Thursday, 26 May 2011

SICSA PhD Conference 2011

Hello All,

After our riddle, I'm now sure you are all keen to know what the SICSA PhD conference is. SICSA stands for Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance and involves all the Computer Science and Informatics departments in Scotland. The Phd Conference is done by students for students. It is a great opportunity for all PhD students of these universities to meet and discuss about their research as well as participate in workshops and talks from experts in the computing research community. The conference is organised by enthusiastic PhD students in collaboration with a team of passionate professors, lectures, officers and assistants.

Enough with the technical details, you can find more in SICSA and SICSAconf, and let's talk about the WONDERS of this year conference.

The conference took place in the Informatics Forum, University of Edinburgh, from Monday the 23rd to Wednesday the 25th of May 2011. Theme of this year: "Does our computing research have an impact on society at large?". Andy, Peter, Toni and I went along with other six students from the Computing Science Department of Aberdeen University.

The conference opened Monday with a warm welcome from Prof. Ian Sommerville and Prof. Rod Murray-Smith, followed by a brilliant talk from Prof. Harold Thimbleby on "Secrets of successful research". Few of those: read at least five theses, start to write your own now, broaden your understanding of the subject through the help of a mentor more aligned with your topic of study or visit someone whose research you admire...

… a secret was missing though... what is the Inspiring Muse of each PhD student? Where did you have your best brainstorming ever? The answer is … a Pub Session!! To comply with this PhD survival norm we hired out the local student bar (the Tron) for the evening. Great opportunity to socialise and discuss about the hidden secrets of computer scientists cheered up by two comedians from the local comedy scene of Edinburgh. On the menu Tennent's, Python, weddings, Talisker, p=?np and much more...

Tuesday was the workshop day. Transferrable skills talks in the morning and four societal challenge in the afternoon. Green IT, Collective Intelligence, Security and Digital Inclusion with over 20 panelists discussing about what are challenges of today's society. How can computers encourage individuals to lead a more "green" lifestyle? How can we improve the integration of new information technologies on the modern society? How can we deal and prevent cyber attacks on secured information? How can we incorporate collective intelligence for useful purposes? If you want more information check out the slides here . A note to remember that dot.rural and Aberdeen Uni were well represented by David Corsar with his talk on "The collectively informed (and intelligent) rural passenger" and Edoardo Pignotti with "Collective intelligence and provenance in digital social research".

And then off to the dinner in an amazing place called 'The Caves" in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town. Good food and good wine, all accompanied by a talk from the writer Ken MacLeod on robots and Artificial Intelligence from a SciFi point of view.

Throughout the conference, over 80 posters had been presented. This was an excellent opportunity for every student to engage in discussions with other students working on similar projects but also to get to know different aspects of the computer science research. And (if I may add) to understand that we are all on the same boat... fighting to find our spot in the community :P !! A competition among posters took place as incentive to contribute in this think tank. The competition ended with 11 finalists and 2 best poster winners. The good news is that three people from Aberdeen Uni made to the final. Two of them made dot.rural proud!! Andy with his poster on "Preventing Profiling in Competitive Communities" and Peter with "Alleviating stress by giving the perception of having a virtual teammate". Well done to them and to all the presenters!!

We closed with an inspiring talk of Prof. John Aycock on "Things they never taught me in grad school". Few tips to remember during the PhD: find an hobby that you are not good at, think after your Phd, and share your knowledge with the public!!

In conclusion, it was a great conference with great opportunities, great people and a lot of good FUNNN!!

A big thanks goes to SICSA and the organisers. And to the staff of Pollock Halls where we stayed.

Here some pictures from the conference...

- Conference moments:

- Pollock Halls:

- dot.rural Delegation

and few more from SICSA PhD Conference 2011 on Flickr:

- Poster sessions with Toni and Andy


- Prof. John Aycock on "A Phd Student crisis of faith"

Prof. John Aycock - Keynote talk

- Work in progress


- Me desperately trying to defend my research... (I lost!)


Alice with a big help from Andy, Peter and Toni

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


...3 days + 13 Scottish universities + over 100 Computer Science PhD students ...

...19 people + 5 months of organisation + 7 meetings + over 300 emails...

...4 keynote speakers + 10 workshops + 20 panelists...

...4 poster sessions + 80 posters + 11 finalists (2 dot.rural!! ) + 2 winners...

...geeky discussions + pub + FUN...

….. = any guess??

….. it's the great SICSA PhD Conference 2011

More on this screen … when we will recover!!