The University of Southampton

Triple win for University of Southampton research group

Published: 5 November 2013

A University of Southampton student has received national recognition from the British Computer Society (BCS) for his research into multi agent systems. This is the third student from the university’s Agents, Interaction and Complexity (AIC) research group to win a Council of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC) award for his thesis, in conjunction with the BCS.

Long Tran-Thanh was selected as runner-up in the Distinguished Dissertation Award 2013 for his dissertation on Budget-limited multi-armed bandits. He also received an honourable mention in the 2012 Dissertation Award sponsored by the European Artificial Intelligence Association (ECCAI).

His thesis explores sequential decision-making and focuses on different multi-armed bandit models with constraints, such as budget limits or pulling restrictions. His research investigates how autonomous agents can make decisions within those models if the information is not known or is uncertain. He is the first to focus on observing the output of that decision-making and has developed efficient algorithms to help balance exploration and exploitation in order to maximise total payoff.

His findings are already attracting interest in real-world applications such as online keyword bidding, decentralised coordination of unmanned autonomous vehicles and crowdsourcing.

Long is the third student from the AIC group to be recognised by the awards. Dr Rajdeep Dash won the Distinguished Dissertation Award in 2007 for his research into computational mechanism design and in 2008 Senior Research Fellow Talal Rahwan also won the prize for his work developing new algorithms to enable greater co-operation between agents.

Professor Nick Jennings, Head of AIC, said: “We are delighted that Long has been recognised for his excellent research. He is the third student from AIC to be recognised by the CPHC and BCS in this way – a fantastic achievement for one research group.”

Long said: “I was surprised and pleased to receive this award. It recognises the hard work I have done over the past three years and I hope it will help me in my future career.”

The annual CPHC/BCS award selects the best British PhD/DPhil dissertations in computer science. Following a rigorous review process involving over 60 technical experts, the judging panel selected four dissertations it regarded as exemplary, one of which was Long’s.

The judging panel said of Long’s dissertation: “The panel thought it was particularly noteworthy that Long’s thesis both makes significant theoretical contributions, and provides solutions which can be beneficially employed in practice.”

Long, who was born in Vietnam and grew up in Hungary came to Southampton in 2008 to study his PhD in Computer Science and is now a post doctoral research fellow at the University working on the ORCHID project that investigates how human and software agents can effectively work together to collect the best possible information from a disaster environment.

““When I first came to Southampton I was very impressed by the enthusiasm of the academic staff and I thought I would get good support and motivation here and I was right. I have been here for five years and it has been the best time of my life,”“ said Long.

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