Monday, September 20, 2010

Summary of NZCSRSC 2010

During the mid-trimester break 12-15 April 2010, Victoria University of Wellington hosted the 8th New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference (NZCSRSC) on the Kelburn campus. The conference was organised and run by postgraduate computer science students from the School of Engineering and Computer Science. The aim of the conference is to promote and strengthen the nationwide community of ICT research students.

There were a number of exciting keynote speakers. Nat Torkington a Victoria University alumnus talked about The Career-Spotter’s Field Guide, which explained about life beyond the ivy-covered walls of academia. Nat drew upon his vast experience and anecdotal evidence from working in small startups to large corporations. Rob O'Callahan from Mozilla talked about how computer science can change the world. Rob encouraged people to think hard about what research problems one should solve in order to make a significant impact on society. Sebastian Castro from the NZ Registry Services talked about A Day in the Life of the Internet project which collects traffic data from key locations of the Internet for analysis to provide insight and questions about the future of the Internet. Miriam Lips from Victoria University of Wellington talked about the value of e-government research for Designing 21st Century Government. There was an entertaining panel on what are your options once you have completed your Masters or PhD degree. The panelists ranged from people working in academia, government organisations, industrial research labs, startups, and large corporations. They gave the audience interesting insight into their careers since completing their PhDs, and offered some good advice to follow.

A range of workshops gave students the opportunity to build on their research skills. Workshop topics ranged from critical thinking, thesis writing, time management, presentation and poster skills, Maori and Pacific Nation students engaging in computer science research, women in the New Zealand IT industry, preparing to succeed in the job market, how to get yourself the job you want, the publication game, commercialisation and intellectual property in the IT, to discussions on careers in research and the industry in general.

A core component of the annual Conference are the presentations and posters from students. This year 33 graduates studying at New Zealand universities gave presentations and the standard of talks were of high quality, while 21 graduates had short papers presented as research posters. The Intergen best paper presentation was awarded to Michael Walmsley, “Automatic Adaption of Dynamic Second Language Reading Texts” and the IET best poster to Stefan Schliebs, “Heterogeneous Probabilistic Models for Optimization and Modelling of Evolving Spiking Neural Networks”.

The conference not only gave student researchers an understanding of what others are doing, but also the opportunity to interact with others who are motivated and passionate about their work. But it wasn't all work. Highlights of the conference included the powhiri and kapahaka group at Pipitea Marae, Google opening dinner, Pingar social night that involved ten-pin bowling, and Careers Industry Night where a number of companies were present to recruit eager graduate students.

The conference was made possible with the tremendous effort by the organising committee, local university contacts, and support from our key sponsors: Google, Intergen, Pingar, The IET, InternetNZ, VicLink, and Victoria University of Wellington. We are also grateful for the valuable assistance provided by the following people: Sue Hall, Ally Reid, Peter Andreae, David Pearce, John Hine, Doug Hauraki, Ian Witten, Tim Bell, Robert Amor, Rachel Blagojevic, and our workshop presenters. Further information, such as presentation slides from workshops and recordings of some keynote speakers are available on the web site. We look forward to next year’s conference at Massey University, Palmerston North.

Craig Anslow,
General Chair