Fiona Polack

Fiona Polack / +44 1904 325337 /

Member of Enterprise Systems and Non-standard Computing research groups, Department of Computer Science, York.
Member of YCIL, the York Computational Immunology Lab
Member of YCCSA, the York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis, an interdisciplinary research group.
Member of the Biological Physical Sciences Institute (BPSI), University of York

Recent publications -- CV: pdf.

Research Topics

Supporting computer simulation as a research tool

I work in software engineering, model driven engineering, and the use of these in development and use of demonstrably fit-for-purpose complex systems simulations for use in scientific research.
Imagine trying to solve a problem such as the origin of cancer without being able to observe what the cells are doing, or how they are affected by treatment. That is essentially the situation that we are currently in. Most studies of biologically-complex systems are based on counting cells and analysing chemical properties.
A computer simulation can mimic behaviour, as well as being able to provide data such as cell counts. A computer simulator can be changed to try out new hypotheses much more easily than a laboratory analysis. However, we need robust, understandable ways to develop fit-for-purpose computer simulations, and to collaborate with the scientists who can use computer simulation to complement their traditional scientific work.

PhD topics: I am interested in applications for doctoral study in aspects of model driven engineering for non-OO models (state charts, Petri nets, activity diagrams, etc.) and for process-oriented target languages. In addition, the wider software engineering of complex simulations is of interest, including testing, fitness-for-purpose, reuse and maintenance of complex simulations.
See here for some potential PhD projects which cover the following areas:

MSc by Research: 2015-16: interdisciplinary simulation project

Collaborations and Grants

Wellcome/C2D2 Consolidator grant for YCIL (PI Jon Timmis): Electronics, CII/Biology, Computer Science: January-December 2014.

EPSRC Impact Accelerator: UoY preliminary study grant: a collaborative initiative in graphene modelling: Physics, Electronics and Computer Science. April-Sept 2013

Summer school studentship, prostate cell simulation: with Norman Maitland (Biology cancer lab), Susan Stepney (YCCSA/CS). Funded by Wellcome C2D2 (internal) grant: July to October 2012. The summer project will implement the cell simulator for cancer and BPH. The grant also pays for materials for use by an intern in Biology who will provide data for the simulation.

Sounds Different: a feasibility study of flexible load balancing in sound sensor networks: with Leandro Soares indrusiak (CS Real Time Systems), Dave Chesmore (Electronics Audio Lab), Paul Mitchell (Electronics Wireless sensor networks) Load balancing: using bio-inspired algorithms in simulation and reality. Funded by University of York: May to July 2012.

CoSMoS (Complex systems modelling and simulation infrastructure), led by Prof. Stepney (PI York), York, Prof. Peter Welch (PI Kent), with co-investigators Dr Fred barnes (Computer Science, Kent), Prof. Andy Tyrrell (Electronics, York), Prof. Jon Timmis (Computer Science and Electronic, York) and Prof. Christopher Alexander (architecture); and collaborators Dr Jim Bown (Abertay) and Prof. Alan Winfield (UWE). EPSRC grants EP/E053505/1 and EP/E049419/1, 2007-10, supporting capacity building in modelling and simulation techniques for complex systems.

TUNA (Theory Underpinning Nanite Assemblers), in collaboration with Prof. P. Welch, Kent; Prof. S. Schneider and Dr. H. Treharne, Surrey; Profs. Stepney (PI) and Woodcock and Dr Cavalcanti, York. EPSRC grant EP/C516966/1, 2004-5, supporting a feasibility study on the engineering of emergent systems.

Rigorous information systems development, in collaboration with Prof. R. Laleau, Paris-12 Fontainebleau et IIE-CNAM, Paris (UML extensions, formality): EPSRC grant 006R02664, 2003-6, supporting the Prof. Laleau as a visiting researcher (3 months over 3 years).

International Conference on Unconventional Computation 2006, with Susan Stepney (PI) and Jon Timmis: EPSRC grant EP/D076420/1: costs related to running of conference, particularly of invited speakers. March 06 to Feb 07.

Summer internship projects

Identifying characteristics of flocks, using statistics and information theory (T. Pinto, 2011): CS/Maths: YCCSA funded

Prostate cell simulation (A. Simeonescu, 2012): CS/Biology (N. Maitland): Wellcome C2D2 funded

Prostate cell simulation (L. Dia, 2013): CS/Biology (N. Maitland): YCCSA funded

Graphene modelling (D. Shearer, 2013): Physics (Y. Hancock)/CS/Electronics: EPSRC/University funded

Modelling bladder epithelium (F. Kazazi, 2015): CS/Biology (J. Southgate): YCCSA funded

Research Degrees Supervised

Current Research Supervision

Other Research Matters


Recent past modules:

I have also taught Pascal programming, various systems analysis, software engineering and database modules, to MScs and to second year undergraduates. I developed and led teaching associated with ISM projects for third year students.

Administrative responsibilities


External Examiner, Research Degrees

Internal Examiner, Research Degrees

Thesis Advisory Panel, Research Degrees

Degree Course External Examiner

Administrative roles

Selected Past Administrative responsibilities