussed how sensor networks are being used today, how other sciences will impact the research area, how such systems are programmed and finished by introducing ongoing challenges in terms of scalability, resilience and security.

Professor McCann is pictured below at various stages of the distinguished lecture series, and with Director of Research, Professor Simon Dobson and Dean of Science, Professor Alan Dearle.



Videos from the DLS can be accessed on Vimeo –
Lecture 1: https://vimeo.com/192134381
Lecture 2: https://vimeo.com/192135351
Lecture 3: https://vimeo.com/192137007

Images courtesy of Saleem Bhatti

DLS: Distributed Systems and Sensing by Prof. Julie McCann

Event details

  • When: 7th November 2016 09:15 - 16:00
  • Where: Lower College Hall
  • Series: Distinguished Lectures Series
  • Format: Distinguished lecture


Semester 1


Distributed Systems and Sensing


Julie McCann


7th November 2016

Lower and Upper College Halls



By Professor Simon Dobson

School of Computer Science

University of St Andrews

The first of this academic year’s distinguished lectures will be given by Professor Julie McCann, Imperial College, London on Monday 7th November 2016 at Lower and Upper College Halls.



Chirping, self-organising, adaptive and intelligent tiny computers are beginning to enter both the market and people’s homes, performing various monitoring and control duties. From Google’s self-drive cars to the walls of modern office blocks, these simple devices are talking to each other in highly intelligent ways, mimicking the collective behaviour of insect colonies, for example, to overcome individual failures or changes in the local environment.




Prof Julie A. McCann is a Professor of Computer Systems in Imperial College London (IC), where she leads the Adaptive Embedded Systems Engineering Research Group, she is Director for the Imperial wide Centre for Smart Connected Futures, Co-Director of the Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Cities and she is CI for the NEC Smart Water Systems Lab and many other substantive projects with industry and academia with a focus on networking and sensing infrastructures to support environments such as smart cities, water and gas networks etc. She is CI on the EPSRC energy/water/food nexus WefWebs project where her focus is on precision farming and wine making.

Likewise, her NERC FUSE project designed and deployed a now patented sensing infrastructure for floodplain monitoring in Oxfordshire. Her research centres on highly decentralized and self-organizing scalable embedded frugal computing systems where one avoids a single point of failure to produce truly scalable solutions. She is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and is the Associate Editor for ACM Transactions on Adaptive Autonomic Systems (TAAS), has been General and Technical chair for the IEEE International Conference on Self-Adaptive and Self-Organising systems (SASO) and IEEE SECON 2016, SMARTCOMP 2017 and has been on the programme committee for IEEE INFOCOM, ACM UBICOMP and many more. Julie has presented her work in A* conferences and keynoted at the Indian Science Conclave Congregation of Nobel Prize Winners, for the encouragement of disadvantaged kids into science and computing in 2008.




Programme:   Monday 7th November 2016


09:15 – 09:30



  By Professor Simon Dobson  

09:30 – 10:30


Lecture 1:

  Professor Julie McCann will initially talk through how Wireless Sensor Networks are being used today and what other sciences will impact this subject leading to the ability to have Programmable Matter.  

10:30 – 11:00


Coffee Break

    Refreshments served

11:00 – 12:00


Lecture 2:

  In her second talk she will come very much down to earth and discuss how such systems are programmed today in terms of the hardware stack that composes them and the protocols that allow them to collaborate.  

12:00 – 14:00


Lunch Break

  Free time  

14:00 – 15:00


Lecture 3:

  Prof McCann will introduce some of the challenges that still remain, such as scaling this technology to larger dimensions but to also make them more resilient as well as secure etc. and the challenges that control adds to the system.  

15:00 – 15:30



Q & A Session:


  Open forum





Distinguished Lecture Series 2016: Dr Maria Klawe

Dr Maria Klawe, the first woman president of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California delivered the first set of Distinguished Lectures for 2016, in the Byre Theatre. Given the decline in female participation in the tech industry, the three highly relevant, moving, well attended and thought-provoking lectures centred around Computer Science for All. The three lectures focused on Computing Education for School Children, Diversity in Undergraduate Education and Computing Research and People with Disabilities. Maria also delivered a lecture for The Andrew Carnegie Lecture Series: Getting More Woman into Technology Careers to a wider audience prior to the DLS.




Slides from the Distinguished Lecture Series
Lecture1: Computing Education for all in K-12 Education
Lecture2: Diversity in Undergraduate Education
Lecture3: Computing Research and People with Disabilities

Images courtesy of Saleem Bhatti

Distinguished Lecture Series: Reminder of next event – ‘CS for All’ by President Maria Klawe

Event details

  • When: 31st March 2016 09:00 - 16:00
  • Where: Byre Theatre
  • Series: Distinguished Lectures Series
  • Format: Distinguished lecture

Reminder that President Maria Klawe will be speaking at our Distinguished Lecture Series on March 31st 2016 in St Andrews.KlaweMaria

During this event Maria  will discuss the challenges in CS for all, including CS education in K-12, computing for all in undergraduate education, and CS research aimed at people with accessibility challenges and creating educational and research opportunities around the applications of computational technologies in almost every discipline and economic sector.

Programme of events:

  • 09:00 – 09:30
    • Introduction: By Professor Aaron Quigley
  • 09:30 – 10:30
    • Lecture 1: Computing for all in K-12 education
  • 10:30 – 11:00
    • Coffee Break: Refreshments served in foyer
  • 11:00 – 12:00
    • Lecture 2: Computing for all in undergraduate education
  • 12:00 – 14:00
    • Lunch Break: Free time
  • 14:00 – 15:00
    • Lecture 3: Computing for all in research
  • 15:00 – 15:30
    • Q & A: Open forum in the auditorium
  • 15:30 – 16:00
    • Informal time with Speaker: In the foyer

School of Computer Science: Distinguished Lecture Series

The School of Computer Science in the University of St Andrews is pleased to announce the next set of Distinguished Lectures (DLS) leading up to the 50th anniversary of the series in 2019.

The next DLS will be delivered by Maria Klawe the president of Harvey Mudd College and former president of the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) on Thursday March 31st, location to be confirmed.

The well attended Distinguished Lecture Series were initiated by Professor Jack Cole in 1969 with a view to exposing students and other interested parties to leading edge topics in Computer Science.

Professor Jack Cole

Professor Jack Cole

All alumni of the school are invited to return and join us in St Andrews for the DLS, and In time we will extend further invitations to the larger 50th Anniversary events in 2019.

Previous Distinguished Lectures held in Lower College Hall and The Byre Theatre

Previous Distinguished Lectures held in Lower College Hall and The Byre Theatre