New Employability Coordinator joins School of Computing

Kate Buchan recently joined the School of Computing as Employability Coordinator. She is based at the Canterbury campus but will also be regularly visiting the Medway campus.

Kate will be working closely with the placements team, the careers and employability service and employers to help all computing students improve their employability and get the career they want.

‘I am delighted to be working in the School of Computing and am looking forward to working with the students and helping them develop their career journey. Our students have a strong track record of securing a range of tech jobs across a variety of sectors. My role will be to coordinate all of the good work that is already happening within the School.’

Kate will be developing new initiatives including employability events, a blog and she will be continuing to send out weekly emails with job opportunities and events that are of interest to computing students.

If you have any questions about employability please contact Kate on csemploy@kent.ac.uk or pop in and see her in Cornwallis G01A, next to the placements office.

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Sharing best practice in employability for computing graduates

The School of Computing is taking a national lead in improving employability for computing graduates. Kent is one of 25 universities which shared their best practice in a series of national workshops which culminated in the report Building a Graduate Employability Community in Computing (GECCO).

The Kent placement team highlighted the importance of one-to-one meetings with each student, to plan their job search. In the meetings discussions are lead around three areas: the type of company or industry they are looking for, the type of role and the location. The discussion allows the placements team to get to know the students well, which helps steer them towards particular companies and roles. Each student goes away with a shortlist and an action.

Considerable effort goes into building relationships with students and networks of relationships with employers and alumni, allowing us to recommend placement opportunities based on character and skill set. Students are frequently overwhelmed by the choices available to them and an initial exploratory conversation provides them with a strategy to apply to their search.’ 

The placement team helps over 100 computing students to secure placements each year. It is widely cited as an example of best practice, both within the University and among computing departments.

All of the undergraduate and Master’s degrees at the School of Computing have the option of an industrial placement: www.cs.kent.ac.uk/ug/degrees.html

 

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Kent strengthens relations with institutions in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia

The University of Kent is building relationships with universities in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Professor Ian McLoughlin (Head of School at Medway) and Dr Palani Ramaswamy (Reader) from the School of Computing visited the region in June.

The purpose of the trip was to increase overseas student numbers and raise Kent’s international profile. The academics also discussed research collaborations and provided support for current Kent exchange students in Malaysia.

Included in the visit were meetings with 10 institutions including;

– Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore

– Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)

– Universitas Prasetiya Mulya, Indonesia

– Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Malaysia

Professor McLoughlin said, ‘it has been tremendously positive to engage with colleagues, as well as have the privilege to visit Malaysia in person.’

Dr Palani Ramaswamy said; ‘This is timely visit. Some of the Malaysian universities are now in the top 200 in world university league tables. Some departments on par with Ivy League schools.’

The University of Kent has an excellent international reputation and 388 links with institutions around the world.

For further information on the University’s partnership activity, please contact International Partnerships.

 

 

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Honorary doctorate awarded to Simon Peyton Jones

Computer scientist Professor Simon Peyton Jones has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Kent.

Professor Peyton Jones is a British computer scientist who researches the implementation and applications of functional programming languages, particularly lazy functional programming. He received a Doctor of Science degree at Canterbury Cathedral on 13 July.

He was awarded the degree after an oration by Professor Simon Thompson who cited Professor Peyton Jones’ achievements, not only as a top-rank researcher, but also as the initator of the Computing At School (CAS) organisation. Prompted by his children’s experience of ICT at school: in his words “taking the most interesting subject and making it the least” CAS has brought change in the national curriculum, making Computer Science – rather than IT –  a GCSE and A-level subject.

Oration – Simon Peyton Jones

Most Honourable Chancellor, Graduates and Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen.

If we want to see what the mediaeval masons achieved, and how that has endured, we only have to look at the cathedral where we are lucky enough to hold our graduations, or at similar places around the town, the country, or the world. The same for contemporary architects and engineers; the artefacts that they build are tangible: we can see them, we can touch them, we can inhabit them. Software is different: some of the most complex systems ever built – the international phone network – Google search – the software in a modern jet or car – are completely invisible, but are at the same time essential to life as we know it.

Our honorary graduand – Professor Simon Peyton Jones – is one of the most distinguished Computer Scientists of his generation. Just as the medieval masons needed chisels and other tools to do their work, so it is with software. Simon’s contribution has been to design and build programming languages that we as programmers use to write our software. As well as this, he has introduced a whole new generation to programming, through his work to get computer science taught in schools in the UK.

Simon’s early years were in South Africa – perhaps no coincidence, he was born near Simonstown – and in Trinidad and Tobago, where his father was in charge of the coastguard service.  Returning to the UK he boarded at Marlborough, where he first got a chance to use a computer: at the time, the school had precisely one. Even at this stage, he knew that computing would not just be a hobby but “the ultimate destination” for him. Cambridge gave him the background – perhaps the perfect background – of two years in maths, a year in electrical sciences and then the postgraduate diploma in computer science. At his 21st birthday party he was recruited by the owner of a small manufacturing company, where Simon was to be chief software person, programming Z80s for process control and monitoring.

With a couple of years’ experience under his belt, it was time for a change. A happy accident alerted him to a lectureship at University College London, which he was pleased – and surprised – to get.

As a lecturer, he was obliged to do research: after finding out that sitting in his office staring at a blank piece of paper was not the way to do it, he started to work in functional programming, which he had first heard about in Cambridge. FP is a bit like writing programs using maths: you write a descriptions of what needs to be done, without being too specific about the details of how it is to be done. Dropping some traditional things from the programmers’ toolkit, and keeping things so to say “pure”, makes the language more effective: “less is more” in this case.

This “functional” approach to programming was a real focus of research in the UK the 1980s, and Simon was mentored and supported by David Turner, who was a leading functional programmer at Kent at the time, and who is at the ceremony today. Through moves from UCL to Glasgow University, where he spent ten years, and Microsoft Research in Cambridge, where he has spent the last eighteen, Simon has continued to work on functional programming. He was a key member of the committee that defined the Haskell programming language some 28 years ago, and of that original group, he has been the the one that has stuck with this project until now. He has called himself, in a self-deprecating way, “a one trick pony” but if that’s the case it’s a pretty influential and substantial one.

At Glasgow, Simon developed the Glasgow Haskell Compiler, and GHC has become synonymous with Haskell itself. The compiler translates Haskell programs into the machine code that the computer can understand, but it also, in the case of GHC a platform for research in the area. Simon is a prodigious research collaborator, and it is in no small part due to him that research in programming languages and compilers is something in which the UK has an international lead.

Looking at Simon’s career, It is hard not to draw an analogy with the current political scene. A principle he adopted in the early 1980s – of building a pure programming language – has guided his work. Many programming languages have come and gone since then, but Haskell has been a slow grower: taught in universities, used in a few companies. But in the last five years it has seen an explosion in popularity, particularly with a whole new generation of young people who were not even born when the language was first defined. The only thing missing is an invitation to the Glastonbury main stage: perhaps if he were to grow a beard …

However, as I said at the start, Simon is more than a top-rank researcher …

Prompted by his children’s experience of ICT at school: in his words “taking the most interesting subject and making it the least” Simon initiated the “Computing At School” (CAS) organisation in 2008, calling together a group of like-minded individuals with the goal of improving computer science education in UK schools. CAS has been astonishingly successful. It has brought change in the national curriculum, making Computer Science – rather than IT –  a GCSE and A-level subject. To support this change, it has set up a subject association for thousands of teachers across the country. Computing education in the UK, and CAS, are now a beacon to others wanting to effect change in their own countries.

Simon is not only the founder of CAS and chairman of the board, he is also widely seen as the most energetic and enthusiastic advocate of school level computer science education in the UK. He remains the figurehead and most influential individual in this movement, working successfully in two different directions: towards policy makers, such as the DfE, and towards school teachers who deliver the new curriculum in the classroom. For both audiences, Simon has managed to create enthusiasm, engagement and commitment for the subject that is rare in our discipline. There is no doubt that Simon’s work through CAS has had a major impact on the education of hundreds of thousands of pupils, in the UK and internationally.

Kent is not alone in wanting to recognise Simon’s contribution – he became one of the handful of Fellows of the Royal Society in computing this year based on his research achievements, and he is also a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society too, acknowledging his contribution to the discipline in general. Most Honourable Chancellor, to you and to the whole University I present Simon Peyton Jones to be admitted to the degree of DOCTOR OF SCIENCE, honoris causa.

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Students awarded prizes for groundbreaking projects

Students from the School of Computing were awarded prizes for outstanding achievements at their graduation ceremony at Rochester Cathedral.

Project Prizes were awarded to Martins Irbe and Eunan Camilleri for the project Controlling a Drone with an EEG Headset and James Morrison for Nowcasting River Levels Using Artificial Neural Networks.

The drone project created an application to allow a drone to be controlled by brain signals. The project successfully achieved its goal and it went beyond the original scope, creating a flexible solution that allows one to control multiple devices using different input controllers.

James’ project aimed to create forecasting models to predict future river levels based on rainfall and river level data. This project dealt with an important real-world problem and successfully created predictive forecasting models predicting river levels from +1 hour to +12 hours in the future.

James was also awarded the School of Computing Prize for Outstanding Performance in Examinations and the Rotary Prize for Distinguished Performance in the Stage 3 examinations.

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We’re hiring – six talented people wanted at the School of Computing

The School of Computing is looking for talented staff to add to its academic and administrative team.

There are four roles that will form part of the student administration team:

There are also two positions available for Lecturers / Senior Lecturers. All roles have the closing date of 30 July 2017.

The School of Computing at Kent is a welcoming and diverse environment that has  been recognised with a Bronze Athena SWAN award. We are keen to enhance the balanced, inclusive and diverse nature of the community within the School and to build on our success in teaching, research and innovation.

Full details about the School can be found on our website.

It’s an exciting time to be working at the University of Kent – we are a leading UK university producing world-class research and excellent teaching. Our reputation as a good place to work is reflected in our top ranking in the THE Best University Workplace Survey for two years running. We are a major employer with around 3,000 staff from over 120 countries.

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Prizes awarded to outstanding students

Graduating Canterbury students and staff had celebrated the success of prize winners at a reception for graduating students. Deputy Head of School, Peter Rodgers presented the awards.

William Riches – winner of the Janet Linington Prize

William chose the final year option of Computing in the Classroom which required him to spend a day a week in a local school.  He was assessed by staff both in the school where he worked and at the University as having performed well above what might have been expected.  In particular they highlighted his tremendous enthusiasm which he used to inspire the next generation of computer scientists.

Jamie Pont – winner of two prizes: the School of Computing Prize and the Rotary Prize for Sciences

Jamie is graduating with a first class degree in Computer Science with a Year in Industry.  He receives this award for his performance in exams.  None of his final year exams received a mark below 80%.  Jamie also had exceptionally good coursework marks with an average of 89%.  The Rotary Prize reflects Jamie’s outstanding performance in competition with students from the six Schools in the faculty of Sciences.

Stephen Jackson – winner of the Dean’s Prize

This prize is awarded by the Dean of Sciences in competition with students from the six Schools in the faculty of Sciences.  The prize recognises Stephen’s exceptional performance in his final year exams.  None of his final year exams received a mark below 80%.  Stephen also had exceptionally good coursework marks, the lowest being 89%.

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New lecturer joins School of Computing

Dr Julien Lange has joined the University of Kent as a lecturer in the School of Computing. Julien is a member of the Programming Languages and Systems Research Group and is based at the Canterbury campus.

Julien was a Young Graduate Trainee at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands from 2008 to 2009 and went on to do his PhD at the University of Leicester. His research centres on the verification of concurrent systems and programs using mathematically rigorous theories, in particular: behavioural types and automata theory.

‘I am a theoretician but I am very keen on getting my theories put into practice. I’ve recently worked on applying behavioural types to the Go programming language, a language that’s become quite trendy recently.’

This work was picked up by a few blogs and is available at:
https://blog.acolyer.org/2017/02/02/fencing-off-go-liveness-and-safety-for-channel-based-programming/

https://emil.hessman.se/articles/fencing-off-go

http://xuankanglin.com/2017/02/17/Reading-Group-Fencing-off-Go-Liveness-and-Safety-for-Channel-Based-Programming/

 

 

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School placements team reach the century

The School of Computing placements team are pleased to announce 100 students have secured industry placements for the next academic year. The Placement Officers, Sian Robson and Katie Van Sanden are delighted to reach the century milestone again this year and hope to see this number rise over the next few months.

The students will undertake a range of roles from business analysts and project-management to web-development, software/application development, software engineering and IT/networks support, in a mix of companies including IBM, SKY, BT and Morgan Stanley.

All undergraduate and most Master’s students in the School of Computing have the option of adding an industrial placement to their degree programme and many placement students go on to start their graduate careers at their placement organisation.

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School welcomes Gold Award in Teaching Excellence

The University of Kent has been awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

Head of School, Professor Richard Jones, said: ‘I am delighted that this award recognises the excellent teaching within the University, and within the School of Computing.

‘In particular, I am pleased that the wonderful employment prospects for Kent students have been given recognition. We have played an active part in this with the School’s hugely successful industrial placement programme and innovative Year in Computing.

‘This award is a testament to the dedication of our academic staff and the professional services team who support our students and is well deserved.’

The TEF Panel judged that Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

A total of 295 higher education providers took part in the TEF. In the assessment, 59 providers were rated gold.

Kent’s Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow was the first to receive the news. She said: ‘I am absolutely delighted that the strength of our teaching and our longstanding commitment to academic excellence has been acknowledged in this way. The hard work and dedication of our staff and students continues to ensure that the University of Kent has some of the best teaching in the country. I would like to thank all those who have made this possible.’

The TEF Panel reported that Kent ‘students from all backgrounds achieve consistently outstanding outcomes. Very high proportions of students from all backgrounds continue with their studies and then progress to employment, notably exceeding the provider benchmarks. The metrics indicate very high levels of student satisfaction with teaching, academic support and assessment and feedback.’

The Panel considered all the information in Kent’s submission in relation to the TEF criteria and stated that its judgement reflects, in particular, evidence of:

  • an outstanding Student Success Project dedicated to closing the attainment gap for students with protected characteristics
  • an institutional culture which facilitates, values and rewards teaching and which is embedded across the institution
  • the provision of a wide range of co-curricular opportunitiesfor students to enhance their skills
  • physical and digital learning resources of the highest quality
  • a flexible and personalised approach to academic support for students which is underpinned by a college system and enhanced through student peer mentoring and an academic adviser scheme
  • a systematic approach to embedding employability in the curriculum and providing employment placements for large numbers of students which, together, enable them to acquire the knowledge, skills and understanding that are most highly valued by employers

Implemented by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the TEF aims to recognise, reward and improve excellent learning and teaching at higher education providers across the UK. It also aims to provide students with clear information about where teaching quality is best and where students have achieved the best outcomes.

The awards are decided by an independent TEF Panel of experts, including academics, students and employer representatives.

 

 

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