Pioneering PhD Research

banner v6PhD student Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas is co-organising a workshop on Animal Computer Interaction with Charlotte Robinson and  Clara Mancini (The Open University), and Shaun Lawson and Ben Kirman (University of Lincoln)). The design of computing technology for animals is a relatively new branch of HCI and there are many research questions being asked in this new area.  Ilyena’s research, which is showcased at, focusses on seeking ways for dogs to interact in natural ways with technologies and on how they can be active participants in research studies in this space.   Her most recent work is a workshop paper adapting Hart’s ladder of participation for dogs.  Previous work has used image recognition to map the direction a dog is facing to study interaction with screens.  In the near future Ilyena will be looking to recruit dog owners to assist in her work.  Contact her via the ACID website.


Students Win Research Paper Prize

This year’s research paper winners Thomas Tijssen and James Lemin, receiving their prize from me (sponsored by O’Reilly).

I’ve been investigating the concept of undergraduate research for a few years now. Especially the effectiveness of integrating research opportunities within the 1st year Computing undergraduate cohort, and how the introduction of a research culture enables the teaching team to engage the students and create a foundation of skills that are transferable throughout their course.

The teaching of university students at undergraduate level has conventionally mostly been about providing students with learning skills and about enabling their procurement and understanding of information. Imagine this scenario, so common in higher education: several hundred students assemble together into a big tiered lecture room, to sit an hour, sometimes longer, to listen to a one way lecture. Students are commonly expected to gain an understanding of the subject matter usually by attending these lectures and reading a body of evidence-based literature. At some stage during their academic studies (normally at the end of the academic year) it is necessary to ask them to reiterate the information handed out during those lectures, in order to assess what the student has absorbed. Often, they graduate without experiencing the practices that went into forming the specific readings they study from.

Presently, it is only when a student actually graduates they experience the development of independent inquiry, intellectual independence and knowledge creation. Engaging students in using the skills associated with research can only improve the quality of the university undergraduate experience, and improve their critical thinking.

Students who undertake CO1801 (Practitioner Skills) are required to write a research paper as one of their assignments. This module serves as a tool for students to learn and put into practice skills that will increase their employability; such as team working, adaptability, communication and research proficiency. Students have to propose a piece of experimental research, carry out their experiment, and write it up in a short journal paper format. The best papers are submitted to UClan’s Journal of Undergraduate Research, further encouraging quality of work and engagement.



DC-logoBCS HCI Summer Doctoral Consortium

Date: 2nd June 9:00am – 4:00pm
Location: University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK
Chairs: Dr Joseph ‘JoFish’ Kaye, Flickr and Yahoo! Labs, Dr Leon Watts, University of Bath
Web Site:

What is a Doctoral Consortium?
A doctoral consortium is a one-day event where you explore your PhD topic, the practical problems of doing your research and you share your experiences in a critical but supportive context. This event will enable you to network with peers and established experts within the field of HCI while building confidence and motivating you to do even better with your research. Crucially a DC provides students with a valuable opportunity to present, discuss, and receive feedback on their work and ideas.

BCS-Funded Travel Bursaries available! Please check the web site for further info


Einstein. His Science and His Life.

Last night, Dr Michael Shara, Curator, American Museum of Natural History, New York is talking about Einstein, his science and his life, during a public engagement talk.

“The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible” Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

His contribution to science and to humanity really was not matched by any other human being in his time. Had Einstein not lived it may have been a century till our modern technological society reached where it has today.

Why do we care about Einstein? What are the implications of his work? Well, he tackled some little problems in physics such as light, matter, time, energy and gravity.

Einstein was a contradiction. He was a pacifist, a socialist, not religious, and a warm and gentle man.

Initially when he graduated he was hired as a patent clerk. He wasn’t hired as a teacher because none of his professors could tolerate him. He did of course go on to win the Nobel Prize.

His true greatness was his work tackling the problems of space and time and establishing that energy and matter are the same thing.

The faster you move through space the slower you move through time. Time is not absolute, time is relative.

About 10 years later Einstein figured out how gravity works.

It was really interesting to hear about the science, but even more so to hear about Einstein the man.

Such a fantastic talk could only have been received with a resounding thank you from the audience.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)


Article in ACM Interactions

ins02Prof Janet Read has written an article for the prestigious ACM Interactions magazine. The article, ‘Children as Participants in Design and Evaluation’,  can be found here and discusses the challenges and experiences of working with children within the ChiCI Research Group.


Leadership Programme in Cyprus

This programme focuses on providing students with the opportunity to explore leadership and their own leadership potential through a residential Leadership Challenge event, based in Cyprus. This involved a group of students flying out to UCLan Cyprus to participate in an intensive three-day programme. We were lucky enough to be able to take out a group of 36 of us from our School, and we certainly made the most of it and had lots of fun!

Check out the video that one of our students made. This was filmed and edited by Felix Krause using his GoPro and trusted selfie stick!

We flew out to Cyprus on Tuesday night and arrived quite late in the evening. However, the staff at the accommodation were fantastic and even helped us pre-order lots of pizza so that we didn’t go to bed hungry.

We spent Wednesday and Thursday on the fantastic UCLan Cyprus campus undertaking the leadership classes. The campus is really modern and the facilities are superb. Here’s a group photo (supplied by Dominik Weber) from the morning when we first arrived on the steps of the main building:


We also had breakfast on campus, fuel for the day, before we started on the leadership programme…


We were lucky enough to have Friday as a free day, as it was a national holiday (Labour Day) in Cyprus. Some students used this opportunity to have a night out in Ayia Napa the night before, whilst others spent the day visiting the nearby cities or even relaxing on the beach.

We even found time to meet with some of the Cypriot staff to discuss our modules and courses.


On the Saturday the students had to present what they had learnt, and they decided to do so in an innovative manner featuring the children’s game of ‘Chinese Whispers’. We did this outside by the pool to take advantage of the bright sunny weather, who says classrooms need to have 4 walls and a roof?



Too soon, it was time to come home again. All in all it was a very successful trip and the feedback from the students was very positive. Can’t wait to go back again next year!


EU Code Week!

DSC06306.JPGAs a part of EU Code Week programme Computing@UCLan organized a coding session for all UCLan students. The idea of the event was to make coding more visible, demystify these skills, and to bring motivated people together. All students regardless of their background (computing or non-computing) were encouraged to join the event. There were many attendees at the session from different UCLan’s Schools and short survey revealed high student satisfaction. The session was led by Dr. Marija Katic, Dr. Daniel Bowen Fitton, Dr. Matthew Paul Leslie Horton and a PhD student Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas. Find out more about EU Code Week @


International Agent Conference 2015

Last week saw 40+ international agents visit us on the UCLan campus from all over the world. We had a fantastic time in the School showing them round and talking to them about our innovative research and our teaching catalogue.

Graham and I even find time to take our India Regional Manager Govind out for some lovely Caribbean food.




ChiCI Research Studies

This week Dr Dan Fitton, Dr Peggy Gregory, Dr Matt Horton and two Child-Computer Interaction MRes students visited Ashton Community Science College to carry out research studies into designing for Maker technologies and teen social media preferences. A massive thanks to the class teacher John Houghton and the Year 7 pupils involved!IMG_1219


CCI Course@CHI 2015

11162216_10155465986050054_8730942364679926485_nProf Janet Read from the ChiCI Group at UCLan and Dr Shuli Gilutz from Tel-Aviv University gave a course on Research Methods for Child-Computer Interaction this week at the prestigious CHI 2015 conference in Seoul, Korea.