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News Archive : January - March 2009

Computer Science & 'CPD4 Health Innovation'

Date Added: 17th March 2009
Staff in CS are delivering a masterclass to professionals working in industry, academia and the NHS who are involved in the design, evaluation, implementation and use of health care technologies

Professor John McDermid and Dr Mark Nicholson will be delivering a masterclass in "System Safety for Patient Safety" at the Department of Computer Science on Monday 20 April 2009.

This masterclass is being delivered in collaboration with CPD4 Health Innovation, who are developing an exciting programme of CPD courses for the health sector. The team in Computer Science has considerable experience in delivering CPD courses in safety engineering and management to industry. Following the masterclass, a one week CPD course in system safety engineering for patient safety is to be delivered. This will emphasise the importance of building in safety as an integral part of health care systems at design time.

For more information visit or email

Science Discovery lecture: "Lessons from biology for tomorrow's technology"

Date Added: 4th March 2009
On March 19th, Professor Jon Timmis will be giving this year's Merchant Adventurers' Science Discovery Lecture.

This annual lecture, held in the historic Merchant Adventurers' Hall in York, was instituted in 1997 as a platform from which the University could inform the people of the City of York of the discoveries made by the University. The lecture is put on jointly by the University and the Merchant Adventurers of the city of York. Each lecture focusses upon an important contribution which has been made to academic knowledge in the pure and applied sciences, but also demonstrates how this contribution can be applied for the benefit of mankind. The lecture is addressed to a mixed lay audience, comprising teachers, students, business and other special interest groups.

This year's lecture is being given, on Thursday 19 March, by Professor Jon Timmis, who works jointly in the Departments of Computer Science and Electronics. Jon's title is 'Lessons from Biology for tomorrow's technology'.

Jon explains: "Living organisms have an amazing capacity to adapt, learn and repair - think how the human body heals itself and plants and animals adjust to suit their environments. In an increasingly complex technological world, scientists are using these 'smart' biological systems as inspiration to help them to build complex artificial systems that can operate without the need of humans, and can repair themselves. In this lecture, we examine how natural neural, immune and hormonal systems can be used to help to develop artificial equivalents that mimic the properties of their natural counterparts, and show how technology can then adapt, learn and repair itself."

Sir William Siemens medal

Date Added: 12th February 2009
The Sir William Siemens medal has been awarded to final year student Gary Plumbridge

Congratulations to Gary Plumbridge, MEng final year student, on the award of a Sir William Siemens Medal for outstanding performance in the first three years of the programme. The medal was presented by Andreas Goss, CEO, Siemens NWE Cluster, at a ceremony in the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. The ceremony was attended by winners from seventeen of the most prestigious university engineering and science departments.

Social Impact award for York HCI professor

Date Added: 30th January 2009
Congratulations to Professor Helen Petrie, who has been awarded the Social Impact Award for 2009 by the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction.

This prestigious award, from one of the world's top HCI research organisations, is given to those who 'promote the application of human-computer interaction research to pressing social needs'.

The ACM-SIGCHI citation states: 'For the past 15 years she has conducted internationally-recognized research on the use of computers and new technologies for people with disabilities and older people. Helen has been involved in more than 30 British and international projects in this area and has over 100 publications. Projects include location-based services for blind people to help them navigate streets, facilitating the use of mobile technologies for people with visual impairments, and multi-media and multi-modal reading systems to encourage access to books. Her team conducted the largest study in the world of web accessibility for people with disabilities, which emphasized the importance of user testing in this area and was awarded the British Interactive Media Association "Expert's Award" for 2004. She has received a Royal Television Society Technical Innovation Prize, a Best of CHI award for her research into remote usability evaluation methods with disabled people, and is a trustee of FAST, a UK charity that brings innovative products to market and improves services for disabled and older people.'

The award will be presented at the ACM-SIGCHI Conference in April. Further details at

Successes in Software Engineering

Date Added: 7th January 2009
Introducing the "Engineering Doctorate" and the "Software Systems Engineering Initiative"

The University has been successful in setting up two new collaborative initiatives:

Engineering Doctorate

The EPSRC funded a five year research programme in Large Scale Complex IT Systems (LSCITS) as a collaboration between Bristol, Leeds, Oxford, St Andrews and York. The research programme started in October 2007.

York also led a bid for an Engineering Doctorate (EngD) programme, associated with the LSCITS programme; this was approved at an EPSRC panel meeting on 7th February. An EngD is a four year programme which, unlike a PhD, involves a taught component similar in scope to an MSc. The taught element will deal with issues in the development and assessment of complex systems but will also cover aspects of business development (entrepreneurship) and management. The research part of the EngD will be carried out in industry, and several major companies, e.g. IBM, and local SMEs such as Salamander, have expressed an interest in hosting students who are known as Research Engineers (REs).

The LSCITS EngD core modules will be taught at York, with optional modules being delivered at Bristol, Oxford, St Andrews and York. The EngD also involves the York Management School who will be teaching the management aspects of the EngD programme. The first students are expected to start in April 2009.

Software Systems Engineering Initiative

The University is also to play a key role in High Integrity and Safety Critical Software (HI&SCS) as 'the critical enabling technology' for modern defence platforms, network enabled capability and complex infrastructure, and has set up the Software Systems Engineering Initiative (SSEI) to be its major initiative to improve technology and practice in this area.

The SSEI will be a 'virtual team' led by BAE Systems, but the initial research work will have a strong presence in the Department of Computer Science at York. It will also involve University spin-off company YorkMetrics.

Management and research work will also involve; IBM; MBDA; QinetiQ; Aerosystems International; the Systems Engineering Innovation Centre at Loughborough University; Newcastle University; EDS, Selex, Oxford University and Dstl.

The SSEI was formally launched at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London on February 25th, at a meeting hosted by Lieutenant General Andrew Figgures.

Professor John McDermid, head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of York, will be SSEI's Technical Director, and the SSEI will operate out of premises on the York Science Park.

25 Years of IET course accreditation

Date Added: 6th January 2009

The Department of Computer Science, and the Department of Electronics have recently been awarded a plaque by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) (formerly the Institution of Electrical Engineers) to celebrate the fact that courses at the University have been accredited by the IET/IEE for 25 years. According to Dr Steve King, Deputy Head of Department (Teaching), 'We are very glad to be able to celebrate our ongoing relationship with IET: we know that the standard of our teaching and course content is high, but it is good to have the recognition of an important external body. We know too that prospective applicants to our courses appreciate the mark of quality that IET accreditation represents.'

Dr Jon Timmis (Computer Science/Electronics) has been appointed a Visiting Professor

Date Added: 6th January 2009

Dr Jon Timmis (Computer Science/Electronics) has been appointed a Visiting Professor at the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT). This position will strengthen on-going collaborations in the area of immune-inspired engineering between Dr Timmis and the Department of Electrical Engineering at Helsinki University of Technology.

Quad Prize awarded to Ed Powley - one of our talented research students

Date Added: 6th January 2009

Ed Powley, an RS in the Dept, has won a prize at an international conference for proving the "computational universality" of an incredibly simple system. In setting up the challenge and offering the prize, Toffoli, one of the leading members of the field, stated that such a proof was "not expected to be an easy task".

For more info visit AUTOMATA 2008 Quad Prize Winner.

White Rose Grid e-Science Centre Secures 5 Years of Funding

Date Added: 6th January 2009
The White Rose Grid is a shared enterprise between York, Leeds, and Sheffield under the White Rose Consoritium banner to promote and provide Grid computing infrastructure across the three sites.

The White Rose Grid has been awarded funding for an additional five years, after stiff competition. The White Rose Grid Centre joins with Oxford/Reading, Belfast, and Edinburgh/Glasgow in this honour.

The White Rose Grid is a shared enterprise between York, Leeds, and Sheffield under the White Rose Consoritium banner to promote and provide Grid computing infrastructure across the three sites. The e-Science Centre forms a hub for developing new functionality and nurturing new collaborations both within the White Rose Grid community and further afield. York's involvement in the centre is managed through Computer Science.

A detailed programme of events and work will be announced in the next few weeks.