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News Archive : January - March 2012

Paper named "Highlight of 2011" by Institute of Physics

Date Added: 27th March 2012
Congratulations to both Dr Stefano Pirandola and Professor Samuel Braunstein for the inclusion of their paper "Quantum Reading Capacity".

The article first appeared in New Journal of Physics, the journal of the Institute of Physics, in November 2011. The paper explores the maximum amount of data which can be stored on and read from an optical disc, according to the laws of physics.

It is one of only five papers for the whole field of quantum physics to be included in the Highlights of 2011 collection. Articles were chosen on the basis of referee endorsement, impact and broad appeal, to collectively showcase the quality and diversity of the coverage in the New Journal of Physics in 2011.

You can read the paper at and view the rest of the Highlights at

Both academics are members of the Non-Standard Computation research group in the Department. You can find out more about the work of this group at

New funding opportunities available for PhD students

Date Added: 19th March 2012
Thinking of studying for a PhD in 2012? We now have funding available to help you fund your studies.

The Department of Computer Science has a number of EPSRC Doctoral Training Grant (DTG) studentships to award to good UK/EU candidates who are starting on the PhD programme in October 2012. The studentship includes fees (at Home/EU rate) as well as an annual stipend of £13,590.

The deadline for applications is 30 April 2012. For more information about the grants, and how to apply, visit

You can find out what the research interests of the Department are at to help you decide what you would like to study.

York conference examines challenges facing computing science research

Date Added: 13th March 2012
Leading international researchers in Computer Science will address a major conference hosted by the University of York.

The BCS Academy of Computing Symposium, held in association with the UK Computing Research Committee, will bring together computing science researchers from across the UK to talk about research challenges, policy and strategy.

Speakers at the event from 10 to 12 April include Professor Steve Furber, ICL Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Manchester, who will discuss building computer models of the brain. Frank Meyer, Vice-President of Research & Development at Unilever, will discuss “Making sense of Big Data” giving the industry perspective on the challenges facing R&D and data management while moving towards globally applicable products.

Other speakers include Liam Blackwell, Information and Communications Technology Theme Leader at Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Counci (EPSRC), Professor Carlo Ghezzi of the Politecnico di Milano and Tom Rodden, from the Mixed Reality Laboratory at the University of Nottingham.

Workshops will advise participants on writing grant applications and Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact case studies.

The event, held in the University’s superb Ron Cooke Hub which sits at the heart of the University's £750 million campus expansion at Heslington East, will be hosted by Professor John McDermid, Head of the Department of Computer Science at York. Professor McDermid will also close the conference with Professor Muffy Calder, Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland.

Professor McDermid said: “The Symposium offers a forum for researchers in Computer Science to get together and discuss issues such as the upcoming Research Excellence Framework, as well as a chance to learn more about each other’s research.

“We’re very pleased to host the conference here at York. Previous events have been very informative and the involvement of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT and the EPSRC, as well as the good line-up of speakers should give everyone attending some interesting insights into the future of computing science research.”

The Symposium is held alongside the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing Conference, and also incorporates this year’s BCS Karen Spärck Jones Lecture, sponsored by IBM, honouring women in computing research. Carole Goble, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, will give this year’s lecture on “Work with Scientists: Fun, Profit and the e in e-Science”.

There will be a Symposium dinner for delegates at the National Railway Museum in York. For more information and to register for the event visit

York Computer Scientists dig for data

Date Added: 8th February 2012
Historians, archivists and experts in computer science from the Universities of York and Brighton are teaming up to develop new ways of exploring digital historical records.

Together with colleagues from Canada, the United States, and the Netherlands, the researchers will be developing tools to allow people to work effectively and efficiently with the vast amounts of historic material currently being digitized.

The international partnership has received over £420,000 funding under the prestigious international grant competition Digging into Data Challenge for the project ChartEx (charter excavator). The aim is to develop new ways of exploring European medieval charters that deal with the buying, selling or leasing of property.

Charters record legal transactions of property of all kinds: houses, workshops, fields and meadows and describe the people who lived there. Long before records such as censuses or birth registers existed charters were - and still are - the major resource for researching people, for tracing changes in communities over time and for finding ancestors.

Charters also provide detailed evidence of how and why cities, towns and villages have developed over time, allowing researchers to track the ownership of individual parcels of land over centuries and connect them to the histories of the people who lived there.

The project is particularly exciting for York researchers as 2012 is the 800th anniversary of York becoming a self-governing city. On 9 July, 1212, King John signed a special communal charter allowing York’s citizens, rather than the sheriff, to collect and pay the annual tax to the Crown, to hold their own courts and appoint a mayor.

Professor Helen Petrie, from the Human Computer Interaction Research Group here in the Department of Computer Science at York, said: “ChartEx will allow us to develop new ways of exploring the content of digital historic records using a range of techniques from computer science and computational linguistics.

“Using our expertise in human-computer interaction, we will then build a ‘virtual workbench’ for historians allowing them to work much more easily with digital records than currently.”

The Digging into Data Challenge promotes innovative humanities and social science research using large-scale data analysis, creating interdisciplinary and international projects. It is funded by eight international organisations from four countries, including JISC, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) from the UK.

Fourteen teams from the UK, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States have been awarded grants totalling more than £3 million to investigate how computational techniques typically applied to the sciences can be applied to change humanities and social science research.

ChartEx is a collaboration between historians and computer scientists from the Universities of York and Brighton, UK, the University of Washington and Columbia University, USA, the Computer Science Institute of Leiden, Netherlands and the University of Toronto, Canada. The ChartEx project is the only project in the current round of funding to include all four countries.

The project was launched at the first meeting of international partners at The National Archives in London. The National Archives are supplying the digital archives in the UK, together with the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York.

York placed fourth in the Telegraph league table

Date Added: 6th February 2012
In a top ten of Computer Science courses based on employment figures, The Telegraph has placed York fourth.

See what The Telegraph says about our York courses on their website.

Our employment figures for undergraduates are one of the best in the country, with over 95% of our graduates going into graduate level employment within six months of leaving York. Find out more about where our graduates go.

York robots swarm at official opening

Date Added: 24th January 2012
Flying and land based robots will be on display at the launch of a new £250,000 Computer Science robotics laboratory.

The six metre high laboratory provides an ideal base to develop and test swarm robotic systems - small, self-repairing robots.

Swarm robotics could potentially play a vital role in future planetary and deep sea exploration, as well as search and rescue operations. For example, groups of small, inexpensive robots could be used to search for aircraft black boxes following a disaster over water, or as part of search and rescue missions following natural disasters. Teams of robots could cover more ground than one large robot, and should one breakdown, the rest of the group could continue the operation.

York’s research into swarm robotics is led by Professor Jon Timmis who has received a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award for his research into self-healing swarm robotics systems, with funding for five years.

Researchers from the University’s Departments of Electronics and Computer Science are also collaborating on an EU-funded project, developing underwater swarm robotic systems which are capable of carrying out self-organising search and rescue tasks, and relaying information back to a base station.

The new laboratory is allowing researchers to test ideas in a controlled environment before moving into more challenging environments.

To mark the official launch of the robotics laboratory, Professor Timmis will deliver a public lecture and demonstration of swarm robotics on Wednesday, 25 January.

Professor Timmis said: “Our research is concentrating on developing biologically-inspired control systems for lots of small, inexpensive robots working together in swarms. All the robots behave independently, but like a swarm of insects or our immune systems, the robots interact among themselves and alter their behaviour based upon the behaviour of others.

“Our aim is to develop systems to identify individual and collectively failing robots, diagnose what is wrong and then take corrective action to rectify the failure.”

The large 90 metre² arena can be split into smaller areas for research purposes and features a public viewing area, allowing school parties and visitors to watch experiments and research.

Development of the new £21 million Department of Computer Science building, which was officially opened last March, was supported by investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in Yorkshire and the Humber, part of a major infrastructure project led by Science City York to extend the assets and strategic potential of York as a leading centre for science and innovation.

Professor John McDermid, Head of the Department of Computer Science, said: “The new robotics laboratory provides us with a world-class facility at York, allowing us to foster the highest standards of academic excellence.

“Not only does it supply academics and students with a fantastic resource, but we are sure the robotics laboratory will capture the public’s imagination, inspiring more young people to follow a technical education.”

The free public lecture Can a robot have an immune system? is part of the Department of Computer Science’s Roundhouse Lectures series and will include a demonstration of how the robots work.

Admission to the lecture on Wednesday, 25 January in the Ron Cooke Hub, room RCH/037 at 6.45pm is by free ticket only. Visit, email, or phone 01904 324466.

IBM joins Computer Science on the University campus

Date Added: 4th January 2012
We're delighted to welcome a team of software developers from IBM who have recently made the Department of Computer Science their new workplace.

The IBM team is dedicated to the support and development of IBM’s Cognos Financial Performance Management (FPM) software - in particular, new modelling and monitoring tools for the TM1 OLAP database.

TM1 is a multidimensional, in-memory OLAP engine which provides exceptionally fast performance for analysing complex and sophisticated business models, large data sets and also streamed data.

The team, led by Peter Thomas, have been settling in over the last few weeks and are enjoying the new facilities immensely: “Our new environment provides us with all the facilities we need in order to continue our successful research and development projects. Additionally, there now exists an even greater opportunity to extend our working relationship with the University and possibly take our research in new directions.”

Both the University and IBM have long recognised the value of successful collaboration. For example, here in Computer Science, we collaborate regularly with industry to ensure that our teaching is relevant, as well as providing knowledge transfer to organisations and governments worldwide. Collaboration is a key tenet of IBM’s Smarter Planet vision, literally developing ways to use technology to make the world work in a smarter way.

Professor John McDermid OBE FREng, Head of the Department of Computer Science said, "We are delighted to welcome the IBM Lab into Computer Science. We see this as a major step forward in our strategic relationship with IBM. We look forward to identifying ways in which we can work with the IBM team, benefitting from their world-leading work on analytics and finding opportunities for research collaboration."

You can find out more about IBM at