Semantics for probabilistic programming, Dr Chris Heunen

Semantics for probabilistic programming, Dr Chris Heunen

03.10.17, 1pm, Room JCB 1.33B

Abstract: Statistical models in e.g. machine learning are traditionally
expressed in some sort of flow charts. Writing sophisticated models
succintly is much easier in a fully fledged programming language. The
programmer can then rely on generic inference algorithms instead of
having to craft one for each model. Several such higher-order functional
probabilistic programming languages exist, but their semantics, and
hence correctness, are not clear. The problem is that the standard
semantics of probability theory, given by measurable spaces, does not
support function types. I will describe how to get around this.

Monads and Lenses – Dr James Cheney

Talk Title:  Monads and Lenses


Monads are an abstraction that can be used to mathematically model computational effects (among other things).  Lenses are an abstraction for bidirectional computation, a generalization of the view-update problem.  In this talk I will discuss ways to combine them and why it might be interesting to do so.


This talk is on joint work with Faris Abou-Saleh, Jeremy Gibbons, James McKinna and Perdita Stevens conducted as part of the recently-concluded project “A theory of least change for bidirectional transformations”.

Event details

  • When: 17th July 2017 13:00 - 14:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Format: Colloquium, Seminar

Please take part in our 10 minute survey about the use of Open Researcher and Contributor IDs (ORCID):

Are you a researcher or research student? Please take part in our 10 minute survey about the use of Open Researcher and Contributor IDs (ORCID):

This survey aims to establish the extent to which researchers at the University of St Andrews are using ORCID identifiers during their work. The survey will collect anonymous data about the awareness and use of ORCID iDs amongst researchers and will only take 5 – 10 minutes to complete.

You will be able to indicate your interest in taking part in a follow-up interview. This is entirely voluntary and does not affect participation in the online survey or its results.

You will also have a chance to win a £100 Amazon voucher by providing your email address at the end of the survey. Again, this is entirely voluntary and will be independent from participation in the voluntary follow-up interviews.

This research is carried out in the context of an MSc project by Eva Borger at the School of Computer Science in collaboration with the University Library. For more information, contact Eva at .

To access the survey, follow this link:

Responses will be collected until 14th July 2017.

Ethics approval: CS12882

If you would like help setting up an ORCID ID or linking it to your Pure Profile, you can contact Jennifer Pritchard or Norman Stewart at .

The Library’s Digital Research division also holds Open Office Hours every Wednesday 2pm-4pm, in the Old Union Diner, Butts Wynd (off North Street) where the team are available for advice regarding Open Access, Research Data Management, Pure, ORCID, Research Computing and Digital Humanities

Thank you!


Eva Borger

PhD (Neuroscience)

MSc Student Management and IT

University of St Andrews

School of Computer Science



Graduation Celebrations

Wednesday 21st June

As usual the school will host a small reception in the Jack Cole coffee area between 10.30 and 12.30, come along and enjoy a glass of bubbly and a cream cake or two in true Computer Science fashion!

All graduating students, their guests and staff members are invited.


SACHI Seminar: Oliver Schneider and Karon MacLean

We have a SACHI seminar on Monday 12th June 2017 which will be given by two speakers, presenting two connected talks within the normal hour slot.

The speakers are Dr Oliver Schneider from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany and Professor Karon MacLean who is Professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Details for the two talks are as follows.

Title:  Haptic Experience Design: How to Create for Touch

Abstract:  Touch is everywhere in our daily lives, but interactive technology has traditionally prioritized visual and audio feedback. Recently, a variety of haptic feedback methods promise the benefits of touch for application areas like eyes-free feedback, emotional robots, and physically embodied education. However, haptic experiences are challenging to create – designers must draw from expertise in psychology, mechanical engineering, software engineering, and design theory, and work simultaneously with touch, vision, and audio.

To understand and support haptic experience design, we interviewed professional hapticians (makers of haptics) to provide a first definition and description of their process and its constituent challenges. We developed a series of design tools to support rapid, iterative creation of experiences for the most common haptic interface: expressive vibrotactile feedback. By characterizing haptic experience design and informing supportive tools, we make a first step towards establishing haptic design as its own field, akin to graphic and sound design.

Bio:  Oliver Schneider is a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany. His Ph.D. topic at the University of British Columbia (UBC) was Haptic Experience Design: describing the process designers follow when creating haptic experiences and developing software tools to support them. Oliver received his M.Sc. in Computer Science from UBC and a B.Sc. Honours from the University of Saskatchewan, and has worked with Disney Research on novel haptic interactions. Through his research, Oliver seeks to empower people to work creatively with novel haptic, multimodal, and multisensory interactive technology.

Title:  Making and Experimenting with Furry Robots with Feelings

Abstract:  Touch has a major role to play in human-robot interaction. Here, advances in tactile sensing, wearable and context-aware computing as well as robotics more broadly are spurring new ideas about  how to configure the human-robot relationship in terms of roles and utility, which in turn expose new technical and social design questions.

This talk will focus on my group’s recent work on haptic or physical human-robot interaction, where we aim to bring effective haptic interaction into people’s lives by examining how touch (in either direction) can help address human needs with the benefit of both low- and high-tech innovation. I will give a sense of these efforts from three perspectives, each involving significant technical and evaluative design challenges: sensing emotive touch, designing expressive robot bodies and behaviours, and creating evaluative scenarios where participants experience genuine – and changing – emotions as they interact with our robots.

Bio:  Karon MacLean is Professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia, Canada, with a B.Sc. in Biology and Mech. Eng. (Stanford) and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. (Mech. Eng., MIT)  and time spent as professional robotics engineer (Center for Engineering Design, University of Utah) and interaction researcher (Interval Research, Palo Alto). At UBC since 2000, her research specializes in haptic interaction: cognitive, sensory and affective design for people interacting with the computation we touch, emote and move with, whether robots, touchscreens or mobile activity sensors. Special Advisor on Knowledge Mobilization to UBC Faculty of Science; Charles A. McDowell Award, 2008; Assoc Editor of  IEEE Transactions on Haptics; co-chair of the 2010 and 2012 IEEE Haptics Symposium; Director of UBC’s pan-university Designing for People Research Cluster.

Seminar: Propagation and Reification: SAT and SMT in Prolog (continued)

Jacob Howe, City University, London

Abstract: This talk will recap how a watched literal DPLL based SAT solver can be succinctly coded in 20 lines of Prolog. The focus of the talk will be the extension of this solver to an SMT solver which will be discussed with a particular focus on the case where the theory is that of rational-tree constraints, and its application in a reverse engineering problem.
[Note change of time from that previously advertised]

Event details

  • When: 23rd June 2017 13:00 - 14:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Series: AI Seminar Series
  • Format: Seminar

Implementing Event-Driven Microservices Architecture using Functional programming


BIO: Nikhil Barthwal is a polyglot programmer currently working as a Senior Software Engineer at, an e-commerce startup recently acquired by Walmart. He works in the Tools & Productivity team with the aim of making developers more productive, as well as improving the quality of the code. Outside of work, he is involved with local meetups in New York city where he gives talks on various topics related to technology. He holds a Master’s in Computer Science with special focus on Distributed Systems and a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering.

ABSTRACT: Web services are typically stateless entities, that need to operate at scale at large. Functional paradigm can be used to model these web services work and offer several benefits like scalability, productivity, and correctness.

This talk describes how implemented their Event-Driven Microservices using F#. It covers topics like their Microservices, Event-Sourcing, Kafka, Build & Deployment pipeline. The objective of the talk is show how to create a scalable & highly distributed web service in F#, and demonstrate how various characteristics of functional paradigm capture the behavior of such services architecture very naturally.

Event details

  • When: 8th March 2017 15:00 - 16:00
  • Where: TBA
  • Series: CS Colloquia Series
  • Format: Colloquium, Seminar

Seminar: The technology driving the evolution of internet advertising, targeted advertising or intrusive surveillance?

“The technology driving the evolution of internet advertising, targeted advertising or intrusive surveillance?”

 Tim Palmer, Senior Partner, Digiterre (


Event details

  • When: 27th February 2017 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Series: CS Colloquia Series
  • Format: Seminar