Above and Beyond Award for Kwai Yoke McLoughlin

Computing Support Lecturer Kwai Yoke McLoughlin has received not just one but two Above and Beyond Awards in May 2019 for providing good teaching, additional support to students and ongoing encouragement throughout the year. Students felt that she had gone above and beyond in helping to make the School of Computing in Medway a great place to study.

Kent Union Above and Beyond Awards are nominated by students and conferred on good staff to recognise and encourage student-centric practices which encourage and support learning.

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Kent researchers involved in project to make chatbots more trustworthy

Dr Jason Nurse from the School of Computing is involved in a new project led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) designed to make chatbots more trustworthy.

From banking and insurance to shopping these human-like computer programmes are becoming increasingly common. But many people are not keen on disclosing sensitive information, hindering their effectiveness.

As a result researchers at Kent, alongside UEA, Oxford Brookes and Cranfield University have been awarded £500,000 funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to investigate how chatbots can be designed to become more trustworthy.

The project, dubbed PRoCEED (A Platform for Responsive Chatbot to Enhance Engagement and Disclosure), will focus on the nature of sensitive information – and how the context of the information can play a role in its perceived sensitivity.

Specifically, it will look at the use of chatbots in three key sectors – healthcare, defence and security and technology. These sectors are significant users of chatbots and all deal with potentially sensitive and personal information, as well as being areas of significant public spending. The researchers will conduct a range of experiments to better understand public perceptions of personal information, and how those perceptions relate to the classification of information.

Dr Nurse said: ‘Chatbots are becoming increasingly common on all types of websites and can offer huge benefits to businesses and their customers. However, ensuring the public trust them and are willing to share information that can help with their queries is vital. This project will look to address these issues to ensure more online users are able to use chatbot systems with confidence.’

Kent and UEA regularly work together alongside the University of Essex as part of the Eastern Arc collaboration that offers doctoral training awards in the natural and environmental sciences, in the arts and humanities, and on a range of other bilateral research relationships.

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Widespread media coverage for Dr Budi Arief on WhatsApp flaw

Dr Arief, from the School of Computing, has been cited in over 250 publications including The Daily Mail, The Scotsman and This is Money since providing a comment about a major security flaw discovered in the popular messaging service WhatsApp.

His comment on the issue was as follows: ‘It demonstrates the importance of keeping your software update. I’m not particularly surprised by this development, this happens all the time. This recent vulnerability bears a resemblance to the Apple FaceTime vulnerability discovered earlier this year.

 ‘At this stage, it is too early to say whether there is any connection between the WhatsApp vulnerability and the FaceTime vulnerability. Software is a very complex system – it’s practically impossible to guarantee it is completely bug-free, there are always potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited.’  

As a result of this widespread coverage Dr Arief was invited to appear on TalkRadio on 15 May as an expert to discuss the issue and other key security trends in the technology market

Dr Arief is one of many academics across the University to provide expert comments to the media, issued by the press team within the Corporate Communications department, which can help build the profiles of academics, their school and the University.

Colleagues who would like to learn more about how to contribute their expertise  should contact the Press Office on pressoffice@kent.ac.uk.

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Cockapoo cuddles during revision

Monty the cockapoo will be returning to the Canterbury campus to offer hugs to students during the busy revision and exam period.

Monty, who is a regular visitor to the School, will be in The Shed in Cornwallis quad on Friday 17 May from 10.00-12.00.

Orla Garratt, Marketing and Communications Manager for the School said, ‘Monty loves the attention that he gets when he visits our students. He is especially popular with students who have pets at their family home and are missing their own animals.’

The University offers other tools are available to help students through the stresses of the exam period which can be found on the student wellbeing website.

Staff are welcome too!

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New social space open for undergraduates

A new common room has opened in time for students to relax and collaborate in during the exam term. The room, for the exclusive use of Computing undergraduates, will be open from 8.00-19.00 Monday to Friday.

The common room on the ground floor of the Cornwallis building in Canterbury is the latest change in a series of updates to the building to make it more modern and welcoming. The common room is deliberately close to the placements team, employability and marketing team, KITC and The Shed, helping to create a real student hub at the heart of the building and making it easier for students to find help in any of these areas.

Head of School, Professor Richard Jones, said: “This new space is good way of welcoming back the undergraduate students and giving them their own relaxing space at a very busy time in the academic year. We hope that they will enjoy their own area with room to chat, eat and even study if they wish. And of course we wish all of our students the very best of luck with their upcoming exams.”

The next update will see the School student administration team move downstairs to be nearer to the other student services.

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Consciousness, growing up in India and Pink Floyd: Nostalgia podcast with Srivas Chennu

Dr Chris Deacy, Reader in Theology and Religious Studies, speaks to Srivas Chennu from the School of Computing as part of his Nostalgia podcast series.

In this insightful interview, Srivas talks about how we are today able to ask questions that the ancient Greeks could not, how his research intersects with Chris’s own work in near-death experiences (NDE) and he talks about how his collaborators are studying what happens in the brain when someone has an NDE. We also discuss how films are often better at conveying these techniques than academic papers.

Srivas reflects on how a decade ago to study consciousness would have been laughed at as it was deemed to be so amorphous, and how and why that has now changed. Srivas also discusses his background, growing up in India, having a Hindu priest for a grandfather, Pink Floyd and the Alan Parsons Project, cultural changes between India and the UK, BBC 6 Music, Monty Python, what would have happened if Srivas had stayed in India (the ‘Sliding Doors’ phenomenon) and how he feels his friends think about him!

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Honorary graduates announced for July ceremonies

Singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding is among thirteen people due to receive honorary degrees from the University of Kent in ceremonies at Canterbury and Rochester cathedrals during July.

Graduating students from the School of Computing in Medway will see poet and performer Patience Agbabi receive her honorary Doctor of Letters degree at a ceremony at Rochester Cathedral on 9 July, starting at 14.30.

Akaliza Keza Ntwari is an ICT expert and advocate and a member of a UN-convened panel on digital co-operation. Akaliza Ntwari is an alumna of Kent who studied Multimedia Technology and Design. She will receive her honorary Doctor of Science degree at a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral on 17 July, starting at 14.30, when the Canterbury-based Computer Science students graduate.

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Expert Comment: Banning Huawei from UK 5G network build would never work

Professor of Cyber Security Shujun Li from the School of Computing says the government’s decision to approve the use of Huawei equipment in the construction of new 5G networks is to be welcomed.

‘As a cyber-security researcher, I welcome the UK government’s decision on Huawei’s involvement in building future 5G networks in the UK. I urge the governmental officials, politicians and the general public to look at the Huawei “risks” from a technical angle, not a political one.

‘Technically speaking, banning any particular vendor will never work as a real solution to cyber security as the supply chain is very complicated and there are simply too many potential risks one has to consider. I would therefore argue that if the UK’s national security depends on a single company (Huawei or any other firm) always doing the “right” thing,then we have failed the cybersecurity assurance in the first place.

‘What should be looked at more is how a technical solution or product can be scrutinised and verified by independent experts and automated tools, which can detect not only risks from a particular vendor like Huawei but also those caused by any malicious parties in the supply chain.

‘In addition, in the cyber security research community, the widely-accepted Kerckhoffs’s principle and Shannon’s maxim tell us that the security of a system should not depend on hiding details of how the system works (as the attacker will learn the system) but other things (e.g., a secret password chosen by the user). Applying these rules to the Huawei case, it would be strange if Huawei were to base their system’s security on hiding details of how it operates (and therefore not being detected doing something it should not).’

The University’s Press Office provides the media with expert comments in response to topical news events. Colleagues who would like to learn more about how to contribute their expertise or how the service works should contact the Press Office on 3985 or pressoffice@kent.ac.uk

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All female team tackle plastic pollution at Athena Hack

A group of Masters students from the School of Computing attended Athena Hack, an all-women hackathon, in London from 13-14 April 2019.

The hackathon was organised by ShowCode as an initiative to champion female technologists and focus their skills to help solve one of the biggest environmental issues around. Prizes were awarded for the best performing university team and the best performing company team with a top prize of £5000 cash.

The challenge was to use their skills to create an idea that would help solve the plastic crisis that is currently plaguing the world in support of Plastic Oceans UK. The team, called ‘bumblebees’, was made up of five Masters students; Asha Burathoki, Sybil Mayard, Mai Pham, Zhaneta Georgieva and Clarissa Ang.

The team developed an app, called ‘Plastix’, based on the augmented reality, machine learning and image recognition features which have become popular among smart phone users. It aims to use real-time object identification, personal record and data aggregation to address the lack of awareness and lack of data, as well as making it convenient for the user.

Plastix has three basic functions:
– identifying an object in real time and whether it is recyclable
– reporting and booking rubbish hotspots
– allowing the user to receive rewards for recycling / cleaning the hotspot.

Asha Burathoki said ‘We had an amazing experience at the hackathon where we got to network and develop our skills via workshops. Unfortunately we didn’t win but the whole process was very inspiring for female students like us in the tech industry.’

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David Chadwick reaches final of I’m a Scientist get me out of here!

Professor David Chadwick had the opportunity to prove himself as one of the most popular scientists in the UK in I’m a Scientist, get me out of here! The Professor of Information Systems Security from the School of Computing reached the final three in his area of the competition after other scientists were voted out.

I’m a Scientist is an online activity for school students to connect with scientists. It is an X Factor-style competition between scientists, where students are the judges. Students challenge the scientists over fast-paced online text-based live chats. They can ask anything they want, and vote for their favourite scientist to win a prize of £500 to communicate their work with the public.

David said ‘I really enjoyed taking part in the competition and would encourage any of my colleagues to do the same. I took part in the relationship zone, which was primarily for psychologists but overlaps with my area of expertise in cyber security, eg, how do you know who you are really talking to over the Internet, via Facebook or other social media?The next event is happening in June and it’s a great way to interact with young people who are curious about the world around them.’

You can review David’s profile and see the questions and his answers at https://relationshipsm19.imascientist.org.uk/profile/davidchadwick/

Scientists interested in taking part in future events can find out more at https://imascientist.org.uk/2019/03/whats-been-happening-in-im-a-scientist-the-online-science-engagement-event/

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