By Joe Chrol-Cannon
Last Monday saw our Department gather together again for the 11th Annual Computing Department PhD Conference, or ‘CompConf 2014’. This was a time when first and second year research students could share their developing work in a stress free and friendly environment and a time for those of us who have been around longer to get updated with all the new things that are going on in the Department.
The PhD conference was opened by Prof. Steve Legg, who spoke on the increasing importance of application driven research and how at IBM, research on intelligent systems was being widely applied to solving customer problems and replacing the paradigm of ‘programming the system’ with one more akin to ‘working with it’. Morning speaker Prof. Andrew Randewich first wowed us with the Physics of nuclear explosions and lasers and then explained the computational challenges that large scale physical simulations pose. The solution lies in bigger parallel computers and better computer scientists to re-formulate the simulation code to better take advantage of them. Afternoon speaker Prof. Peter Fleming emphasised the problem formulation aspects of optimisation design. He turns multiple conflicting design criteria and strict constraints into advantages that help guide the process of optimisation that goes beyond simplistic applications of established optimisation algorithms. Robust solutions are given precedence over fitter solutions in the Engineering world.