Our Students

International Women’s Day 8th March

By | Our Academics, Our Students | No Comments

In celebration of International Women’s day, I sat down with Dr Heidi Christensen and our CDT students Meg and Danae to talk about their experiences as a woman in Computer Science. Computer Science is a very interdisciplinary area of study and research, which has traditionally suffered from a gender imbalance. 

Our students have come into the CDT from a wide range of mixed academic backgrounds. We talked about what it was like to come from different backgrounds and perspectives. From Linguistics, where there was a large majority of women, to Computer Engineering where the scales were tipped heavily in the other direction. 

‘I worked as a data scientist for two years and was the only female data scientist. It could be difficult at times as I felt I had to prove my knowledge.’

‘I was in a cohort of mainly women but the majority of lecturers were male.’ 

The CDT, in particular, is focused on closing the gender gap by seeking out and accepting students from a wider range of backgrounds. Along with this ethos, the Department is working hard to bring a balance through a variety of initiatives including the Athena SWAN award. You can read more about this here:

‘When I first came to Sheffield I was impressed with the balance.’ 

‘I had been warned that coming into Computer Science, I would have to work harder to be listened to, but generally that has not been the case for me. It has not been too different to my past experiences or too steep a learning curve.’

There are still barriers that exist, including; the ‘stereotype’ of what a computer scientist looks like; the idea that someone working with computers being a ‘hacker’; and myths around certain subjects being for boys and for girls, that should be broken. 

‘At first I thought it was a brave decision to choose a career in Computer Science, but going forward it shouldn’t be seen as being brave, it’s just another option that is there.’

‘I wish I had known at a younger age that you can work with language alongside computers. And that there is a lot of room in Computer Science for the things that I am interested in.’

We rounded off our discussion with advice for encouraging more women to get involved in Computer Science. The key being increasing awareness of what options are out there and a greater understanding about the broad area of engineering. 

‘Find what it is you can contribute: the different point of view you bring and what you have to give that is different. Be yourself.’ 

‘Be proud of your background and what you can bring. You have to find your own feet.’ 

You can find out more about the Sheffield Women in Computer Science Society (SWiCS) here and see how you can get involved;

PhD Project Proposal Launch

By | Industry, Our Students, PhD Projects | No Comments


Our CDT manages PhD projects in a slightly different way from a conventional PhD studentship. All of our students undertake an intensive 6 month programme of training covering research skills, core SLT skills, and broader time and project management skills.

During this time, we work with our industrial partners to gather a selection of PhD project ideas which are industrially driven and offer great scope for academic research leading to a PhD. The remaining 3.5 years of their studentship will then be focused on this research project.

PhD Project Proposal Launch Event

This week we internally launched the PhD project proposals to our students and academic supervisors.

We received 32 projects from 12 industry partners in total (and we expect to receive a few more in the coming days). This gives our eight students an exceptional choice of areas to work in.

The projects are drawn from a broad range of SLT topics including; pure audio processing, speech processing, and traditional natural language processing.

The range of applications is just as broad covering; medical, educational, entertainment, competitor analysis and customer engagement domains.

What’s next for our students?

The students are excitedly reviewing all their project options and have a timeline for discussion with supervisors and industry partners to refine projects before final allocations.

PhD projects for cohort 1 will start in April. Watch this space for more info…

Meet Hussein

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Hussein Yusufali

Academic Background

BSc Physics, University of Kent

Research Interests

Emotion in speech

What was it about the CDT programme that most appealed to you?

The CDT allows multidisciplinary backgrounds to enrol and gain fundamental foundational skills within the first six months of the programme.

The opportunity to work alongside very reputable industry partners and building industrial contacts throughout the PhD.

Having an enhanced RTSG budget to fund conference travel or educational needs is a big bonus.

The Personal Development Project (PDP), which is alongside the PhD, that has the potential to be very unique and innovative.

What are you enjoying the most about the programme so far?

Having the support of the cohort. As well as working with very knowledgeable and world-leading academics in the fields of NLP and Speech.

Using the various facilities and services provided by the Department of Computer Science, to be able to gain fundamental knowledge and ability, which will be essential for my PhD.

Can you describe a typical day?

The programme is quite flexible. Usually when I first arrive at the CDT work-space I check emails and correspondence etc. Then the rest of my day could be made up of a variety of activities including;

  • Read research papers for book club or journal club
  • Meet with academics or supervisors
  • Optional module work for the semester
  • Work with the rest of the cohort on group work, such as the mini-project

If you could give one piece of advice to current students or recent graduates interested in the CDT, what would it be?

Do not be afraid to contact the team if you have any queries or particular research interests you feel may be suited to the CDT.

Validate AI Conference 2019

By | Conference, Our Students | No Comments

Conferences and the CDT

As part of our PhD programme, our students are supported with attending  a variety of conferences that cover the wide range of SLT subjects.

In November one of our students from cohort 1, Will, took a trip down to the Royal Society in London to attend the Validate AI conference

What Will said about the day;

‘It was a very unique conference to attend. This was because the sole focus of the conference was to try and answer the question of “how do we validate AI?”. There was a lot of discussion around this question and how it applies to particular industries, such as the automotive industry, financial sector and public sector.

Some of the common themes throughout the day included:

  • Validation & verification of AI systems
  • The triple helix (public, private and academic institutions cooperating)
  • Regulation & ethics of AI
  • Developing robust & explainable AI

Overall this was a really fascinating conference to attend with some really important questions being raised and a lot of people trying to think ahead for what are the challenges of the future in the field of AI. Many of these questions will have an impact on the field of speech and language technology in a profound way, particularly with regards to the tools we use and the way we handle the personal data involved in developing speech and language models.’

A Huge Welcome to Cohort 1

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They have arrived!

A big welcome to our first cohort. They arrived on 30 September 2019 and are currently getting settled in. There’s quite a lot to take in over the first few weeks and months.

Who are they? 

We have a cohort of 8 exceptionally strong students joining the CDT this year: Tom, Will, Sebastian, Peter, Claudia, Danae, Hussein and Meg. They come from a diverse range of backgrounds including: forensic speech science, music technology, maths, physics, languages, linguistics, psychology, computer sciences, and engineering disciplines. This wide range is essential to excel within the unique training environment and ambitious research opportunities the CDT offers.

So far…

They have had an exciting induction to get familiar with the campus and each other. The first few months are designed to provide them with a thorough understanding of foundational Speech and Language Technology topics through a combination of bespoke courses as well as existing taught modules.

What’s next? 

From early next year they will be working with the CDT team to refine PhD project ideas with our industrial partners with the aim of starting their PhD research from April 2020.