About our Computer Sciences Research

Our forward thinking research and state of the art facilities make Ulster the best place to work and study.


Computer Science and Informatics conducts internationally excellent and world-leading fundamental and applied research.

Theoretical and fundamental research focus on the development of new algorithms inspired by gaining knowledge of natural and biological systems while the applied research deals with the development of expertise in AI, machine learning, data analytics and engineering capability.

Together these research topics transcend all our research themes crossing disciplinary boundaries and diversifying our funding sources, and ultimately enabling our researchers to contribute to the increasing demand for expertise and capability in AI presented by industry with a major emphasis on life and medical sciences

Research on Computer Science and Informatics is undertaken within two schools, the School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems (SCEIS, Magee Campus, Derry/Londonderry) and the School of Computing (SoC, Jordanstown Campus), both within the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment. It covers a wide range of research topics which is organised in three highly active research centres.

Artificial Intelligence Research Centre

Artificial Intelligence Research Centre aims to develop AI technologies that underpin an intelligent society, empower people and support a sustainable future through the following three themes.

  • Learning, Modelling and Optimisation (led by Dr David Glass): fundamental research in machine learning, mathematical modelling, (e.g., opinion dynamics, ecological networks, pandemic modelling), mathematical optimisation (Bayesian optimisation, multi- objective optimisation).
  • Knowledge, Reasoning and Decision-making (led by Dr Jun Liu): fundamental research in knowledge representation, reasoning, logic (including theorem proving, formal verification) and decision making.
  • Informatics and Systems (led by Professor Jane Zheng): research driven by specific real-world challenges in bio/geo-informatics, multimedia, swarm systems, digital interventions, food authentication, virus detection, text/video/image analytics.

Pervasive Computing Research Centre

Pervasive Computing Research Centre aims to realise ubiquitous environmental monitoring and data analytics solutions with a focus on health and wellbeing with the following research themes.

  • Human Activity Recognition (led by Professor Chris Nugent):  research relating to sensor-based technologies with applications in activity recognition, behaviour monitoring, assistive technologies for healthcare and independent living.
  • Ubiquitous intelligence (led by Professor Luke Chen): research in IoT and edge computing, process analytics and automation, privacy and security, and user-centred intelligent cyber-physical systems.
  • Human-Computer Interaction (led by Dr Ian Cleland): through the centre’s Living Lab focus, research on the human factors associated with interactive computing systems, multimodal interaction, and affective and wearable computing.

Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC)

Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC) aims to develop a bio-inspired computational basis for Artificial Intelligence with the following research themes.

  • Computational Neuroscience and Neuromorphic Engineering (led by Professor Liam McDaid): Modelling cellular and network level brain structure and function to develop understanding of neural systems and to create biologically inspired algorithms and hardware.
  • Cognitive Neuroscience and Neurotechnology (led by Professor Girijesh Prasad): Intelligent signal/image analysis of electroencephalography; magnetoencephalography, functional near-infrared spectroscopy, functional magnetic resonance imagery and diffusion tensor imaging, to understand brain dynamics, structure and function and to develop ways to restore, maintain and enhance physical and cognitive function through brain-computer interfaces.
  • Cognitive Robotics (led by Professor Sonya Coleman): Bioinspired algorithms for sensory systems and robotic technologies with human-like sensing capabilities for seamless interaction, with applications in vision systems, assistive devices, tactile sensing, and industry 4.0.
  • Intelligent Data Analytics (led by Professor Damien Coyle): Bio-inspired paradigms for AI, machine learning and scalable computing for complex, challenging data analytics problems, many of which are industry-led.
  • Cyber Security and Web technologies (led by Professor Kevin Curran): Developing secure, intelligent web technologies that can deliver context aware knowledge and actions in real-time.

Facilities

Computer Science and Informatics has a wide range of research labs and facilities in dedicated purpose-built research spaces within both Schools in Magee and Belfast campuses, including.

  • The Connected Health Living Laboratory (CH:LL) enables assessment of usability and interaction in real-life environments and recording user behaviours with connected health solutions and includes a smart kitchen, smart living room and smart bedroom, supporting the investigation of assistive technologies and activity recognition. A set of 400 sensing nodes is available for deployment in a smart environment covering a footprint of over 600m2.
  • The Maker Lab supports the rapid prototyping of IoT endpoints and offers a large suite of pervasive sensing technologies, image and video modelling tools, computing and software resources.
  • BT Ireland Innovation Centre (BTIIC) includes labs which house testbeds for smart networks and has access to a BTIIC research area with 15 desks in BT Belfast Riverside to enable co-location of PCRC/AIRC researchers, embedding BTIIC researchers and PhD researchers with BT engineering staff, enabling dissemination and down-streaming of their research results into BT systems and services.
  • A Hyperspectral Imaging Facility is housed at the AIRC including state-or-the-art hyperspectral imaging equipment, as well as additional spectrometers to cover the full IR range. This supports the expansion of the research in spectral pattern recognition and its applications e.g., food authentication and more recently coronavirus detection.
  • Integrated-Diagnostics-Laboratory (IDL) provides the diagnosis capabilities of POC devices through a new generation of intelligent IoT solutions and to provide data to assist with the design of vaccines and drugs to prevent and treat COVID-19, enhance home/work based epidemiology studies and to enhance the understanding of transmission.
  • The Northern Ireland Functional Brain Mapping Facility housing Ireland’s only Magnetoencephalography (MEG) facility (whole head 306 channels Elekta Neuromag MEG TRIUX system and magnetic shielded room). It is one of 10 such facilities in the UK, one of only 170 active MEG labs worldwide, and the only housed within a computing and informatics unit globally (that we are aware of) - an indication of the interdisciplinary research drive and intent of the unit.
  • Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) Labis a dedicated facility for BCI research experiments and includes an EMF shielded and acoustic noise-insulated room with a 64 channel EEG system and multiple mobile EEG recording devices.
  • The Spatial Computing and Neurotechnology Innovation Hub(officially opened by Princess Anne in January 2020) houses multiple technologies for electrophysiological monitoring including multiple mobile wearable EEG headsets 1x64 channel and 2x32 channels EEG devices, a functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) brain imaging headset, ECG, HRV, pulse oximeter, GSR, and technologies for spatial computing including text, voice, gesture, augmented reality/virtual reality, an advanced car/flight simulator and vibrotactile stimulation suits, ultrasonic haptic interfaces and technologies that enable walking in a virtual environments (virtual treadmills) as well as a state-of-the-art Smartglass façade to adapt the room for various experimental situations and public engagement activities.
  • The Cognitive Robotics Laboratoryis equipped with a wide range of advanced robotics platforms, such as the PR2 robot, Shadow Dexterous Hand, 2 SUMMIT XL robots, 4 SCITOS robots, Schunk manipulator arms, and 10 Pioneer P3-DX mobile robots with a powered floor (100m2). The laboratory has various vision systems and motion capture systems, permitting the capture of 2D/3D visual data, and a Vicon tracking system for sub-millimetre object tracking.

Impact

Computer Science and Informatic Research realises impact through collaborative R&D with end users and industry at local, regional, national and international levels.

Our strategy is to streamline R&D, their exploitation and impact on economy and society and further help retain talent and skills within the region to nurture and innovation ecosystem and knowledge economy.

This is achieved through larger research and innovation initiatives to facilitate knowledge transfer and research translation, in particular, in a number of innovation centres built upon the academia-industry partnerships.

  • The Northern Ireland Connected Health Innovation Centre (NI-CHIC)
  • BT Ireland Innovation Centre (BTIIC)
  • Operative Technology Innovation Centre (OpTIC)
  • The Legal Innovation Centre (LIC)

Significant emphasis has been placed on developing and licensing new intellectual property and incubating research to spinout companies.

Our strategy has been to raise awareness among, and to support, staff and PhD researchers in business development processes and entrepreneurship through Business accelerator participation and Product development and startup funding.