Computer Science virtual open day

Welcome to the School of Computing and Mathematics! Please explore the videos below to discover more about our course and environment, meet some of our students and academics and find answers to some frequently asked questions.

BSc (Hons) Computer Science Single Honours

MComp Computer Science with Integrated Master's

Computer Science Combined Honours

Computer Science

PhD student and Keele Computer Science alumnus Nathan describes his journey at Keele from application to doctorate, and the highs and lows in between.

Hi, my name is Nathan and I'm a computer science student here at Keele University. I'm currently in the first year of my PhD studies, but before that I also completed a master's degree and an undergraduate degree, both in computer science, and both here at Keele University. With that said, it's fair to say that I'm pretty well experienced in both what life is like at Keele but also more specifically with the course itself, what were best parts, what was challenging, what was unexpected etc.

If your watching, or reading, this today, chances are you're considering studying computer science at Keele university. I'm here today to tell you what my experiences were like. Both what I felt before coming to uni and how my expectations differed from reality. What aspects of the course I felt worked really well. What about being at Keele that I enjoyed so much that I decided to continue to PhD study. And finally, why I feel Keele is a great uni to be at and study at, and why I think you should really consider joining us here at Keele for computer science.

Before coming to university, I really wasn't too sure what to expect, none of my family had been to university, and I just sort of felt going to university was the thing that you should do. A lot of my friends were planning to go to university, being at school it seemed one of the main things they talked about was getting into university, especially during A-levels. When it came to choosing a university, I wasn't really too sure of what things I should be looking out for.

What really stood out to me about Keele, was that it really seemed like the focus was on student satisfaction and making sure that students really enjoyed and appreciated the time they spent at Keele. For someone who wasn't really too sure on what to look for when choosing a university, that really stood out to me as something that's important. Your going to be spending years of your life at university, you want to be able to look back in 20 or 30 years' time and think I made a good decision, and I'm glad that I went to that particular university that I chose. When I first came to Keele, that was way back in 2015, but if you look at the university website today, or the marketing, or the university league tables, you can really see that Keele still maintains that focus on student satisfaction. I think this is really important and I think they did a really good job of focusing on student satisfaction when I was at Keele.

When I first arrived at Keele, I was kind of worried that with it being a campus university there would be less to do, it's out of the way, you’re not in the middle of a big city with everything going on. Luckily for me, when I got to Keele there was tonnes of stuff to do, both things organised by the university but also by the student's union, which with Keele being a campus university is really involved in student life. There are loads of clubs and societies to get involved with and I think the campus feel of the university really works as a benefit to the students. The reason I think that is that, with it being a campus university, you and all your friends and everyone you meet, all live really close together. It's kind of like living in a small village where all your mates live around the corner, which is a really awesome experience and it makes it super easy in the evenings to head over to a mates to hang out or before a night out or whatever you choose to do, without all the hassle of taxis and having to travel. It's also really useful when you have a 9am lecture as you don’t have to worry about getting an early bus, because you live a couple of minute's walks from the class.

As for the course I was in a position that I think a lot of computer science students are in, in that I hadn't done much coding before I came to university. Obviously, some people going into the course had GCSE's and A-levels and had done some Python and C# and all sorts of different languages, but when I came to Keele, I really didn't have too much experience. The course does a really good job of both providing interesting things to do for students who have that experience to look into, all the staff obviously love computer science and are happy to talk about different projects and things going on, but if you're a student who has absolutely no experience, the course very much builds from the ground up. This is really nice as by Christmas everyone is on roughly a level playing field, as everyone has built up the knowledge required to keep up with the more experienced students. This is very important in a subject like computer science where you have a wide range of ability going into the course.

It’s important to remember with computer science that it isn't all just programming, I think a lot of people from outside of computer science as well as those just starting with computer science think that all it is, is sat behind a desk writing code. Of course, your going to have to write some code doing computer science, but if code isn't the most exciting thing in the world for you, you haven't got to worry. Computer science is a wide-ranging subject and there are a lot of avenues you can go into. Personally, I really love artificial intelligence, that's the general area that my PhD work is in, but beyond that, you may be more interested in the business side of the course, understanding how computer systems can fit within large organisations, or perhaps human-computer interaction, understanding how we interact with the technology around us. In the modern world, computer science is such an important part of daily life that no matter what your specifically interested in, there are all sort of computer science jobs touching on all areas. I think that's actually one of the main benefits of doing an undergraduate degree in computer science. Going into your degree, you might not be quite sure which aspects of computer science your most interested in. Doing a degree allows you to touch on different aspects such as AI, cybersecurity, system development, and of course programming, From that, once you have dipped a toe in the water in many different fields, you can build an understanding of what works for you, what you enjoy, but also how different aspects of computer science interact with each other. This makes you a really well-rounded individual when you go out into the world to get a job.

For me being at Keele was a great experience both with the course being something I found I was passionate about and really enjoyed, so much that I have continued my studies, but also the social life was a really fun experience. Being at Keele I met tonnes of new friends from all around the world, university is not like school where everyone comes from the same town, you have people travelling from all over to study together, which is awesome. Your able to meet people from across the world with different backgrounds and cultures and I think that's a really good experience that you don't necessarily get anywhere else, at least as easily as you can at university.

As I was working though my degree, for me personally, it became clear that I wanted to do a master's degree and carry on my study to that higher level. As I was working through my undergraduate degree, I was figuring out which areas of computer science I was most interested in and I ultimately chose artificial intelligence. AI is obviously a highly popular topic among computer scientists and it's one that works particularly well in a university setting, it's what a lot of lecturers work on outside of their teaching responsibilities. Doing a master's degree allowed me to look into AI in a little bit more detail. During the master's degree I quickly decided that I wanted to go all the way and study for a PhD, and that's why I'm here today both as a student but also as a demonstrator, I help out in a lot of the undergraduate classes, assisting students with getting to grips with their studies and with challenges that their facing. In my PhD I'm specifically looking at technology that's promoting efficient use of renewable energy to help fight against climate change, that’s something I'm really interested in, but as you come to study computer science it’s such a broad field that you can easily work on projects in whatever areas interest you.

One of the best things about computer science is that there are so many jobs out there for computer scientists that no matter what area your interested in, and whether you want to do a masters and PhD or just an undergraduate degree, it's a really employable degree with lots of options out there for you to go on and start the dream career that you want to do. To bring it all together, I really enjoy being at Keele and I really recommend it as a place to study at. The computer science course touches on so many areas that it allows you to find exactly what it is that your most passionate about, and then it provides you with the tools needed to work towards a career within that field. Whilst at Keele I've met so many great friends and it really is an amazing community to be part of. Keele as a university does a really great job of making sure that you enjoy your time spent at Keele but also making sure that you feel like the years of your life that you spend doing your degree were well spent, so that you can go on into the workplace and the rest of your life, really glad that you chose Keele as a university to study at. If you've made it all the way to the end thanks for listening, or reading, and I hope to see some of you at Keele university in the future.

 

Senior Lecturer and Director of Programmes, Theo Kyriacou discusses the philosophy of the Computer Science programme at Keele.

I would like to tell you a little bit about the Computer Science Programme at Keele and its content:

The programme includes ideas, research and teaching expertise from all the colleagues in the school.

Our philosophy is to offer a broad-based entry to the discipline that ultimately allows people to specialise in a number of different areas in Computer Science.

The programme offers both theoretical and practical foundations in Computer Science.

Theory broadens and deepens critical thinking and understanding. It supports practical knowledge and it also forms a solid base for lifelong learning after university. Early content in the programme covers these important areas.

Many of our industry contacts indicate that they prefer graduates from pure Computer Science programmes (such as ours) than graduates from more specialised programmes such as Games Development or Web Development for example.

Because of the broader initial theme in our programme our graduates are better able to learn new techniques and tools in their workplace in the future.

We also offer our students many practical skills such as analysing, programming, writing, organising and presenting. These skills are crucial for a good start in their future career but they also enable and encourage expression of creative ideas, something that gives them confidence right from the start.

The Computer Science programme at keele creates graduates that are well placed to find work in a variety of settings as well as graduates that find places for further study in a range of different institutions.

With regards to the structure of our programme:

We offer UG computer science as a 3-year BSc or a 4-year MComp. Each year is made up of two semesters.

The first semester covers the fundamental building blocks in computer science and it is common to all students. The second semester of the first year and the second year contain a number of industry- and research-led topics. There is some choice among these for students.

The final year - or years if studying in the four year programme - consolidate all prior knowledge, introduce more advanced topics, and provide our students with the space and support to explore and develop their interests. Students have a considerable amount of choice of topics to study here.

Our final years draw quite a bit from our research interests and activity. We believe that research-led teaching is very important and something that differentiates us from universities who are more focused on only teaching core subjects. An active research culture also means that academics remain at the cutting edge of their discipline and as a consequence they are more motivated and enthusiastic about what they teach. This is something our students often comment positively on.

Also, we think that the development of students as active researchers provides them with better intellectual capabilities, a more enhanced employment, career progression and an expansion of their capacity for lifelong learning.

Finally, a deeper understanding of the discipline enables better-informed choices about employment areas and future study options such as MSc and PhD.

 

Placements

Phil Chapman is our innovation advisor. Here she gives a presentation covering the various placements that you can bring into your time as a student at Keele, from years abroad and years in industry to small, paid projects with local businesses.

Introduction

I am the Innovation Advisor for the Keele Research and Innovation Support Programme (KRISP) within the School of Computing and Mathematics. The programme has been designed to support businesses that are thinking about, or are currently in the process of, developing a new product, process or service. It provides excellent opportunities for students and graduates to work within industry for 100 hours per project (with support and paid), gaining valuable experience and CV enhancement. Placements take place throughout the year and some placements can be incorporated into your studies. Some even turn into full time employment prospects. KRISP is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the England 2014 to 2020 European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme.

I have a first degree from The University of Manchester, and an MBA, and I spent the first 11 years of my working life in a food manufacturing company, where I ended up as factory Production Control Manager. Since then my work has taken me in many directions including 17 years of running my own project consultancy business and eight years in higher education. It has involved working with private, public and voluntary sector organisations, training and assisting business starts and existing businesses to become established and to grow sustainably, often with the help of students, graduates and academics, e.g. through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs).

Slide 1

So, something else that sets us apart at Keele is the effort we put into placements, internships and projects, giving you the opportunity to gain some real industry experience during your degree programme. There's a range of options for you to consider, so I'll just briefly mention those now …

Slide 2

First up is our year abroad option – if you choose to do this you will spend a year in a partner institution between your second and third year, soaking up global culture and experiencing life at a totally different university. It's a transformational experience, and comes with a bonus extra degree title, Computer Science with Year Abroad. You pay 15% of the normal annual fees (and no fees to the host institution), so you just have to support yourself for that year.

Slide 3

If a year abroad seems too much for you there is also the option of a semester abroad. You still get to experience the cultural immersion but in this case you pay the normal fees to Keele, and the marks you get at the foreign institution are mapped onto Keele’s grading system, with your performance during your foreign trip being reflected in your final degree classification from Keele.

Slide 4

Then there's a year in industry option. For this too you take a year out between 2nd and 3rd year to work with an industrial partner, gaining valuable experience and potentially a job offer for when you finish your studies. You pay just 20% of the normal annual fee for this. It's a great experience, giving you a new understanding of how your degree is relevant to work, and gives you a valuable edge over students who have not chosen this option.

Slide 5

We can also offer you the opportunity to apply for one of our sought after KRISP projects. Funded by the European Union the Keele Research and Innovation Support Programme offers you an opportunity to apply for an industry-based project benefiting a Staffordshire-based business. As well as giving you great experience applying for jobs, you are paid £10/hr for the work you do. There is full support from the KRISP team, an academic from the School and also the business itself. And we can fit the work around your studies so that you aren't over-committed when you have exams or coursework to focus on. They are a great addition to your CV and are often the thing employers will ask you about in job interviews.

Slide 6

And there are options for choosing industry projects throughout some of the modules you may choose to do while you are at Keele … or to undertake a Summer project with a local employer.

Slide 7

And finally we have a partnership with Santander Bank through which we are able to offer you internship opportunities in your 3rd year. These range from short internships to 'view to permanent' posts, many of which lead to full time employment offers.

Slide 8

So there you have it... the many ways in which you can gain valuable experience while you are studying at Keele University, enhancing your CV and greatly improving your chances of finding the right path for yourself when you finish your studies.

 

Student Experience

Join first-year international student Cassidy Jones as she engages in conversation with Dr Marco Ortolani, covering her experiences at Keele and her feelings about the future.

M = Dr Marco Ortolani
C = Cassidy Jones

M: I'm here with Cassidy. She's our student in our curriculum in Computer Science. She's a first-year and she's from America, actually.
M: So, welcome Cassidy
C: Thanks, Marco.
M: So, when did you actually move to UK?
C: I came in 2018. I started a Foundation Year, I did a Science Foundation Year and I'm still attending Keele, but I didn't actually move into the UK until I moved into Keele in September of 2018.
M: So, what was your impression about the Foundation Year? Did you find it useful to start with the rest of the course?
C: Yeah! Starting first year I was suddenly so so so grateful for my foundation year.
C: At Foundation Year you definitely get a lot more sort of one-on-one help. It is a smaller group that does Foundation Year then does your whole course in first year. That Foundation Year was really great I found it super helpful.
M: Cool. So basically you had a smoother beginning of the year when you moved in. What was your first impression when you started at Keele.
C: My first impression when I arrived at Keele... obviously I looked around and you can see how beautiful the campus is. It's just so green and lush and forest-y. I also noticed everybody walking around. Even that first day when I was moving all of my bags in I think every person I passed like smiled, was really friendly. All the custodial staff that I ran into, and student ambassadors that help you move in were super friendly.
M: Yeah I guess it's a bit difficult to adjust to the weather coming from California. Same for me: I come from Italy sort of I know very well.
C: Yeah the weather definitely that was an adjustment but I've acclimated now... doing right! I also know that there were lots of places and work when I first arrived... seeing Chancellor's and everything
M: Yeah the Chancellor's cafe and everything
C: Yeah
M: So, besides the weather what about the general environment? How did you find the people? You know... your schoolmates or the lecturers and everybody?
C: Once I got settled in and the year had actually begun I was still just as impressed with the people. Like my course mates all seem to actually want the same thing, you know... we all want to do well and I'm actually very fortunate I have a good group of... I have a good course with a bunch of good course mates and we all help each other a lot. Lecturers are also super helpful. Everybody has office hours that they make clear and are super keen to help if you're struggling or anything. Yeah, everybody is super friendly.
M: Well that's good to hear.
M: So let me ask you a curiosity actually. Were you already a programmer before starting at Keele? That's a question that a lot of students ask: if it's necessary to know how to program before starting a course in Computer Science.
C: No, I did not have any real experience. I had done a little bit of sort of sprite animation - super basic - years and years ago, but nope! I had virtually no computer science experience. I think the foundation year really helped with that, but even without... First year, in the beginning, lecturers are aware that most... a lot of students haven't had experience and kind of... fit their lesson material to that.
M: Yeah, we know that not everybody comes from the same background so it's natural to provide everything that is necessary to know just right at the beginning.
M: So what did you study into your first year? So far what were your modules with us?
C: My first year, my first semester I had two optional modules and two required ones. The required ones... I had a Programming module and a Fundamentals of Computing module which are what they sound like. The Fundamentals of Computing was sort of the very basic, laying the groundwork for the rest of the course. I also took a Cybersecurity module which was super interesting. One of - I think - my favorite classes I've had! And the Systems and Architecture lecture which also was super helpful. I think that one kind of helped tie together concepts from the rest.
M: Great.
C: In the second semester, I have an animation class which is... we're going to make a lot of super cool things there. I have a requirements evaluation of professionalism class which helps you prepare you for the more professional side sort of. You know, writing resumes, and get speaking skills. All of that stuff.
M: Yeah! It seems far away still, but sooner or later that will be necessary to know hopefully. Luckily!
C: Yeah. It's helpful to get that in our heads early.
M: Yeah I agree, I definitely agree.
M: So now, it's almost over actually! The first year is almost done. So, what's your general thought about that? Like... give us marks, basically! What do you think about the lecturers, the classes, the modules, everything! Is it a fail? Is it a pass? A bare pass? What do you think?
C: The lecturers, I would definitely give a pass to! I don't know what it's like in other departments... I mean I've heard good things, but all of the computer science lecturers are very so great. I've gone for help on two lectures for modules that they don't even teach and they help! Overall I would give Keele a definite pass! The people... and there's stuff going on pretty much every night. The Students Union will have something on whether it's just like you know pop quiz or karaoke or nights at the Chancellor's building.
M: Yeah... actually you know... what about that? Because, you know, being a lecturer I actually don't go over to the Student Union so often. But what's the social life here? Some people are like kind worried, because Keele is, you know, it's a kind of a separate campus so it's not in a big city and stuff like that. So what did you feel about that part?
C: You're right it's not in a big city. I mostly stay on campus I don't have much need to go off because the nightlife on campus is pretty good! Um... we have the Students Union which a lot of people... you know find people there most nights. There's a couple different pubs on campus which is great! Again, everybody friendly they're just welcoming and... But the Students Union especially I think is a super cool place. The nightlife is great and also during the daytime they have the pub open and there's a little downstairs group study area there. Yeah, my life is definitely good and drinks are relatively cheap in the Student Union!
M: That's always a perk, I would say.
C: Cool
M: So what's um... what was the reason why you choose not Keele in particular, but in general computer science? What are your aspirations? What do you expect to get from your degree?
C: I chose computer science because I've always been pretty interested in tech stuff and just a little tech savvy on computers and whatnot but I really like that style of thinking and I couldn't really think of anything else I would want to study more. It's the sort of problem-solving type of style, good logic. I have... I wasn't actually... I have no, you know, gold career dream career in mind yet. I know something in computer science and I'm very confident over the next year or two I will figure out exactly what it is.
M: Yeah, definitely! Did you have a look at the remaining part of the curriculum? Did you know what's what's waiting for you on next year?
C: Yeah, I've had a brief look. I don't remember exactly but I know that next year there's more, I think we have Programming 2.
M: Yes, there is Programming 2, there's another module on Java which is our, you know, core language of preference, and there is Software Engineering, more Artificial Intelligence waiting for you. There are optional things about networking and some Security as well, so there is still a lot to come and lot for you to chew on, probably and maybe to make up your mind about future aspirations.
M: So what do you feel? Like at the end of the first year do you feel you're ready to move on to those more advanced modules?
C: yeah I do! I'm not totally done with the semester but by the end I should be fully prepared yeah for all the modules next year. I'm excited to go into second year and I know that there's also - at least the ones I was able to look at this year - that there are some super cool computer science related optional modules next year so that's kind of cool that you get to explore parts of computer science that aren't totally necessary but definitely exploring them will help me, I think.
M: Yeah, broaden your horizon hopefully
C: Yeah
M: Yeah, definitely. Well, Cassidy! Thank you very much for your time. It's been a pleasure talking to you and hopefully... you know, best wishes for all the rest of the coming up exams! There are still things to do for this year and I'm definitely... I will see you next year!
C: Yeah thank you!
M: Alright, thanks!

 

Student Support

Marco Ortolani joined Keele last year. In this video he gives an overview of the student support provision at Keele, in our School and in the University more widely.

I would like to tell you about the the ecosystem of support services, provided by our University. We want to make sure that each student can enjoy the best experience from their time at the university, no matter what their personal circumstances may be. This is ever so important in times like these, where external pressure may cause additional stress and we want to minimise its impact on our students' wellbeing as much as possible.

Within the School, students are allocated a personal tutor on arrival at Keele. This tutor is an academic with responsibility for the student's welfare, and acts as a first point of call and an advocate and champion of the student. Meetings with our tutees are organised throughout the academic year to discuss progress and try to resolve any problems that might be affecting their studies. Those are regularly face-to-face meetings, but clearly with current exceptional circumstances we are also using all other available means of communications so that we can keep contact with our tutees.

Other more experienced students are also a good source of support in the school. Our strong team culture means that students have the opportunity to get together in a friendly and informal way, which is really useful to tackle problems in the very early stages so they don't develop into anything more serious.

More widely in the University there are many options for students to seek support. ASK, Advice and Support at Keele, offer a comprehensive service that advises on financial, health, wellbeing, legal, housing, and family issues, as well as academic concerns. The University provides centralised disability support ensuring everyone can get the most from their studies.

Also, we appreciate that time at university can sometimes be challenging or stressful in other ways, so we provide a dedicated counselling and mental health support service that gives everyone a place to turn when they need it. So we in the school, as well as our colleagues in the central university departments, take great care to make sure people don’t fall off the radar and get the support they need.

Both the University and the School make extra provision for support on academic issues. Within our School, students are encouraged to discuss academic questions with members of staff, outside their normal teaching activities. We have organised a helpdesk where staff and PhD students offer technical advice to undergraduates, particularly to support their programming skills. My colleagues in the central Student Learning team organise events, activities and courses throughout the year to help people build their academic skills.

But this is embedded within the entire curriculum. In the first year, we have a module specifically focused on strengthening the students' academic skills. We are keen on helping our students to develop and practice academic reading and writing, as well as professional skills and prepare for their dissertation in the third year, as well as for the work environment they will be joining soon after.

This approach is part of the Keele attitude, which is one of the things that sets us apart from other universities, and it means that our students can get the absolute most from their time at university.

 

Careers, Alumni and Facilities

Dr Adam Stanton discusses careers and alumni, and the exciting facilities available in the School of Computing and Mathematics.

I'm Adam Stanton, I'm a lecturer in computer science and I'll spend the next few minutes just telling you a little bit about careers and alumni, and some other opportunities that are available to you during your time at Keele.

You've heard from my colleague Phil Chapman about all of the links we have with local businesses and larger business for placements and projects, so in addition to these links that we maintain in the school and university, we keep close contact with these employers in order to pass opportunities on to our final year students and graduates.

Now the University does this through its careers service; my colleague Kathy England regularly sends out a bulletin of jobs to recent graduates and to students, and we also in the school administer an alumni group on LinkedIn. This is a great way for our graduates to keep in touch and share career opportunities as well. I always encourage our graduates to join, and I also encourage our final year students to join as well. It's been a great way to keep our graduate community connected and vibrant as people start the next phases of their lives.

Our more experienced graduates regularly post jobs from their organisations in the list, as do I and my colleagues as well, when they come along, so it's a great resource for our finalists and for our fresh graduates.

So what other opportunities are available in the school for students to get involved with? The first thing to mention is Hack Keele. Hack Keele is a student society in computer science who together put on hackathons, capture-the-flag events to practise their security and hacking skills, and they act as a society that unifies the computer science community at Keele. That community comprises undergraduate students, MComp students, MSc students, PhD students and often academic members of staff as well.

Many members come along to the research seminar series that we host in the school. Visiting researchers come from other universities, perhaps from other countries sometimes too, to do a talk about their latest cutting edge research, and we encourage all of our students to come along to these talks. There's always a healthy contingent from Hack Keele as well.

Hack Keele have done really well. They got a lot of sponsorship from big multinational companies and they are a great source of energy, enthusiasm, wisdom and fun in the school. The baton has been passed from cohort to cohort over the last few years and the society is going from strength to strength.

What else do we have? We have a perception lab, a VR lab with advanced virtual reality equipment. This is for people to undertake research and development projects on VR type activities. The equipment is used by academics as well as students for projects, and includes an HTC Vive Pro with a powerful PC to drive it, in a dedicated space where there isn’t much apart from the PC so you can't walk into things and bang your head when you’re wearing the VR kit.

We've got a high performance supercomputer that represents over £200k investment over the last 5 years. We use it mostly for research; this includes research undertaken by many final year undergraduate dissertation projects. Students get given access to the system, they learn how to wrangle it as part of their project. That means getting hold of the masses of data and writing a computer program that can be distributed over hundreds or thousands of cores that can drive the computer to its maximum performance. The supercomputer includes a range of intel processors and is stacked with graphics cards as well, so that enables general purpose GPGPU computing, which is an innovative way of doing supercomputing at scale.

Our cloud computing platform from vScaler is also used for research as well as teaching on the MSc and MComp programmes, and final year students can use it for projects as well. For example, students have used it to spin up instances to collect data from Twitter, to analyse that data using advanced machine learning techniques.

And the last thing I'd like to mention on this slide is our MakerSpace. This is dedicated equipment and tools that we purchased for academic, student and community use. We open up the research lab, the space downstairs, and invite anyone to come along and get involved in creating physical and electronic things. We've got Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, spiker boxes (these record the nervous systems of simple animals), robots, many other bits and bobs that are exciting and engaging for local people of all ages.

And finally, the newest addition to our stable in Computer Science, this is the gaming lab that has recently been installed in the department. Courtesy of Overclockers UK, this is a hardware retailer who happen to be just down the road. So this is a joint effort between Overclockers, the School of Computing and Maths, and the Keele eSports society, and we are really proud to be able to support the eSports team and host them in the building, as well as use their dedicated hardware for teaching and research during the day.

So I'd like to finish this little presentation with the video that the eSports folks put on to show off their lab. Thanks very much for watching and hope to see you at Keele soon!

 

The School has its own Computing Support team who set-up and administer all of the School facilities as well as provide support for research projects and for resolving any IT problems.

All of the School’s teaching materials (lecture slides, lab-sheets, tutorial sheets) are published on the university’s Virtual Learning Environment as the course progresses. One hundred percent of Keele computing students said that they were “able to access general IT resources” when needed and 97% said that they were able to access “specialised equipment, facilities, or rooms” (Unistats, 2017).

The school has its own Makerspace with 3D printers, Raspberry PIs, Arduinos and dedicated PCs. We provide various web servers and a cloud computing facility for student use. The school also hosts a CUDA GPU supercomputer Cluster for use across campus.

Lab locations

  • Reeves (CR10) - 74 PCs
  • Babbage (CR12) - 28 PCs
  • Knuth (CR113) - 20 PCs
  • Projects (CR7) – 11 PCs / 1 Apple iMac
  • Computer Science Study – 7 PCs / 1 Apple iMac
  • Maths Study – 16 PCs

iMac spec

21.5 inch screen
I5 processor
8GB RAM
1 TB hard drives

PC specs

Windows 10 / Ubuntu Linux

Lenovo 8th Gen i7 16GB NVMe SSD
HP Elite All in One 23 inch monitors
I7-6700 3.40Ghz processor
16GB RAM
512GB SSD
AMD Radeon R9 GPU graphics card

Connectivity

USB 3.0
USB C
DVDRW

  • 24 PCs
  • 24 hours access for Gaming Society
  • Normal University working hours for SCM students

Spec

I5 8600K CPU processor
Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU graphics card
16GB 2400MHZ RAM
Asus Rog peripherals including headsets
Asus Rog 144hz 24 inch monitors
SSD

HTC Vive Pro (Wireless Wigig adaptor for free roam) x 2 controllers

PC Spec

I7-8700k CPU (water cooled) processor
16GB 3200MHZ RAM
Nvidia GTX 1080TI
SSD
27 inch monitor

  • 13 PCs
  • Various hardware e.g. Rasberry Pi/Arduino/EMG Spiker Boxes/Quadcopters, including 2 x 3D printers: Ultimaker 2 (filament) and Formlabs Form 1+ (resin)
  • 3D scanner

Research

Dr Charles Day presents his groundbreaking research that uses advanced machine learning techniques to detect structural deficiencies in reinforced concrete, taking you on a whirlwind tour of how these technologies work and the impact they can have in the real world.

Professor Fiona Polack introduces an area of research close to her heart and gives a flavour of what life is like on the cutting edge.

0:00 A Complex Story – Fiona Polack

Hi I'm Fiona Polack, I'm the Head of Computer Science at Keele. I wanted to give you a bit of a brief introduction to my favourite research areas, which are complex systems and software engineering.

00:17 Complexity and Software Engineering

Engineering complex systems is something which takes us beyond simple straightforward software engineering and actually beyond most of what you would cover in a degree course – but let's have a look and see what we can do.

0:31 Complex is not the same as Complicated - Complex

If we start with some definitions as I use two terms differently - complex is not the same as complicated. Looking at a complex system we'll find a system that has lots of simple components, the components exist at many scales and we have to run the system to find out what it actually does and what happens. You may think that sounds a bit odd but actually all natural systems are complex; if you think about a body, a tree or flocking birds you see lots of things happening at different levels and you see things which appear to the observer but which would not be obvious if you were inside the system.

As an aside we also find lots of manufactured systems; cyber-physical systems and things called "systems of systems" which are complex in their nature.

1:33 Complex is not the same as Complicated - Complicated

By contrast complicated systems are what we often think of as engineered systems, whether that's mechanical or civil, electrical or software engineering. These things are made up of manufactured components which exist on the same scale as each other so you can simply interface them, and you can predict and even prove what will happen when the systems run. We can think of the development of a complicated system as normal software engineering, normal mechanical or civil engineering.

So that's our baseline and our normal understanding - if a system is complex we have to think about different things and how to develop using trial and error.

2:19 Real-world complexity: behaviour and patterns

So real-world complexity as I say is something you will already be aware of and in you own time you might want to look at the video on the right which is a truly spectacular sequence of starlings flocking (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eakKfY5aHmY) Here the starlings have individual behaviours but what we as the outside observer see is this amazing swirling, flowing, evolving pattern which is called an emergent flock. And that sort of patterning is very common in nature in many, many different ways.

2:54 Simulating Complex Behaviour

Just pushing that example a bit further you may have heard of Reynold's Boids (a boid is just a bird in a computer). Craig Reynolds discovered that you could simulate a flock of birds using three very simple and incredibly easy to code rules. If our green bird/boid in the middle is moving to the right; a separation rule says that the other birds will try and stay away from it. An alignment rule says that while they're staying away under the separation rule they'll actually try and move in the same direction as our central bird. But then we have the cohesion rule and the cohesion rule says that actually the birds quite like being together so there is a tendency to move together. As you put those three rules together you get birds that don't fly into each other (because they are separated), they align but they also form a cohesive group - they align and keep moving close together. We can do some clever flocking simulations with these three simple rules just by changing things like how a bird perceives other birds; can it see birds behind it or only those in front of it for instance. That I would call a complex simulation - a simulation of a complex system in a computer.

4:24 Challenges for Software Engineering – Traditional (Complicated)

So when we're actually looking at complexity in software engineering we see things which are very different to normal software engineering. So normal software engineering would be building things like the software that hangs behind this video presentation; with the presentation software and the web software. It would be things like building the systems that run Automatic Teller Machines in banks (ATMs) or the things that record whether you're registered in school, what your attendance has been and what exams you've passed and so on.

Traditionally in software engineering; that is engineering that I called complicated systems earlier; we start by asking what does the client want - with the client being the person that will own and use the software. Then we create a model system that can do that; our model is a simplified view that might be diagrams and text but ultimately it's going to be code and when we get to a code model we talk about implementing. You might hand-code; if you did a computing or IT course at school you may have been asked to build some code or increasingly you can generate code from more usable models. You might be creating a database or some other storage system then you’re probably going to create a user interface or interface where systems get fixed together to interact. You would do some testing on functionality or performance, you would do your installation and check with the client, you maintain or replace the system in the long term.

6:02 Challenges for Software Engineering – Complex

However when we build a complex system; while we still do all those things as for a complicated systems; we can't plan it in quite the same way. We have to work out what we can observe, so in this system that we're building; say we're going to simulate a flock of birds; what can we actually tell - how do we know that they’re flocking, how do we know that our system when we run it is doing the right thing.

  • Then we're thinking about "that's what a flock looks like" – perhaps "flockiness" is a large number of birds that we can perhaps quantify over a short area?
  • What are the low-level systems (the individual birds) doing? How do we model each of those birds and how do we code those three rules once we've worked out that those are our rules.
  • How can we model and that what do we miss out? From our boids model we miss out any sense of the bird as a living being - we miss out the fact that it sits in trees and sings, that it eats, has baby birds, looks after baby birds etc. We miss out all those things and just focus on the behaviours of that low-level concept (that bird) which are relevant, we think, to flocking.
  • How do we miss those out? It is an art rather than a science.

We then create a program to do this and traditional software engineering can come into that. But we make lots of compromises and lots of simplifications and we need to keep track of those things. Then we need to run our simulation; in this case if we put a visual front-end on it then we can see whether the system is doing the right thing and then we can tweak it to make the birds flock better or differently or flock in straight lines or swirly flocks - we calibrate and we tune. Very, very different to traditional software engineering where we would be testing possibly even proving. And then we can run experiments and see whether we've got a useful complex system simulation.

8:11 Conclusion

So that's just a taster of what I've been doing, that's the research that gets me out of bed in the morning. If you're interested and you come to Keele - or even if you don't - I'm always happy to talk about complex systems simulation. Thanks very much for listening!

 

Professor Zhong Fan talks about his Smart Energy Project, SEND and gives an outline of the ambition and potential of this multimillion pound project.

Professor Zhong Fan is working to change the way that the UK uses energy, both now and in the future. He is leading the creation of Europe’s first living laboratory for energy-efficient technologies, as Academic Director of the multi-million pound Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND)* at Keele University.

By providing the perfect ‘real-world’ environment for the research, development and testing of such technologies, the SEND project will enable businesses to fast-track their low carbon and smart energy innovations, getting them to market quicker and ultimately providing environmental benefits faster than may have otherwise been possible.

Speaking about the opportunities provided by SEND, Zhong said: "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come, and that is absolutely true about the SEND project. A true European first, the project offers the very realistic prospect of establishing Staffordshire at the heart of the global market for smart energy technologies."

Zhong's work is a prime example of how Keele University is using its world-leading knowledge, expertise and partnerships to make a difference locally, nationally and internationally. Through work such as Zhong's, Keele is helping to change the way the energy is generated and used across the UK and beyond, delivering a more sustainable future for us all.

Discover more about the Computer Science research that takes place at the school.

Student Societies

The school also has a very active student run society called Hack Keele a society for tech-minded individuals to meet up, learn and create the future of technology! The school also hosts the Keele Esports Society which caters to the gamers who want to be involved in the competitive gaming scene.

Frequently Asked Questions

We have an intake in year one of approximately 120 students each year.

In the first year, assessment is split approximately 1:1 between coursework and written examination. In years 2-3 (the years that affect the final degree classification) the split is 7:2:1 between coursework, written exam, and other kinds of assessment [e.g. presentations or class tests].

The following is from the programme specification for Single Honours Computer Science, the official document that describes the degree programme. Programme specifications are available at [https://www.keele.ac.uk/qa/programmespecifications/undergraduate/]

Activity

Year 1 (Level 4)

Year 2 (Level 5)

Year 3 (Level 6)

Scheduled learning and teaching

24%

27%

17%

Guided independent Study

76%

73%

83%

We teach Java as the core language. Java enforces a strong object-oriented design methodology which gives a strong grounding for designing large, complex software artefacts and its syntax is similar to many other popular languages, so learning them is less daunting. Students also learn languages specific to particular areas of computer science, alongside learning about those areas. This includes the web development languages of Javascript, PHP and C#, Python in the context of Bioinformatics and C++ in Games Development. Other languages are used for comparison or to illustrate particular fundamental ideas [e.g. C is used to illustrate how compilers work in year 1.]

We keep up with our alumni community through a LinkedIn group. A quick survey of the first page of members gave the following list:

  • User Researcher at RS Components
  • Junior Data Engineer
  • Associate Project Manager at McLaren Group
  • Developer at Surely Group
  • Senior Cyber Security Engineer at BT
  • Penetration Tester @ Fidus Information Security
  • Junior Information Security Analyst at bet365
  • Testing Engineer at CrowdControlHQ
  • Artificial Intelligence Engineer
  • Developer. Languages (Javascript & Python). Fav tech (D3.js, React.js & Pandas)
  • Channel Development Manager at Safetica Technologies
  • Cyber Security Engineer at Schneider Electric
  • Software Technical Lead at Sportpesa
  • digital and innovation strategist and leader
  • Head of Crypto at Revolut
  • Assistant Professor at Philadelphia University
  • Trainee Analyst/Programmer at Renishaw PLC
  • Graduate Software Engineer
  • Senior Research Associate at University of Cambridge
  • Researcher at Keele University
  • Senior Service Designer at ICF Next
  • Practice Area Lead for Data Science & Consultant Engineer
  • Technology leader enabling business transformation
  • Software Engineer, MediaAlpha
  • Software Developer at Davies Group Limited
  • Application Security Analyst 2 at Overstock.com
  • Human-Centred Software Engineer
  • Geopolitical CTI Analyst at Santander UK
  • Software Engineer Lead at Capgemini
  • Business Analyst at redk - The CRM solutions company

This is a first year, single-honours student timetable for Spring Semester, 2019-20. There is a two-hour lecture on Monday afternoon, followed by a practical class on the same topic. On Tuesday morning students have a two-hour lecture for one module, a one hour break, a one-hour lecture until 1300, then a practical class from 1500-1600. Students have Wednesday free, then on Thursday a lecture for IID 1300-1400, and a lecture for REP 1400-1500. Friday morning is a lecture, a practical class, then another lecture, and then the rest of Friday is free.

Timetable

I have questions! How do I contact you?

Dr Marco Ortalani, is available to answer any further questions you might have. His email address is m.ortolani@keele.ac.uk. Or you can contact the school for any general queries through scm.admin@keele.ac.uk or, for general admissions enquiries, admissions@keele.ac.uk.