Dr. Helen C. Purchase
Senior Lecturer
School of Computing Science
University of Glasgow

Room S104,17 Lilybank Gardens, G12 8QQ
Email: helen.purchase@    glasgow.ac.uk
Telephone:  +44-141-330-4484
Fax: +44-141-330-3103

I have recently had a book published by CUP:

Experimental Human-Computer Interaction

Current Administrative Roles:

Student Mobility co-ordinator in the School of Computing Science

Convenor of the School of Computing Science Recruitment and International committee

Advisor of studies for all international and exchange undergraduate students in the School of Computing Science.

College of Science Engineering elected representative on Council of Senate

Senate elected representative on University Education Policy and Strategy committee

College of Science Engineering nominated representative on the University Learning and Teaching committee

Senate Assessor for Student Conduct

Convenor of the University working group on Course Feedback, and Convenor of the EvaSys Advisory Board

Research Projects:

I welcome applications from prospective PhD students who are interested in the following areas: empirical studies in HCI (particularly in visualisation), aesthetic interface design, diagram layout and aesthetics, technology to support contributing student pedagogies.

Effectiveness of Graph Layout Algorithms: This project investigates the effectiveness (from a human usability point of view) of automatic graph layout algorithms, which are usually valued for their computational efficiency, or the extent to which they conform to common aesthetic criteria (e.g.: minimising the number of edge crossings, maximising symmetrical displays). Recently, this project has addressed dynamic layout algorithms (The Edge Project:) as well as hierarchical, clustered and difference graph drawings.

Evaluation methods : I am interested in different evaluation methods, especially (but not exclusively) for visualisation and interfaces. I have written a book on this topic, have given several tutorials, and I gave an invited talk ("User evaluation: Why?") at the 12th International Conference on Knowledge Management and Data Mining (Bordeaux, 2012).

Sketched Graph Drawings : Using SketchNode, a tablet-based system for sketching graphs, this project investigates the way in which users draw graphs, and the aesthetics that user-generated drawings conform to.

Aesthetic Visualisation I am interesting in how the visual style of an interface may affect the user experience, most particularly with respect to task performance. With the help of several students in recent years, I have conducted experiments that measure task performance in relation to different 'visual aesthetics', focussing on the spatial layout of objects, but also looking at colour, font and shape.

Enabling Peer Assessment: Aropa is an online peer-assessment system designed, developed and maintained by myself and Dr John Hamer which has been successfully used over a wide variety of subjects since 2009. With funding from the UK Higher Education Academy, The University of Auckland, and the University of Glasgow, we have supported 1160 successful peer-review assignments in 20 institutions in nine different countries.

Students creating Multiple Choice Questions: Peerwise is a system developed at the University of Auckland by Paul Denny, which is now used in several institutions worldwide. I have been working on a project with Paul, John Hamer and Andrew-Luxton Reilly to investigate the benefits of PeerWise use on student learning and engagement.

Contributing Student Pedagogies This project investigates the benefits of educational methods that encourage students to contribute to the learning of others and to value the contributions made by other students. We have written an extensive survey of the variety of CSPs used in Computing Science Higher Education, as well as a substantial report on the technologies that support such educational methods.

The Share Project ('To see ourselves as others see us: sharing and representing disciplinary classroom practice', http://www.sharingpractice.ac.uk/) In 2011, I took part the Share Project Survey, which entailed writing (and sharing) a diary entry one day a month for a year. The aim of these diaries is to learn more about the lives, beliefs, conditions of work, important issues and habits of 'the everyday academic' and to examine disciplinary teaching practice and its relationship to student achievement.

HCI Disciplinary Commons: I was a member of the HCI Disciplinary Commons led by Professor Sally Fincher in 2008; as part of this project I have produced a teaching portfolio for my HCI teaching, as well as a retrospective video.

Teaching Responsibilities:

2016-17: Interactive Systems (level 3): This course introduces key concepts in interactive system design, and information visualisation. The practical component requires students to design and implement a visualisation system based on existing data sources.

2012-17: HCI: Design and Evaluation (MSc(CS), MSc(IT)): This course is a project course, with no traditional lectures and no examination. Students work in pairs on a project throughout the semester, and choose to either undertake a significant user centred design/evaluation project, or to conduct a significant HCI experiment or evaluation.

2013-14: Software Project Management (MSc(CS), MSc(IT)): This course (jointly taught with Dr John Hamer) introduces software project management, and a variety of tools available to support effective management of software development projects. Its aims are to familiarize students with the inherent problems of managing software development projects and different aspects of software project management, and to cover the major technical components of software project management, including: cost estimation, risk analysis, project planning and monitoring, team organisation, quality management and software process improvement.

2010-12: Principles and Practise of Computing Science (level 1): This course is intended for students with a non-technical background who wish to study the key principles of computing science (rather than computer programming), and to develop skills in "computational thinking." Principles of computation underpin the design of all the technology we see around us - mobile phones, ATMs, washing machines etc. - and understanding and using computational skills helps us understand an increasingly complex world. The course can be taken by any student who does not intend to do Computing Science Honours.

2010/11: Computing Science in the Curriculum(level 4): This course is a year-long elective course for Honours students. Students are allocated to a school, which they visit for half a day every week. There they take part in activities that help pupils learn about Computing Science, and are required to prepare and conduct their own workshop for teaching a fundamental computing concept. Enrollments in this class are limited, and only students who attend an interview in June may be accepted.

2007-9: General Readings in Computing Science (MSc(CS), MSc(IT)): This year-long course covers papers of general interest which discussed with the class each week: the papers and assessment material are available on Moodle.

2002-9: Information Management (level 2): This course covers techniques in managing and presenting information, in the context of the potential uses of an information system. The course demonstrates the ways of building information systems, from data repository design to presentation to users, and contrasts the content of the information being managed with the methods of managing it and the ways of presenting it to users.

2007-9: Human Computer Interaction (level 1, as part of CS1Q): This course covers the main aspects of HCI: users, interfaces and interaction, as well as the process of design and evaluation in an iterative process. Some special interest topics are also addressed (for example, CSCW and Information Visualisation).

2005-7: Research Readings in Computing Science (MSci, MRes): This first-semester course covers 11 Computing Science research topics, one a week for 11 weeks. The sessions revolve around discussion of four seminal research papers in the topic and are led by topic specialists as well as by students. The papers and assessmetn guidelines are available on Moodle.

2005-6: Advanced Research Readings in Computing Science (MSci, MScRes): This second-semester course is run in small groups, each group covering one of the eleven topics introduced in RRCS, thus allowing students to concentrate on the topics that interest them. Like RRCS, the meetings revolve around the discussion of research papers, and are led by one or more lecturers from the relevant research group.

2002-5: User Centered Software Design (MScIT): This module presents key knowledge needed for the design, implementation and evaluation of effective user interfaces. The lecture material covers theoretical topics and principles of interative design, while the lab sessions are 'studio-based', with students actively engaged in their own design project. [This course is not running at present]

2005/6: Professional Software Development (MSc(IT), MSc(CS)): This module covers techniques required for building large software systems (including requirements, analysis, design, testing and evaluation), and the management of software projects.

Previous Research Projects:

Computer Science Education (Higher Education): This action learning project investigated the use of novel learning activities that encourage students to accept the fact that there may be multiple solutions to a single problem, and that their own solutions (and those of their peers) can contribute to their learning.

Usability of Software Engineering diagrams and presentation: This project is an extension of the Effectiveness of Graph Layout Algorithms project, where the graphs under consideration are those used in software engineering applications (for example, UML diagrams, entity-relationship diagrams). Usability studies are used to establish the usefulness (from a human comprehension perspective) of both the notation and layout of these diagrams.

Multimedia models: This project used ideas and terminology from the field of semiotics to define an unambiguous model of multimedia communication (along the dimensions of sign, syntax and modality), which has been empirically evaluated for its understandability.

Postgraduate students:

The aesthetics of interface layout (Carolyn Salimun): Carolyn iinvestigated different methods of interface design, based on formulae that measure the extent of different layout aesthetic principles (e.g. symmetry, regularity) in an interface. She ran several experiments looking at participants' performance, preferences and processes in performing a task.

Usability of Grammar Formalisms for free and fixed-word order languages (Mark Pedersen, The University of Queensland): Mark investigated different grammar formalisms (DG, PSG and LFG) for the suitability for representing free-word order in Hindi and English. Usability studies were conducted to determine the relative effectiveness of these grammar formalisms.

Electronic Blocks (Peta Wyeth, The University of Queensland): Peta defined and implemented electronic blocks suitable for children between the ages of 3 and 8 which enable a simple form of programming using input, output and logic blocks. The use of these blocks was evaluated with pre-school and primary school children.


The best place to see the full and up-to-date list of my publications is on my Glasgow Enlighten page.

Cuban Crabs (c) Mike Davison

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