Monthly Archives: October 2015

How did we spend the summer?

It’s that time of year again where the Part IBs tell us all how productive and useful their summers were. And, indeed, what a wide variety of entertaining and interesting activities were undertaken! Brad now has a 10% equity share in a new start-up, Sam ate a lot of donuts, Alex devoured dominos, Henry milked the stock market, and Rob developed racing game mods!

Sam kicked us off, telling us about the free beer at the pub with his colleagues and his work at RealVNC. He was using Java and C++ at the Java Native Interface level, writing software to bring VNC into customers’ cars. RealVNC is a commercial product used to remotely access and control a desktop or mobile. It’s a based on an Open Source core component to which RealVNC add features geared towards enterprise or typical home users. After his intense work and dedicated donut eating, Sam flew off for a much needed holiday.

The world is full of surprises and opportunities and Brad’s exemplifies this! He ended up working for a person Tatsiana (an MIT exchange student at Queens’ last year) met on a plane whilst she was jetting around Europe last Christmas. Brad was tasked with building the back-end analytics of the start-ups app, coded using Scala and Apache Spark. Additionally, he delved into tedious and frustrating administration work with the Amazon EC2 servers. Brad’s view on Amazon EC2 is short and simple, “Would not recommend!” As if all that wasn’t enough, he managed two separate teams in India where they had outsourced the iOS and API development of their product. A thoroughly enjoyable experience, despite having to sack one of the teams… Ah well, all’s well that ends well and it certainly did for Brad as he flew out with the family to the gorgeous Caribbean for a nice relaxing break.

Henry was luxuriating in his longest summer ever, June through to October, thanks to the early ending of MIT semesters and the late start of Cambridge terms. Aiming to maximise his summer productivity, he got himself hired by Goldman Sachs, working in their New York offices which he emphasises is an amazing place to be. It’s all very hush hush but, what he could divulge was that he worked on the algorithms used for trading stocks. In Henry’s words, “it’s like playing poker…except instead of James Bond it’s a computer program … and its trading one million dollars’ worth of US Equities faster than you can blink.” Let’s let that sink in for a moment…

Alex spend his summer in a very exotic place: the William Gates building! Otherwise known as the Computer Lab, which is where lectures take place for IB and II students. Alex worked on the Pyland project with a team of fellow first year students, working to add a slick user interface and error message diagnostics on top of the engine build by last year’s Pyland team (including yours truly). Furthermore, he delivered a whirlwind of presentations to a diverse spectrum of audiences, including teachers and Raspberry Pi enthusiasts.
Rob spent his summer rewriting (sorry, I mean improving) Matt’s app for the Naked Scientist. The original app was written just for Android but Rob made use of Xamarin, a cross platform development platform using C#, to build both an Android and iOS version. He ported Matt’s code to C#, added in the needed glue code and then worked on enhancements including some cool server-side Python scripting (Rob now likes Python).

The evening was wrapped up with the unanimous and entirely voluntary election of Sid to the role of President of the Queens’ Computer Science Society. We wish him all the best as he takes on his role this year!

Note: It should be recorded that in the awards ceremony for the best talk, Eduard (Queens’ resident Part III student) decided to award himself third place and one donut for his colourful and all-encompassing summer holiday presentation slide. This was Eduard’s backup slide in case any Part IB missed Eduard’s rigorously enforced submission deadline…summer blog

UK and Ireland Programming Contest (UKIEPC) 2015

This year Eduards and I arranged for the Computer Lab to be one of the host universities for the UK and Ireland Programming Contest.  We were one of 12 universities hosting. Cambridge entered 14 teams.

Well done Eduards for organising.  I am the Cambridge coach but he is the one who does all the work. Huge thanks also to Max Wilson and all the other organisers, question setters and tech. support.  The competition was really great.

We did really well this year occupying 10 spots in the top 20 with our top 10 teams coming 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 14th, 17th, 19th and 20th.  The final score sheet is here:

Congratulations to Eduards (EE Dragons) and Andi (Beuler) who came 1st and 3rd respectively. This means they’ll be progressing to the North Western European Regional Contest (NWERC) for the ACM Intercollegiate Programming Competition.

Also well done to the new Queens’ first years who turned out in force.  We had 4 teams with Queens’ students in them this year which was really great to see.

Andi and team Beuler

Andi and team Beuler

Waiting for the results to come in....

Waiting for the results to come in….

Queens' First years celebrating with free pizza

Queens’ First years celebrating with free pizza

Jirka, Henry M and Dhruv

Jirka, Henry M and Dhruv

Andy, Henry T and Simon

Andy, Henry T and Simon

Part II students’ summers

Our first real Wednesday meeting of the term included a presentation from our part 2 (third year students on the undergraduate course) students on what they did over summer.

Katie’s summer involved an internship at Jagex Games Studio (developers of Runescape), where she worked on an implementation of a Naive matt
Bayesian Classifier to determine the likelihood of a support ticket being valid or from a potential hijacker. She also got to experience a variety of work socials, plus being an early beta tester for new game features. Matt’s summer involved interning for a joint venture with Boeing and the University, based on computer vision. The role also involved giving talks to Boeing engineers in America. Andi spent his time learning things in his own time and taking some time off, along with an internship with Google in Poland and with Palantir in New York.

Ben’s intership involved working on the Xen hypervisor, a system for managing many ben
different virtual machines on a server. Due to security issues involving a virtual machine being able to interfere with other virtual machines, the x86 emulator had to be moved to a lower permissions level with workers to perform higher-level tasks, which is easier said than done considering the emulator was written with assumptions it had a high level of privilege. Nevertheless, the task was completed by the end of the internship. Jamie didn’t get an internship, and definitely showed that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. He spent the summer doing sports and making sure he was refreshed for term to start again in October, along with exploring 3rd year topics and ideas for his project, a procedural racetrack generator. Radu had an intership at Google over summer, during which he worked on a “Merchant Telephony Notifier,” the exact details of which were secret, but involved text-to-speech. Sid worked with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, travelling and researching his part II project.

Meet the supervisors: Liang Wang

One of our new supervisors this term is Liang Wang.  Liang has just started as a Postdoctoral Research Associate (PDRA) at Queens’. The PRDA position is relatively new and the idea is to give postdocs in the university a way to have a college association. Liang will be able to come and dine in college and take part in other things going on at Queens’.

Here is some information from Liang about himself:

Liang Wang is a research associate in the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. He is also a PDRA (PostDoc Research Associate) at Queens’ College, and supervises the following courses in this academic year: Principles of Communications, Information Retrieval, and Operating Systems. Liang’s research has focused on the design and optimisation of network systems. By introducing a data analytics component into the system design, he believes that future network systems are able to understand and exploit contextual information to adapt themselves in various scenarios instead of serving as naive transmission media. His broad research interests lay in big data frameworks, social network analysis, mechanism design in opportunistic networks, modeling and analysis of complex systems, ranging from P2P overlay to high-frequency financial market.

Before joining the Cambridge, he received both his MSc and PhD degrees in the Computer Science Department at the University of Helsinki, Finland in 2011 and 2015 respectively. In his spare time, Liang likes reading, coding, cycling, and jogging around the Cambridge.

Welcome back

Welcome back everyone to the new academic year.  We have 8 new computer science freshers this year which is a bit of an increase on previous years.  We also have a student visiting us from MIT to take Part 1B.  I’m looking forward to a busy year!