School of Informatics

Distinguished lectures

A series of distinguished lectures which aim to present excellent speakers exploring intriguing topics in an engaging style.

The Informatics Distinguished Lectures address a broad audience, that includes all members of the School of Informatics, members of the University and the general public. Invitations to provide a Distinguished Lecture are issued by the Head of School on the recommendation of the School's Director of Research and the Director(s) of the relevant Research Institute(s).

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Upcoming Lectures

In 2023, the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh celebrates 60 years of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) research.  The School will host a packed programme of Distinguished Lectures, that will celebrate our achievements, and look at the present and the future of those two research areas. The details of the distinguished lectures and other events throughout the year can be found on the website below.

Link to the 60 years of computer science and AI website

Previous lectures

Talk Details
Emily M. Bender Howard and Frances Nostrand Endowed Professor of Linguistics at the University of Washington

Meaning Making with Artificial Interlocutors and Risks of Language Technology 

25th August 2021

Emily M. Bender is a linguist who works on multilingual grammar engineering, technology for endangered language documentation, computational semantics, and methodologies for supporting consideration of impacts language technology in NLP research, development and education. She is the Howard and Frances Nostrand Endowed Professor of Linguistics at the University of Washington. Her work includes the LinGO Grammar Matrix, an open-source starter kit for the development of broad-coverage precision HPSG grammars; data statements for natural language processing, a set of practices for documenting essential information about the characteristics of datasets; and two books which make key linguistic principles accessible to NLP practitioners: Linguistic Fundamentals for Natural Language Processing: 100 Essentials from Morphology and Syntax (2013) and Linguistic Fundamentals for Natural Language Processing II: 100 Essentials from Semantics and Pragmatics (2019, with Alex Lascarides). 
Dan Roth Eduardo D. Glandt Distinguished Professor at the Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania

It's Time for Reasoning (secured)

25 February 2021 (secured)

Dan Roth is the Eduardo D. Glandt Distinguished Professor at the Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania, and a Fellow of the AAAS, the ACM, AAAI, and the ACL. In 2017, Professor Roth was awarded the John McCarthy Award, the highest award the AI community gives to mid-career AI researchers. Professor Roth has published broadly in machine learning, natural language processing, knowledge representation and reasoning, and learning theory, and has developed advanced machine learning based tools for natural language applications that are being used widely.  Until February 2017, Roth was the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR).
Ross Anderson Professor of Security Engineering at the University of Cambridge

The Sustainability of Safety, Security and Privacy

30 October 2020

Ross Anderson is Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University. He was one of the founders of the discipline of security economics, and is PI of the Cambridge Cybercrime Centre, which collects and analyses data about online wickedness. He was also a pioneer of prepayment metering, powerline communications, peer-to-peer systems, hardware tamper-resistance and API security. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Physics, and a winner of the Lovelace Medal. He has just written the third edition of his textbook "Security Engineering – A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems".
Christopher Bishop

Technical Fellow and Laboratory Director, Microsoft Research

Research and the "AI Revolution"

5 October 2020

Christopher Bishop is a Microsoft Technical Fellow and Laboratory Director of the Microsoft Research Lab in Cambridge, UK.   He is also Professor of Computer Science at the University of Edinburgh, and a Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge.  In 2004, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, in 2007 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and in 2017 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. At Microsoft Research, Chris oversees a world-leading portfolio of industrial research and development, with a strong focus on machine learning and AI, and creating breakthrough technologies in cloud infrastructure, security, workplace productivity, computational biology, and healthcare. Chris is a member of the UK AI Council. He was also recently appointed to the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology.

Andrew Fitzgibbon 


Research Theme Lead, Microsoft Cambridge, UK

Making Computer Vision Systems that Work: Boujou, Kinect, HoloLens

28 January 2020


Andrew Fitzgibbon leads the "All Data AI" (ADA) research group at Microsoft in Cambridge, UK. He is a computer vision researcher, best known for his work on 3D vision, having been a core contributor to the Emmy-award-wining 3D camera tracker "boujou", to body tracking for Kinect for Xbox 360, and for the articulated hand-tracking interface to Microsoft's Hololens. He has published numerous highly-cited papers, and received many awards for his work, including ten “best paper” prizes at various venues, the Silver medal of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the BCS Roger Needham award.

Mari Ostendorf IEEE Fellow


System Design Methodologies Professor, Associate Vice Provost for Research, University of Washington

Jon Oberlander Memorial Lecture: Contextualised Language Processing with Explicit Representations of Context

12 December 2019


Mari Ostendorf joined the University of Washington in 1999. She is an Endowed Professor of System Design Methodologies in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department, an Adjunct Professor in Linguistics and in Computer Science & Engineering, and Associate Vice Provost for Research. She is a Fellow of the IEEE, ISCA and ACL, a Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance Distinguished Visiting Fellow, a former Australian-American Fulbright Scholar, and a member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences.

Brian Cantwell Smith PhD

Reid Hoffman Professor of Artificial Intelligence and the Human, Professor of Information, Philosophy, Cognitive Science, and the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Massey College


Reckoning and Judgement: The Promise of AI

11 November 2019 

Brian Cantwell Smith holds BS, MS and PhD degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). From 1981 to 1996 he was a Principal Scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University. From 1996 to 2001 he was Professor of Cognitive Science, Computer Science, and Philosophy at Indiana University, and from 2001 to 2003 was Kimberly J. Jenkins University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and New Technologies at Duke University. Smith moved to the University of Toronto in 2003, initially to serve as Dean of the Faculty of Information (2003–2008).

Michael Kölling


Vice Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences and Professor of Computer Science, King's College London

Programming Education as a User Interface Challenge

5 November 2019

Michael Kölling holds a PhD in computer science from Sydney University, and has worked in Australia, Denmark and the UK. He has published numerous papers on object-orientation and computing education topics and is the author and co-author of two Java textbooks. He is a UK National Teaching Fellow, Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy, Oracle Java Champion, and a Distinguished Educator of the ACM. In 2013, he received the ACM SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education.


Barbara Grosz CorrFRSE Higgins Research Professor of Natural Sciences in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

From Ethical Challenges of Intelligent Systems to Embedding Ethics in Computer Science Education

13 September 2019


Barbara Grosz is Higgins Research Professor of Natural Sciences in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University and a member of the External Faculty of Santa Fe Institute. She has made ground-breaking contributions to the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) through her pioneering research in natural language processing and in theories of multi-agent collaboration and their application to human-computer interaction. Her current research explores ways to use models developed in this research to improve health care coordination and science education.
Rami Bahsoon FRSE Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at the School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham

Economics-Driven Software Architecture

7 February 2019

Dr Rami Bahsoon's research is in the area of software architecture, cloud and services software engineering, self-aware software architectures, self-adaptive and managed software engineering, economics-driven software engineering and technical debt management in software. He co-edited four books on Software Architecture, including Economics-Driven Software Architecture; Software Architecture for Big Data and the Cloud; Aligning Enterprise, System, and Software Architecture. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Associate Editor of IEEE Software - Software Economies.


J.P. de Ruiter APS Fellow

Bridge Profesor in the Cognitive Sciences, Tufts University (Medford, Massachusetts)

Jon Oberlander memorial Lecture:

Let Robots be Robots

17 December 2018

Jan (J.P.) de Ruiter is a cognitive scientist whose primary research focus is on the cognitive foundations of human communication. He has published in linguistic, psycholinguistic, methodological, neurocognitive, and cognitive-psychological journals. His interests include conversation analysis, philosophy of science, artificial intelligence, and inferential statistics. He has initiated and/or been involved in several large-scale European and US projects in social robotics, focusing on collaborative interaction between humans and artificial systems.


Kimberley Hambuchen  PhD NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate's (STMD) Principal Technologist for Robotics

NASA Robotics Technology Development

8 October 2018


As Principal Technologist, Dr. Kimberly Hambuchen serves as the STMD technical expert and advocate for robotics development across all NASA centers for STMD programs. She has spent the last 20 years at NASA’s Johnson Space Center developing software and applications to advance the intelligence, usefulness and operational intuitiveness of NASA robots, including Robonauts 1 and 2, the Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV), and the bipedal humanoid, Valkyrie.
Moshe Vardi Guggenheim Fellow George Distinguished Service Professor in Computational Engineering, Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology, Rice University

Humans, Machines, and Work: The Future is Now

29 June 2018

Moshe Y. Vardi is the recipient of numerous awards, including three IBM Outstanding Innovation Awards, the ACM SIGACT Goedel Prize, and the ACM Kanellakis Award. He is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science, the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.  He is currently a Senior Editor of the Communications of the ACM, having served for a decade as Editor-in-Chief.


David Dunson FASA Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Statistical Science, Mathematics, and Electrical & Computer Engineering, Duke University

Machine learning for scientific inferences: Debunking the Hype 

28 May 2018

David Dunson's research focuses on Bayesian statistical theory and methods motivated by high-dimensional and complex applications. His work involves inter-disciplinary thinking at the intersection of statistics, mathematics and computer science. Professor Dunson is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.  He is winner of the 2007 Mortimer Spiegelman Award, the 2010 Myrto Lefkopoulou Distinguished Lectureship at Harvard University, the 2010 COPSS Presidents' Award, and the 2012 Youden Award for inter-laboratory testing methods.


Thomas G. Diettrich FACM Professor Emeritus and Director of Intelligent Systems Research in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Oregon State University 

Steps Toward Robust Artificial Intelligence

15 February 2018

Dr. Dietterich is one of the pioneers of the field of Machine Learning and has authored more than 190 refereed publications and two books. His research is motivated by challenging real world problems with a special focus on ecological science, ecosystem management, and sustainable development. He is best known for his work on ensemble methods in machine learning including the development of error-correcting output coding. Dietterich has also invented important reinforcement learning algorithms including the MAXQ method for hierarchical reinforcement learning.



Distinguished lectures that took place before 2018 have been archived.

Distinguished lecture archive