CS S4 Student Symposium served remote pizza, socializing and interesting discussions on AI

Doctoral students in computer science organized an interesting symposium focusing on societal side of AI, and discussed how to keep student networks up and running during an exceptional pandemic situation
CS-S4_photo of the event

CS S4 Scientific Symposium by Students for Students event was organized by computer science doctoral students from Aalto University and University of Helsinki on 10 June, 2021. This was the second time when such a symposium brought doctoral students together. The local organizer group consisted of four active students, Nidia Obscura Acosta, Onur Poyraz, Tolou Shadbahr and Mine Ögretir.

The original idea was to organize the event already in spring 2020, but coronavirus suddenly changed plans. “We hoped for a long time that the symposium could have been held as a normal live event, but we had to postpone it over and over again due to continuing corona restrictions”, tells Onur.

The doctoral student organizers also had to improvise a bit as the event was eventually held remotely in Zoom. “We asked participants to submit short video introductions upon registration”, says Mine. “It turned out to be a nice way of getting to know people and start the whole symposium”, confirms Onur.

The best part of the symposium was absolutely networking and getting to know other doctoral students in computer science. Many doctoral students have been very alone during this pandemic and therefore discussions were spinning around on how to keep in touch in a challenging situation like this. Especially the wellbeing session with Aalto University psychologist Maria Törnroos sparked a lively discussion on these topics. For instance, it was brainstormed on how universities could develop their services and improve doctoral students’ work and wellbeing. “Providing opportunities to discuss informally with senior researchers and supporting interdisciplinary encounters were found important”, says Tolou.

The scientific part of the symposium was not modest either – rather the opposite. The theme of the symposium “AI for the public good” was found interesting by the attendees and two keynote talks by Albert Ali Salah (Utrecht University) and Oguzhan Gencoglu (Top Data Science) were true highlights. “AI industry is very young. What we will be working on in three years' time is completely different from what we are doing now. It was fascinating to hear examples about roles of data and AI in changing societal and public contexts”, states Nidia. “As a researcher, I usually ended up in my own box time-to-time, where I only focus on similar topics related to my research field. I love the idea of informal symposium, where you get to expose with new concept and ideas that not only can be used in your research field at some point but also broaden your perspective and knowledge. An example of this, happened during this symposium when there was discussion about the concept of FAIRNESS in AI models”, states Tolou.

Other key elements of the symposium were free remote pizza lunch and final quiz competition. Both were also considered excellent ideas by the participants. Overall, the organizers felt that this year’s event was a success. “In my opinion, organizing this symposium was a great experience”, says Nidia. “Perhaps next time we get to meet face to face”, concludes the organizing team.

What is CS S4?

CS S4 is an annual networking event for doctoral students in computer science. This year’s symposium was organized by doctoral students from Aalto University and University of Helsinki. The local organizers were Nidia Obscura Acosta, Onur Poyraz, Tolou Shadbahr and Mine Ögretir. The event was supported by the Helsinki Doctoral Education Network in Information and Communications Technology (HICT) and the Aalto Department of Computer Science.

Are you interested in organizing next year’s symposium?

We are looking fornew eager doctoral students to join the organizing team of CS S4 2022. You’ll get all of this…and more.

  • Get a unique opportunity to plan and organize a PhD/DSc student symposium of a life-time!
  • Gain experience on organizing an event, get an entry to your CV, and earn 2 ECTS!
  • Get department’s and HICT’s full support for your team’s plan!

Sign up now! Contact: [email protected]

Aerial photo of Computer Science Building at Aalto University campus

Department of Computer Science

To foster future science and society.


Helsinki Doctoral Education Network in Information and Communications Technology HICT (external link)

Collaborative doctoral education network hosted jointly by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki.

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