Celebrating women in Informatics

[08/03/2022] Women might still be underrepresented in the Computer Science departments across the country, but the School of Informatics is doing pretty well: we have 26% of female students which is above the national average. Our students also have plenty role models among our academic staff to draw inspiration from. Today we celebrate all of them.

Celebrating women in Informatics
Celebrating women in Informatics on International Women's Day 2022

The journey starts here

Laura O’Sullivan, Julia Iwanczuk and Zosia Kniter are just starting their journey. They are all second-year undergraduates, and all involved with our peer support scheme: InfPALS. They chose to get involved for various reasons. Laura thinks helping others has been a great way to connect with people and learn new skills. Zosia loves teaching and working for InfPALS has been a great opportunity to learn new ways of teaching. Julia wants to improve the quality of teaching around the world. As InfPals leaders their aim is to create a space for students to guide them into developing their own ideas and help them to share these ideas with others. Zosia says she enjoys how InfPals brings together people with a love for Computer Science but different hobbies and interests.

University is not just lectures and tutorials. Laura highlights the number of activities she usually gets involved in - various technical and non-technical programmes and competitions such as hackathons and the NICE programme. She’s also passionate about women in computer science and is a committee member of the Edinburgh University Hoppers and the Edinburgh University Women in STEM (EUWiSTEM) societies.

Despite the challenges of starting university during the COVID-19 pandemic, I really feel that there is a strong sense of community within the School of Informatics and everyone is very supportive of each other.

Laura O’Sullivan
Second-year student Computer Science and Mathematics BSc

Julia who studies Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science (BSc Hons) in the future wants to work on developing accessible systems focusing on marginalized social groups. Technology is simply amazing and helpful and people with all kinds of backgrounds should be able to use it without any obstacles, she says.

In her free time, Laura loves to play roller hockey and ice hockey. She plays with the Edinburgh Eagles and the Caledonia Steel Queens. Julia’s greatest passions are languages and music - she speak a few, also learn to sign, and play bass guitar. Zosia is into crafts, sewing in particular. And she loves watching ski jumping.

The next generation of Informatics researchers

Nuiok Dicaire, Anna Hadjitofi and Nicole Meng-Schneider are the future of informatics research.

Nuiok is doing her PhD in the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science. In her work, she uses a mathematical language known as category theory to study and describe abstract structures used in computations and in quantum theory.

Anna is in the second year of her PhD within the Informatic's Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour (IPAB). She has a background in neuroscience and computing, and is investigating a potential neural mechanism underlying the "waggle dance" that honeybees use to communicate the location of a resource to nestmates. Given the resource constraint setting of the bee brain, it is a unique opportunity to investigate a system whereby information is communicated in a concise yet expressive way between entities.

Nicole is a PhD student in the CDT in NLP. She is studying the privacy and security of voice assistants, specifically smart speakers like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. The main focus are privacy implications and consent for people who are not the account holder such as visitors or flatmates.

When they’re not working, they enjoy a variety of activities: Nuiok goes hiking, travels the world, and or reads science-fiction. Anna plays table tennis but is also trying her hand at landscape photography. Nicole is a mum of a 1-year old daughter who loves walks around the city and travelling.

Inspirational researchers

Research in the School of Informatics encompasses a wide range of fields: from artificial to natural systems, foundations of computing, language, cognition and robotics. Women are represented in all these research fields. Some of the research projects they get involved with couldn’t be more unrelated:  Uta Hinrichs, a Reader in Data Visualisation, was involved in collaborations with literary scholars and historians, designing visualisations that can facilitate the exploration of large-scale, untapped cultural collections, such as science fiction stories, literature around the city of Edinburgh, or 19th century commodity trading documents. And Ajitha Rajan, Reader and a Deputy Director of Research, is an Edinburgh Lead in a project titled KATY (Knowledge at the Tip of Your fingers) which aims to build personalised treatment prediction for renal cancer patients. She works closely with clinicians to build explainable prediction models for renal cancer and Glioma treatment. This adds to a spectrum of her research interests which are in the area of software testing and verification, but she has worked on different aspects of test automation -- test input generation, formal specifications, coverage measurement and test oracles that have applied to avionics, automotive, embedded systems, blockchains and medical diagnostics. Her work in her Royal Society Industry Fellowship focuses on testing correctness of AI algorithms in self-driving cars.

Ava Khamseh a Lecturer in Biomedical Artificial Intelligence, joint between the School of Informatics and the Institute of Genetics and Cancer (IGC). Her current research involves designing experiments and developing causal mathematical, statistical and machine learning methods for applications to cancer biology and large-scale population biology data, together with a team of cross-disciplinary PIs and PhD students. Interestingly, she did a PhD in Theoretical Particle Physics, followed by a short postdoc in quantitative biomedicine. She then became a Cross-Disciplinary Fellow (IGC).

Uta’s work focuses on visualisation as a creative process and the role of visualisation to promote insightful and critical interactions with data in digital and physical space. Her research also involves studying the impact visualisation tools and processes on people's approach to data-driven problems. While based at the School of Informatics, Uta's research very much driven by interdisciplinary collaborations with people from the humanities, visual design, and fine arts.

Outside of work Ava spends time with friends, goes for walks and watches anime, and reads watches anything related to parrots (especially cockatoos), Uta enjoys doing pottery. Ajitha spends most of her time with her husband and two children, aged 12 and 10. As hobbies, she enjoys playing badminton, volleyball and boardgames. 

Related links


Anna Hadjitofi

Ava Khamseh

Uta Hinrichs

Ajitha Rajan