Grace Hopper Celebration Open Source day report

Virtual participants at the Grace Hopper Celebration Open Source day

On September 16th, Naomi Arnold from the Networks Group in EECS attended the Grace Hopper Celebration’s Open Source Day. This is a virtual all-day hackathon celebrating women who work in open source software. Open source software still has huge under representation of women with, by some estimates, less than 10% of open source contributors being women.

Naomi represented the Raphtory project. a collaboration with QMUL, the Alan Turing Institute and Pometry. Raphtory was showcased in the Open Source Day alongside some well known projects like Matplotlib, Open Street Map and Node.js. The objective of the event was to celebrate women in computer science and help first-time contributors get into open source with a variety of workshops to get involved with. Naomi said: “It was great to have some users testing the Raphtory software and get some feedback about the user experience with getting started, and we got some issues resolved and cool features implemented that we’d struggle to find time to do just within the core team.”

Doing a PhD while raising a family | EECS

John Xavier Riley

Tell us about your work at QMUL?

I’m a 3rd year PhD student in the Artificial Intelligence and Music (AIM) program at the EECS school. My research centres around automatic music transcription using a variety of methods and approaches. I enjoy the work – I’ve not been particularly successful so far in terms of publications but I feel like I am making some progress.

Many people feel like they have to choose between doing their research or having a family, Is it possible to be a full time PhD student and raise a family?

It is very difficult – my financial situation is relatively comfortable (see below) and my wife isn’t currently at work which allows her time to focus on our two children. Even with these considerable advantages, it can be hard to be available to my family and be fully present for my research at the same time. I certainly struggle to work with the intensity that some of my high-performing peers seem able to achieve.

The other aspect I find difficult is the idea of a future within academia. I’m 36 and settled in my current location which means that academic jobs within travelling distance of my house are very limited. I’ve basically abandoned the idea of continuing my research after the PhD program ends because I don’t see it as being compatible with providing for my family. This is a personal choice though – I wouldn’t expect everyone to feel the same way.

The past three years with Covid have been difficult for most, how did it change the dynamic of research for you being at home with your family?

I had been working remotely for 7 years prior to starting the PhD so in that sense it wasn’t a big change. I do feel like my cohort is more isolated in terms of their research interests. The cross-pollination of ideas that you get from attending lectures together, eating lunch together etc. seems to be reduced as a result of covid for us. Being at home with my family can be challenging at times in terms of focus and finding uninterrupted spells of time to think but I feel like I just have to make the best of it.

How difficult is to financially support your family while on a PhD stipend?

My financial situation is unusual – I don’t have a mortgage. I’m also able to supplement my funding through savings that I made from a career prior to starting the PhD although we try to keep these for capital expenses instead of day-to-day living. Even so, it has been challenging and we’ve had to make cutbacks on non-essential items. I understood this going into the PhD though and I’m anticipating that it will be worth it on returning to work afterwards.

Teo Dannemann

Tell us about your work at QMUL?

I am a Media and Arts Technology PhD student since 2019, funded by Chilean Research Council. My research interest lies in collective music performance and to elucidate the synergies (or emergent properties) that come up from this. A specific main question in his research is: how human music interaction differs from human-computer interaction?

Many people feel like they have to choose between doing their research or having a family, Is it possible to be a full time PhD student and raise a family?

Not in current conditions. There’s a lot you have to give away on both sides, you end up sacrificing time on your PhD because you have to do extra work for maintaining the child costs (especially nursery, around £1200 monthly for a full-time nursery).

The past three years with Covid have been difficult for most, how did it change the dynamic of research for you being at home with your family?

Living in London, it was quite difficult, as we had to live in a one-bedroom flat the three of us, with the newborn crying around couldn’t focus to do work very often. Then we decided to move outside of London where we could afford a bigger place and it was much better, but then the commuting time and costs appeared…

How difficult is to financially support your family while on a PhD stipend?

Don’t want to sound exaggerated, because in our case we are lucky that we could get help from family during difficult times, but otherwise it gets dangerously difficult to be a parent with a PhD stipend.

What kind of financial help have you looked either from QM or other parts?

QM basically has the hardship fund, which I applied for and didn’t get. Then I looked for government help and the main help is called Tax Free Childcare, for which I am not eligible as your income (i.e. the stipend) has to be taxable in the UK. Therefore, externally (overseas) funded students are at a particular disadvantage for applying this kind of funding.

New EECS centre on Scholarship

Signpost to Scholarship

There is a new centre in EECS for supporting staff in their Scholarship activities!

The initiative started in January 2022 when Marie-Luce launched a survey of all Teaching and Scholarship (T&S) staff about what the Scholarship part of their role is and whether they understood that aspect of the role. Although Scholarship is a contractual requirement for T&S Staff, they often felt unsupported in this aspect of their role.

A discussion group was then set up to provide a space for staff on T&S contracts to get together and discuss, share, get informed, and engage in “Scholarship”.

So what is Scholarship? Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (or SOTL) has been defined as: “the evidence-based study of teaching and learning, which is focused on student learning, grounded in context, methodologically sound, conducted in partnership with students, and publicly disseminated”. Engaging in Scholarship requires from staff to transition from discipline-based research to SOTL, a difficult transition if not adequately supported

Staff on T&S contracts, predominantly women, often find it hard to progress their careers, as the Scholarship aspect has often been poorly recognised and promoted and is not well understood. The higher teaching load often leaves them little time for engaging in Scholarship, which impinges on their career prospects.

In the last 6 months, a mailing list ( has been created and regular discussion meetings have been held about what is meant by scholarship and for sharing what staff have been doing or would like to collaborate on in the future. For example, talks on compassionate pedagogy, learning analytics and techniques for teaching such as creating hybrid online/in person lab sessions have been held. Early July, an away day for sharing experience and encouraging engagement in Scholarship took place.

The group is becoming an official centre within EECS with approval of senior management. Staff on T&S contracts will be automatically enrolled on the mailing list but other people interested can contact Marie-Luce ( A website is being created to give visibility to the centre. The new centre should really increase the promotion prospects and clarity about the nature of scholarship and be a genuine boon for anyone on a T&S contract.

The mission statement for the Centre (resulting from many discussions and brainstorming over the last 6 months) is to: create a space for discussion of Scholarship; provide peer support and mentoring; increase the visibility and recognition of T&S staff; create opportunities for collaborations; impact quality of education in EECS and at QMUL; align Scholarship activities with EECS and QMUL education strategies.

The Scholarship Centre will “give a home” to T&S staff and support their career development. It will improve the visibility and impact of their Scholarship within EECS, at QM, and beyond.

Women in Engineering Career Development Day 30th September

This event is being organised by Mona Jaber ( and aims at students in electronic and communication engineering who want to:

  1. Meet and hear about the latest technologies and research by leaders in the field,
  2. Get advice about career paths and opportunities by representatives of major communication companies,
  3. Have the opportunity to present and discuss their work with leaders in the field by participating in a poster competition

Click here for more information and registration.


Enter the competition and win a free registration at an IEEE ComSoc Conference of your choice!

The technical program committee is soliciting contributions for an afternoon poster session devoted to recent results. We especially encourage students and junior researchers to participate. There will be no published proceedings. Any contribution in the general area of electronic or communication engineering is welcome.

Extended abstracts (2 pages maximum, double column, IEEE style) for the poster session should be submitted with WIE-CDD-Poster in the subject to Mona Jaber at Electronic submissions must be in PDF format and provide sufficient details for careful reviewing. The Best Poster Award will be offered based on both the content and the presentation of the poster, judged by an award committee. Certificates will be awarded to the first, second, and third place posters.

Electronic submissions must be in PDF format and provide sufficient details for careful reviewing. The Best Poster Award will be offered based on both the content and the presentation of the poster, judged by an award committee. Certificates will be awarded to the first, second, and third place posters.

The deadlines are:
Abstract submission: 14/09/2022
Acceptance notification: 19/09/2022 Digital poster submission: 27/09/2022


  • 9:00- Arrival coffee
  • 9:30- Welcome note by IEEE UK & Ireland Chapter Chair: Professor Izzet Kale
  • 9:45- Talk by Dr Yue Wang (Samsung) on career path and technical presentation of her work
  • 10:10- Talk by Dr Yansha Deng from (KCL) on education path and career in research
  • 10:40- Coffee break
  • 11:00- Talk by Dr Joanne Chamberlain from (QMUL) about women’s role in interdisciplinary engineering projects
  • 11:25- Talk by Ruth Brown (Heavy Reading – previously with BT Labs) about the recruitment of women in telecom
  • 11:50- Talk by Joel Obstfeld (Cisco) about the ethics in telecom research
  • 12:15- lunch
  • 13:30- Panel to answer questions from moderator and audience
  • 14:40- Coffee break
  • 15:00- Poster session and networking
  • 16:00- Panel to select best poster
  • 16:30- Closing note and announcements

Jewish Ethnicity and Diversity forms

Graph shows the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK over time.

Mark Sandler is a Professor of Signal Processing in EECS. He agreed to talk to us about his experiences of many years of filling in Diversity Monitoring forms and in particular the Higher Education Statistics Agency diversity forms.

Mark is an Ashkenazi Jew and believes it is important for Jewish identities to be recognised on these forms. Describing filling the forms he says “It has always been awkward for me. The precise categories have evolved over the years and changed with our society but normally the form doesn’t even say ‘Jewish’ it just says ‘other’. Most recently I have been writing in ‘Ashkenazi Jew’ and this was a bit of a lightbulb moment as I’ve been filling in these things for forty years” Often he found himself simply ticking a box marked simply “other” (in some older forms he found himself ticking “Chinese and other”).

“I think it’s what David Baddiel captured in his book `Jews Don’t Count because in some sense we are invisible. It’s assumed we are assimilated enough that there is simply no need to take account of us separately. It makes me wonder `Why am I not included? Is there a default assumption I am a Christian? We often have a tendency to keep ourselves quiet and there are good reasons for that, history tells us to do so.”

“There is also an assumption that I’m simply a white man and don’t bring anything to a diversity committee,” Mark said. He discussed several things about Jewish lived experience that would perhaps be surprising to those who didn’t know about them for example. “Any synagogue you go past on a Saturday morning has community members patrolling outside wearing stab vests. On the continent they are often armed. Even Jewish schools and pre-schools have security guards and other protective measures.”

“People treat the outcome of these forms as if they are objective data but they really are not,” he explained. The omission of a Jewish identity on diversity forms worries him and not just in a university context, “Hospital forms often omit a Jewish identity even though there are genetic conditions like Tay-Sachs disease which affect Ashkenazi Jews.”

Dialogues for a neglected illness

Valerie Eliot-Smith, a Visiting Scholar at CCLS at Queen Mary has been championing awareness around ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) as she has been living with it since 1981.

Over the last two years, she has advised on, and contributed to, a film about ME. The film was the final output of a project which was made possible by an award from the Wellcome Institute’s Public Engagement Fund.

The final film in the series was released via this website at the end of last year. This film is an exploration of the history and politics surrounding ME and Queen Mary’s role in the story of ME is mentioned in the film.

The film can be viewed at this link: (1 hour 11 minutes, divided into 6 short chapters)

Raspberry Pi Guide to Culturally relevant and responsive computing

Raspberry Pi Foundation have produced a short (20 page) booklet based on their research into criteria for learning resources that promote diversity. While their research is aimed at teachers of students up to 18 years old there is something we can all pick up from this leaflet.

The booklet has sections about teaching approaches, showing diverse role models and creating examples that draw on a range of cultural contexts.

You can find the booklet online here:

World Bipolar Day

On World Bipolar Day (30 March, 2022), Director of Wellbeing Dr. Mahesha Samaratunga shares her advice on how we might help and support our students and each other by raising our awareness about bipolar disorder.

We have students amongst us who struggle with bipolar disorder and as Module Organisers and Academic Advisors, it is important that we be aware/educate ourselves around what this may look like in the classroom/online.

Understanding bipolar

A student with bipolar will depict very different behaviour to that of other students and they often get misunderstood and labeled as ‘bad, aggressive behaviour’.

Students with bipolar can be misunderstood in social interactions, email communications, and how they interact with the faculty and peers. They also often go unsupported. Common myths need to be eradicated such ‘as students/people with bipolar are aggressive and dangerous or attention-seeking.

Take time to read what the manifestations of bipolar may look like, especially in our learners/staff and what support or signposting we can do so that they have the necessary support:

As always if you are an advisor please advise students to connect with their  GP regularly and guide them to Advice & Counselling. If in doubt please do not hesitate to contact me.

Useful resources

Bipolar myth buster

‘I have bipolar disorder and became one of the top students in the UK’

To share with students – about managing bipolar at the university

How we can support someone with bipolar – friends/family/ lecturers

Real people living successfully with bipolar

About World Bipolar Day

The goal of World Bipolar Day is to bring the world population information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the illness and eliminate social stigma around this illness. You can read more about World Bioplar Day here:

Attitudes towards gender-inclusive language. A multinational perspective

International Conference

9th September 2022 (online)

This international conference will bring together researchers studying attitudes towards gender-neutral language in different languages and countries.

Gender-neutral and gender-inclusive language is currently being discussed in the public sphere, and views on the subject have increasingly been voiced by individuals as well as organisations. These include state institutions, private associations, subject specialists such as linguists, and private individuals / laypeople. Views of and attitudes towards gender-neutral language cover a broad spectrum between extreme ends, and even subject specialists hold conflicting views. Some academic research on attitudes towards gender-neutral language has been conducted and published. However, a multinational/multilingual, comparative perspective is still missing.

Hosted by the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film at Queen Mary University, this event will be free to attend and will address and discuss questions such as:

How are attitudes towards gender-neutral language voiced in different countries and languages? What groups or individuals engage in the debate, and what are their views and attitudes? What are the prevailing discourses? Are there clashes between proponents of different varieties of gender-fair language?

A selected number of contributions will be included in a high-quality edited volume on “Attitudes towards gender-inclusive language. A multinational perspective”, with a publisher of excellent standing.

For more information about this conference, including registering your interest, and submitting a proposal, visit :ttp://

Supporting Muslim students and colleagues during Ramadan

The evening of Friday 1 April marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, which is a religious month observed by many Muslims in the UK and around the world. Ramadan falls at a different time each year because Islam uses the lunar calendar. 

The month of Ramadan is a time of spiritual reformation where Muslims try to increase their spiritual devotional acts such as prayer, giving to charity, and strengthening family ties, and also to fast and abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

Muslim staff and students observing Ramadan may face some changes during this month which may potentially impact their workday or studies.

How we can support our students and colleagues during Ramadan in EECS

Join Queen Mary’s Open Iftar

Queen Mary is hosting Open Iftar and will be providing an iftar experience to people of all and no faiths. The Open Iftar will be held on Thursday 21 and 28 April for food and drinks at sunset in Library Square. To find out more, visit:

Ramadan Mubarak to all our Muslim students and colleagues at the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary.