Back to Latest News

News Archive : October - December 2009

New Computer Science building progress

Date Added: 22nd December 2009
Our new building continues to progress, as work is done to make the building weather-proof so internal work can begin.

A recent site visit shows the new Department of Computer Science building at Heslington East is moving on apace. The New Year will bring more work on the interior. Check out our updated pictures of the building:

Computer Science project at the International Review on e-Science

Date Added: 2nd December 2009
The Distributed Aircraft Maintenance Environment (DAME) project will be part of the International Review of e-Science in December.

The International Review on e-Science is taking place at the All Hands Meeting 2009 in Oxford in December. The All Hands Meeting has become the annual event where computational scientists and technologists can come together to share, discuss and advance the exciting research that has grown out of the e-Science Programme.

This year's meeting coexists with the IEEE e-Science meeting, bringing the UK community together with the international leaders in e-Science. AHM 2009 is also the central venue for the RCUK Review on e-Science. This will showcase the activities of the e-Science programme and the community it has created.

The Distributed Aircraft Maintenance Environment (DAME) project, a collaboration between the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield, York and Oxford, and Rolls-Royce, is an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded e-Science project. The project was led by York and completed in 2004 and the results from this review will influence future funding programs in EPSRC.

DAME demonstrated how Grid technology could facilitate the design and development of decision support systems for diagnosis and maintenance of Aero engines, in which geographically distributed resources, actors and data are combined within a virtual organisation. A proof of concept demonstrator was built around the business scenario of a distributed aircraft engine maintenance environment, motivated by the needs of Rolls-Royce and its information system partner Data Systems and Solutions. This work has gone on to be very successfully applied in rail, power generation and transport by Cybula Ltd., the University spin off set up by Professor Jim Austin, from the Department of Computer Science.

The review will also look at work in the White Rose Grid and eScience centre, a collaboration between York, Sheffield and Leeds supporting grid and distributed computing. For more information about the Review on e-Science, please visit and for more information about the DAME project, please visit For information about Cybula, please visit

Department contributes to Haddon-Cave Nimrod Review

Date Added: 29th October 2009
Two academics from the Department of Computer Science have assisted in The Nimrod Review.

The Nimrod Review is an independent review undertaken by Charles Haddon-Cave QC, to investigate the loss of the RAF Nimrod MR2 Aircraft XV230 in Afghanistan in 2006.

The work of Professor John McDermid, Head of Department, and Dr Tim Kelly, Senior Lecturer, on safety management and safety critical systems is quoted in the Review, released on 28 October 2009.

Professor McDermid and Dr Kelly are both part of the High Integrity Systems Engineering (HISE) Group, which undertakes research and teaching in systems and software engineering, emphasising safety and security-critical applications.

The HISE Group was pleased to be in a position to assist the review conducted, and that the input of Professor McDermid and Dr Kelly was found valuable. Moving forward, the HISE Group hopes to be of service in working with all of the stakeholders involved to help address the recommendations raised by the Haddon-Cave report.

Head of Department honoured with prestigious Fellowship

Date Added: 26th October 2009
Professor John McDermid, Head of the Department of Computer Science has been awarded the title of Visiting Fellow by QinetiQ.

This honour is in recognition of his distinguished research in safety and software engineering and his valuable collaborations with QinetiQ over many years. The title of Visiting Fellow is awarded to those who are not QinetiQ employees, but who are performing work consistent with the standards expected of QinetiQ Fellows and Senior Fellows. The award is a mark of respect for high calibre individuals who are working alongside QinetiQ employees.

Professor McDermid’s work, as Research Lead of the High Integrity Systems Engineering Group in the Department of Computer Science, looks at systems and software engineering, emphasising safety and security-critical applications. The group uses strong industrial links to validate theory by using real-world problems in domains as diverse as defence, aerospace and healthcare.

Professor McDermid said, “It is an enormous honour to be awarded this Fellowship, and I am very pleased that my work has been recognised by an industry leader.”

More information about Professor John McDermid can be found at

York academics win £1m grant for hiJaC project

Date Added: 23rd October 2009
Three Computer Science academics have been awarded a grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to continue their work on High-Integrity Java Applications (hiJaC).

Ana Cavalcanti, Andy Wellings and Jim Woodcock will be contributing to an international effort to produce a high-integrity, real-time version of perhaps one of the most popular programming languages ever: Java.

The project will develop a sound framework for specification, analysis, design and programming of verified real-time systems, using Circus, a programming language. Circus has previously been applied in the verification of control systems in an industrial collaboration supported by EPSRC, and Ana Cavalcanti and Jim Woodcock both had major roles in the design and formalisation of Circus and its development techniques.

As Java is entering industrial automation and automotive markets, more support is needed, and the first Java Powered Industrial Robot, developed by Sun Microsystems, will be the main case study for this research.

The researchers propose to extend and exploit the rich collection of applicable languages and theories based on Circus and the Unifying Theory of Programming to produce a workable solution for the next generation of safety-critical programs.

York supports one voice for Computer Science

Date Added: 21st October 2009
A new learned society, set up to present a unified voice on areas such as research policy and how computing is taught in schools, is supported by the Department of Computer Science.

The Academy of Computing is being spearheaded by the British Computer Society, together with the UK Computing Research Committee and the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing.

Professor John McDermid, Head of Computer Science at York, speaking in Research Fortnight, welcomes the initiative: “If the academy becomes accepted by various government bodies as representative of the community then I think that will do us a great deal of good. But it will take time to establish that degree of credibility with research councils and other bodies.”

Professor McDermid believes that the Academy will also help students wanting to study computing: “Historically, teaching in schools has been geared towards the use of computers rather than for those interested in studying computing. Having an academy that helps to decide appropriate content for courses would do the computing community, and country, good.”

The Academy will also work to engage the public and promote the value and impact of computing research.

York CS student success at 2009 SET Awards

Date Added: 16th October 2009
James Hogan won the Best Computational Science Student Award at the 2009 SET (Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year) Awards.

The SET Awards are based principally on performance in final year projects. James's project, Multi-spectral Satellite Imagery, was supervised by Will Smith and focused on devising a system for correcting the ‘shadows’ found in multi-spectral satellite imagery.

Dr Steve King, deputy head of the Department of Computer Science, said: “James’s was a very ambitious project that demonstrates the high standards our students aspire to. His award is a credit both to him and the department as a whole.”

York CS academics win international conference prize

Date Added: 8th October 2009
Professor Edwin Hancock and Shenping Xia won the prize for best paper at the Fifteenth International Conference on Image Analysis and Processing.

The paper, entitled Learning Class Specific Hypergraphs, built upon long standing research within the Department, showing how machines can learn to recognise image structures based on the arrangement of salient feature points in order to improve object recognition performance from large collections of images.

The conference, held in Vietri sul Mare, Italy, in September, is in its 30th year, and typically attracts between 200 and 300 submissions.

Professor Hancock is a Professor of Computer Vision and Head of the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition research group in the Department of Computer Science, and is a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award Holder.

Shenping Xia was an academic visitor to the Department from the Chinese University of Defence Technology, sponsored by the China Scholarships Programme. A grant to further the work has been awarded by the Chinese National Science Foundation.

York graduate wins Constraint Programming award

Date Added: 7th October 2009
York PhD graduate, Dr Chris Jefferson, has been awarded the Association of Constraint Programming Doctoral Research Award.

The award is based on the originality, impact, and quality of the research work, and the evaluation considers all contributions to the Constraint Programming community, including publications, software and systems. Chris has been invited to give a one-hour plenary talk at the International Conference on Principles and Practice of Constraint Programming.

The award committee identified three areas of his work as particularly important. First, Chris’s doctoral thesis, "Representations in Constraint Programming", which he gained at York under the supervision of Dr Alan Frisch, is an ambitious attempt to provide a formalism to the issue of representing variables, a key concept in constraint programming. Second, Chris’s work on symmetry (some of which is included in his dissertation) has provided influential structure and insight to the field. Some of this work is included in a paper that was awarded a best paper prize at the CP 2005 conference. Finally, Chris has made major contributions to the modeling language Essence and to the software systems Conjure and, particularly, Minion. These languages and systems have been developed based on Chris's work in representation and have proven to be tremendous assets to the field and major impetuses for continuing improvements in many constraint programming languages and systems.

Since the completion of his thesis in 2007, Chris has been working at the Oxford University Computing Laboratory.

York CS PhD - runner up in this year's BCS Distinguished Dissertation Competition

Date Added: 1st October 2009
Dr Fan Zhang has been named as a runner up in this year's BCS Distinguished Dissertation Competition. This annual competition aims to identify the best UK PhD thesis in Computer Science.

The decision is based on the reports of international referees, and is adjudicated by a panel of leading computer scientists from the UK. This is the first time since 2002 that a thesis from York has reached the finals of the competition, in which each UK university can submit up to four entries. Fan will receive his runner-up award at a presentation ceremony at the Royal Society on 4th November.

Fan's thesis entitled. 'Geometric and Probabilistic Methods for Non-Euclidean Image Analysis' was supervised by Professor Edwin Hancock, in the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Group. Prior to undertaking his PhD at York, Fan took undergraduate and masters courses in Computer Science and Engineering at Zhejiang University. He now works for IBM.

The thesis concerns the problem of how to carry out statistical analysis of data that is constrained to reside on a surface (a so-called manifold) rather than being allowed to occur anywhere within a volume. Data of this sort arises in many practical imaging problems including diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTMRI), which is widely used in the analysis of brain structure and the medical diagnosis of  brain disease. Fan shows how  to use the ideas developed in his thesis to develop practical computer algorithms for  removing the effects of noise and for detecting structures such as fibre tracts in DTMRI. This smoothing is effected by modelling  the effects of noise as heat flow using the so-called diffusion equation.

During his PhD thesis, Fan and Professor Hancock won the Piero Zamperoni best paper prize at the 2006 International Conference on Pattern Recognition, and published extensively in the leading journals and conferences in the fields of medical imaging and pattern recognition (Medical Image Analysis, Pattern Recognition, MICCAI, ICPR etc). Fan also spent three months working in Guido Gerig's lab at the University of North Carolina supported by the William Gibbs Award.