Professor Helen Hastie appointed the new Head of School of Informatics

[04/05/2023] Professor Helen Hastie has been appointed as the new Head of School of Informatics. She will take over from Professor Jane Hillston in August.

Headshot photograph of Professor Helen Hastie, Head of School of Informatics
Professor Helen Hastie, incoming Head of School of Informatics

Professor Hastie is currently Professor of Computer Science and Human-Robot Interaction at Heriot-Watt University. She has existing links to Informatics both through her education and recent posts. She is the academic co-lead of the National Robotarium, a world-leading centre for the development and testing of robotics and autonomous systems to address industrial and societal challenges. She is also the Director of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (CDT-RAS) at the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. The National Robotarium, the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and CDT-RAS are all joint initiatives between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. Regarding her education, she did an MA in Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh and later a PhD there, at the Centre for Speech Technology Research. This is in addition to an MSc in Computational Linguistics from Georgetown University, USA. 

Her research interests are in various aspects of Human-Robot Interaction and multimodal interfaces, in particular exploring the best way to communicate with robots and autonomous systems to maximise adoption. This includes investigating trust and transparency, human-machine teaming and social aspects of human-robot interaction.  

She is bringing substantial international industry and academic experience to the table that includes a drive for ‘robotics for all’, as well as a push for more diversity in robotics and AI: The CDT-RAS that Helen currently leads has been recognised with the Minerva Informatics Equality Award for diversity in robotics in 2021. Women in Robotics, a global community supporting women in the field, has recognised Helen as one of the top 50 women in robotics in 2022. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was a founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Young Academy. 

It is an honour to be appointed as Head of School for Informatics. I look forward to leading the School, fostering its world-class research and teaching, and enhancing its global impact. It’s an exciting time to be joining Informatics during this 60th year of Computer Science and AI, and I am very proud to become part of this vibrant academic community.

Professor Helen Hastie, incoming Head of School of Informatics

It has been a privilege to lead the School of Informatics for the last five years, working with a tremendous collection of colleagues.  I hope that Helen enjoys the role as much as I have.

Professor Jane Hillston, outgoing Head of School of Informatics

On behalf of the University, I want to offer a warm welcome to Professor Hastie. We are convinced and excited that her academic accomplishments, values, and experiences make her perfectly suited for the position. I am looking forward to working with Helen to support the School of Informatics, continuing to develop the best of its traditions and lead it in new directions, continuing its reputation as a global centre of ideas and innovation.

Professor Iain Gordon, Vice-Principal and Head of College of Science and Engineering

Professor Hastie is the third female leader of the School of Informatics, following in the footsteps of Professors Johanna Moore and Jane Hillston. She will take up her appointment on 7th August. 

With over 500 academic and research staff and over 2000 taught and research students, the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh is one of the largest institutes of its kind in the UK and Europe. The School is among the top Computer Science and Informatics research institutions in the UK, according to 2021 Research Excellence Framework results. Times Higher Education (THE) named Informatics the top Computer Science and Informatics department in terms of quality and breadth of our research, known as research power. The School is consistently ranked in the top 30 in the world for Computer Science (currently 15th in QS ranking for data science, 20th in QS ranking for Computer Science and 24th in THES ranking for Computer Science). 

In 2023, the School celebrates 60 years since the University established its first research hubs in the disciplines. A year-long programme of events marks achievements over the past six decades and looks to the future of Computer Science and AI at Edinburgh.

Related links

Helen Hastie's profile on LinkedIn