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Ursula Martin

Personal photo - Ursula Martin

Ursula Martin

Professor of Computer Science

Wolfson Building, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QD


Professor Ursula Martin CBE FRSE joined the University of Oxford as Professor of Computer Science in 2014. She holds an EPSRC Established Career Fellowship. Prior to this she held  a chair of Computer Science in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary University of London. 

At Queen Mary she was Vice-Principal for Science and Engineering (2005-2009), and Director of the impactQM project (2009-2012). She served on the U K Defence Science Advisory Council, on the 2001 and 2008  UK HEFCE RAE panel for Computer Science, and was a SICSA distinguished visitor at the University of Edinburgh for 2012-13. She has previously held appointments at the University of St Andrews (the first female professor in any discipline since its foundation in 1411), Royal Holloway University of London, Manchester and Urbana Champaign. She holds an MA in Mathematics from Cambridge and a PhD in Mathematics from Warwick. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edburgh in 2017. She is involved in many activities for women in science, and currently serves on the Royal Society's Diversity Committee. 

Her current research interests include:

  • An emprical approach to mathematical practice, with Andrew Aberdein, Joe Corneli, Alison Pease, and Gabriela Rino-Nesin. We use the polymath online mathematical collaborations as an evidence base for understanding mathematical practice and modelling argument. In particular, we assess explanation and argument in mathematics, with our most recent paper countering a number of assertions on explanation  in the philosophical literature (paper under review, details on request).
  • Mathematics policy and the impact of mathematics, with Laura Meagher. We use materials submitted for thr 2014 Research Excellence Framework as an evidence base to assess the mechanisms by which mathematics has impact, highlighting the importance of interdisciplinarity, relationship building and the long term view. Paper under review, available here.
  • The nature of mathematical collaboration, a social science approach, with Lorenzo Lane. A report was written on practice at the Isaac Newton Institute: other papers in progress, details on request.
  • The mathematics of Ada Lovelace, with Christopher Hollings and Adrian Rice.  In 2015 she  organised Oxford's Ada Lovelace bicentenary celebrations, including collaborations with the Bodleian Library, BBC and various science museums. She curated an exhibition, now on display at the Silicon Valley Computer History Museum, and led the digitisation of Ada Lovelace's mathematics, with the support of the Clay Mathematics Institute. Numerous presentations included lectures at the Hay Festival, Computer History Museum and Gresham College. Paper on Ada Lovelace's mathematicsl correpondence with Augustus De Morgan under review (paper under review, details on request).

2003 - Computational logic for control. A totally novel “block diagram logic” was devised to solve a concrete problem raised by DSTL engineers, and then generalised to the abstract domain of traced monoidal categories. This showed that the new logic, and other results in computer science, are instantiations of this general concept; most strikingly Hoare’s logic of programs, devised in the 1960s, and the foundation of contemporary “industry standard” software verification. The paper received a “Best of 2013” award from the prestigious Computing Reviews journal.

1997    Work on combining computational logic and computer algebra, was pioneering in developing new kinds of interface specifications for numerical libraries, which was extended to a new elegant solution to the problem of deficiencies in computer algebra systems, through using restricted calls to and from the Maple computer algebra system  to specialist logic algorithms, via a limited interface that shields the user from complexity 

1990 - Computer algebra and computational logic Early work included the first application of computational logic in group theory, obtaining results, at the time, well beyond the scope of standard techniques; novel unification algorithms inspired by group theory; and termination algorithms that provided a unified framework for understanding the diverse methods in use at the time.

1980 - Group theory and combinatorial structures Research in group theory, combinatorics, and graph theory, mainly concerning symmetries of structures. First published paper, in 1980, provided a novel simple proof of a famous result of Gaschütz: in 2007, with Helleloid at Stanford, showed random groups of certain kinds have very restricted symmetry, a result with powerful implication which is still regularly applied in other domains. 

Current research collaborators Andrew Aberdein, Joe Corneli, Chris Hollings, Adrian Johnstone, Lorenzo Lane, Laura Meagher,  Alison Pease, Adrian Rice, Gabriela Rino-Nesin, Fenner Tanswell

Former RAs, graduate students and co-authors Andrew Adams, Rob Arthan, Richard Boulton, Muffy Calder, Adam Cichon, Dave Cohen, Victoria Coleman, Nick Cropper, Jeremy Dick, Martin Dunstan, Hanne Gottliebsen, Ruth Hardy,  Geir Helleloid, John Kalmus, Tom Kelsey, Mike Lai, Olga Lightfoot, Steve Linton, Athen Ma, Erik Mathiesen, Natasa Milic-Frayling, Bill Mitchell, Hanan Mohammed, Kathy Norrie, Tobias Nipkow, Paulo Oliva, Sam Owre, Peter Prohle, Liz Scott, Tim Storer, Duncan Shand, Phil Watson, Jeannette Wing.

Selected Publications

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