Ed Davis wins poster competition

Congratulations to Ed Davis who won a poster award as part of the Jean Golding Institute’s Beauty of Data competition.

This visualisation, entitled “The World Stage”, gives a new way of representing the positions of countries. Instead of placing them based on their geographical position, they have been placed based on their geopolitical alliances. Countries have been placed such to minimise the distance to their allies and maximise the distance to their non-allies based on 40 different alliances involving 161 countries. This representation was achieved by embedding the alliance network using Node2Vec, followed by principal component analysis (PCA) to reduce it to 2D.

DataScience@work seminars 2022 announced

We are delighted to announce the confirmed DataScience@work seminars for 2022. Huge thanks to our invited speakers who will be joining us in person and online over the coming months!

The Compass DataScience@work seminar invites speakers from industry, government and third-sector to provide our PhD students with their perspective on the realities of being a data scientist in industry: from the methods and techniques they use to build applications, to working as part of a wider organisation, and how to build a career in their sector.

Find out more on our DataScience@work seminar here.

Compass news round-up 2021

As we start 2022, we look back at our Compass achievements over 2021…

Invited speakers and seminars

Over the course of the year we invited seminar speakers Ingmar Schuster on kernel methods, Nicolas Chopin offered a two-part lecture on sequential Monte Carlo samplers, Ioannis Kosmidis on reducing bias in estimation and a special two-part lecture from Barnett Award winning Jonty Rougier on Wilcoxon’s Two Sample Test.

Compass student launches PAI-Link

In May, Compass PhD student, Mauro Camara Escudero, set up PAI-Link: a nation-wide AI postgraduate seminar series.

Last year also saw the launch of our DataScience@work seminar series, at which we had 5 external organisations speak (Adarga, CheckRisk, Shell, IBM Research and Improbable) and the British Geological Survey opened this academic year’s seminar series with a talk from alumna Dr Kathryn Leeming.

Training and internships

We ran training sessions on themes such as interdisciplinary research, responsible innovation and a Hackathon run with Compass partners LV= General Insurance, which is recounted by Doug Corbin in his blog post. Compass held its first Science Focus Lab on multi-omics data and cancer treatment with colleagues from Bristol Integrative Epidemiology unit.

Five Compass students were recruited to internships with organisations such as Microsoft Research, Adarga, CheckRisk, Afiniti and Shell.


The Student Perspectives blog series started up last year with Three Days in the Life of a Silicon Valley Start-up. This student-authored series explored topics such as air pollution in Bristol,  the different

Michael Whitehouse in Sky News article

approaches of frequentists and Bayesians, and how to generalise kernel methods to probability distributions.

Michael Whitehouse contributed to a Sky News report on the potential impact of the pandemic on the Tokyo Olympics by modelling the rise of COVID-19 cases in Japan.

Access to Data Science

Compass ran its first Access to Data Science event – an immersive experience for prospective PhD students which aimed to increase diversity amongst data science researchers by encouraging participants such as women and members of the LGBTQ+ and BAME communities to join us.

Research and studentships

Our second cohort of students selected their mini-projects (a precursor to their PhD research) and our third cohort of students joined the Compass programme in September 2021.

Compass students Sept21
Compass Cohort 3 students

Annie Gray presented her paper ‘Matrix factorisation and the interpretation of geodesic distance’ at NeurIPS 2021. Conor Newton gave a talk at a workshop in conjunction with ACM Sigmetrics 2021 and he and Dom Owens won the poster session of the Fry Statistics Conference.  Jack Simons paper ‘Variational Likelihood-Free Gradient Descent’ was accepted at AABI 2022. Alex Modell’s paper ‘A Graph Embedding Approach to User Behavior Anomaly Detection’ was accepted to IEEE Big Data Conference 2021. Danny Williams and supervisor Song Liu were awarded an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account for their project in collaboration with Adarga.

We also created links with new industrial partners – AstraZeneca, ILRI and EDF – who are each sponsoring Compass PhD projects for the following students: Harry Tata, Dan Milner, and Ben Griffiths and Euan Enticott.


ILRI sponsors Compass PhD project 

We are excited to announce a new partnership between Compass – the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Computational Statistics and Data Science – and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

International Livestock Research Institute

The first step in this new partnership is a co-funded and co-created PhD research project entitled A spatially explicit assessment of agro-pastoral sustainability in Kenya and Ethiopia. The aim of the PhD project is to develop a framework for the assessment of sustainability dynamics in ecologically important areas used by agro-pastoral and pastoral households. Mountainous areas are important water towers and reserves of biodiversity in East Africa, and conservation of such areas is important to stop degradation of the surrounding arid lowlands. However, population pressure and food demands continue to rise, so a sustainable balance between land use and land stewardship must be struck. The PhD project will build upon methods of agricultural sustainability assessment, and make use of spatial statistics to bring together data from household surveys, soil and water measurements, and remote sensing. The resulting analysis will contribute to the understanding of current human-environment interactions in the two study locations, and form the basis for developing scenarios considering the pros and cons of potential future changes. The PhD contributes to the ESSA project, and will operate in Yabelo, South-East Ethiopia, and the Taita Hills, South East Kenya.

“Coming from a geography background, the Compass-ILRI partnership is a fantastic opportunity for me to elevate my skill-set and apply cutting edge statistical techniques to the challenge of sustainable food security. ILRI are a world leader in agricultural research and I am really looking forward to learning from them and contributing to their important goal.” Dan Milner, Compass PhD student.

Dan Milner, Compass-ILRI PhD student

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works for better lives through livestock in developing countries. ILRI is co-hosted by Kenya and Ethiopia, has 14 offices across Asia and Africa, employs some 700 staff.


DataScience@work: British Geological Survey

We’re excited to welcome Dr Kathryn Leeming for our first DataScience@work seminar of the academic year and our first in-person talk for this seminar!


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