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News Archive : July - September 2014

New launch for Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence

Date Added: 17th September 2014
Today sees the launch of the new EPSRC funded Centre for Doctoral Training.

The new Centre, which includes unique collaborations with over 60 industrial partners, combines PhD research with practical skills training and cutting-edge teaching in the growing area of games.

A collaboration between the University of York, the University of Essex and Goldsmiths, the Centre will will train the next generation of researchers, designers, developers and entrepreneurs in digital games.

The launch includes a two day symposium with keynote speakers including Charles Cecil MBE, of Revolution Software; Alex Champandard, Editor in Chief and Technical Director of industry-leading; and Guy Davidson, Coding Manager, Creative Assembly.

The new intake of students for the Centre will also present their research projects to an audience which includes industry collaborators and leading academics.

To find out more about the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence, visit

You can see the programme for the launch and the IGGI Symposium, which lasts until 18 September at

Ants inspire stem cell research

Date Added: 29th August 2014
A modelling approach developed in the Department of Computer Science will be used to inform stem cell research.

In an exciting new project funded by the BBSRC Tools and Development Fund, Professor Susan Stepney and Drs Julianne Halley and Richard Greaves will be applying the CoSMoS modelling approach (developed in the Department of Computer Science at the University of York) to better understand how embryonic stem cell regulatory networks undergo cell fate decisions in the laboratory.

The production of differentiated cell lineages from pluripotent embryonic stem cells is a remarkable example of biological self-organisation that shares fundamental similarities with the organisation of ant colonies, which Dr Halley studied previously. The team’s principal challenge in interpreting the behaviour of embryonic stem cells is the complexity of their underlying regulatory networks. Indeed, the icon of the modern systems biology era is a ‘hairball graph’, where everything appears to interact with almost everything else.

The team will use computer models to study high throughput data sets provided by collaborators at the Wellcome Trust - Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge. It is anticipated that the computational toolsets that the team develops will become invaluable tools to stem cell researchers striving to better understand and gain knowledge from experimental data. The overarching aim is to extract knowledge more efficiently from large data sets and to use this knowledge to design new types of experiments. Ultimately, the aim is to better control embryonic stem cell differentiation to produce desirable cell type targets.

The team members are all part of the York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis (YCCSA), a community of researchers drawn from different departments developing novel mathematical, computational and analytical methods and tools for the analysis and modelling of complex systems. Prof Susan Stepney is the Director of YCCSA, and a senior member of the Department of Computer Science at York.

Professor Susan Stepney said: “We are very excited about this new project. By approaching the problem from a complex systems science perspective, we hope to shed new light on the self-organisation and emergence of stem cell fate decisions.”

When does a physical system compute?

Date Added: 11th July 2014
Can physical systems from bacteria to black holes act as a computer?

A University of York computer scientist and colleagues from the universities of Oxford and Leeds address this question in newly published research which seeks to define unconventional computational devices.

Professor Susan Stepney, of the Department of Computer Science at York and her fellow researchers propose a framework which which defines and distinguishes scientific experiments, physical computation, and engineering technology.

The evolving focus on the physical basis of computing has been prompted by a growing interest in non-standard computing systems including quantum and biological computers. But there is no consensus on how identify if a physical system is operating as a computer or not.

The new research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A,introduces a formal framework that can be used to determine whether or not a physical system is performing a computation.

The researchers demonstrate how the abstract computational level interacts with the physical device level, drawing the comparison with the use of mathematical models to represent physical objects in experimental science.

This formulation allows a precise description of the similarities between experiments, computation, simulation, and technology, leading the researchers to conclude: physical computing is the use of a physical system to predict the outcome of an abstract evolution.

They give conditions that must be satisfied in order for computation to occur, and illustrate them with a range of non-standard computing scenarios. The framework also covers broader computing contexts, where there is no human computer user. They define the notion of a 'computational entity', and show the role it plays in defining when computing is taking place in physical systems.

Professor Stepney says: “Not every physical event is a computation, and for the first time we can distinguish which systems compute. In the future, this framework will enable the computational activity in biological systems and DNA to be precisely defined. We lay the foundations for computer science as a new natural science.”

The paper ‘When does a physical system compute?’ by Clare Horsman, Susan Stepney, Rob C. Wagner, Viv Kendon is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A

Hashtrack tops the field at University of York’s celebration of student enterprise

Date Added: 10th July 2014
An enterprising first year Computer Science student has won the Outstanding Business category at the University of York’s Exciting New Ventures at York (ENVY) competition.

Alex Woolley collected the top £2,000 prize at the annual celebration of enterprise for his business Hashtrack which takes an innovative approach to collating masses of social media information into an easy to interpret system.

Designed with the needs of marketing agencies in mind, Hashtrack is already on trial with sector customers and is moving rapidly towards initial sales.

Hosted by the Careers team at the University, the Plan ENVY competition is an opportunity for York’s many young entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses. Funded by a generous gift from Santander, the competition builds to a final dinner where the best entrants present their ideas and progress to date.

Alex was among five finalists selected from nearly 30 entries. Sharing the stage was Bethan Vincent, a recent graduate and medieval historian, who won the most Robust Plan category for her ethically sourced brand Vincent’s Coffee.

The other finalists were Economics student George Fuest, whose social enterprise Crowd Restoration offers the opportunity to access funding and expertise for those seeking to restore historic buildings; Medical student Hiba Khan, who presented Active Minds, a new concept in health orientated childcare that will be running in North London this summer; and Electronic Engineering student Alex Kontos, who has recently received a Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Award for his web browser Waterfox, a concept that has already attracted 3m downloads and significant investment.

Andrew Ferguson, Assistant Director: Business, Community & Enterprise, with University of York Careers, said: "The standard of entry was exceptionally high this year. The judges found powerful features in all the entries and selecting only two for prize money was exceptionally difficult. It demonstrates the breadth of innovation and entrepreneurship that our students possess that the finalists can offer convincing business cases ranging from high technology through to heritage and coffee.”

More information about enterprise at the University of York at More information on the Alex Wooley's businesses at: