UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering


UCL alumni receives prestigious SIGMM award

27 November 2023

UCL Electronic and Electrical Engineering PhD alumni, Silvia Rossi, received the ACM SIGMM Award for her thesis on user interactivity in VR systems.

Silvia Rossi receiving the SIGMM award

Silvia Rossi received the ACM SIGMM Award for Outstanding PhD Thesis in Multimedia Computing, Communications and Applications. SIGMM, the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Multimedia, presents this award once per year to a researcher whose PhD thesis has the potential of very high impact in multimedia computing, communication and applications.

Silvia’s thesis, “Understanding user interactivity for the next-generation immersive communication: design, optimisation, and behavioural analysis”, explored how user movements can be analysed in virtual spaces, proposing a novel clustering algorithm and other behavioural metrics to investigate the potential impact on next-generation multimedia systems. In addition to the SIGMM award, Silvia’s PhD research, done under the supervision of Dr Laura Toni, has also received the 2018 Cisco Institute Prize for best student poster, the 2021 Nicholas Georganas ACM TOMM Best paper award, the 2022 Lombardi Prize for the best UCL EEE doctoral thesis and the 2021 ERCIM Alain Bensoussan Fellowship.

Silvia Rossi received the SIGMM award at the ACM International conference on Multimedia in Ottawa, Canada this month, followed by a key note speech and audience Q&A. Being an active member of the multimedia community and having been the Information Director of ACM SIGMM Records for three years, Silvia was particularly proud to be honoured by her community. As Information Director, Silvia is responsible for the publication and dissemination on social media of articles and researches on the latest multimedia news. On receiving the award, Silvia stated:

 I was very happy and honoured to receive this award! It means a lot that my community recognised the hard work and efforts I put into my research and thesis. And as a woman in engineering, it is an additional point of pride to represent women in this field.

Working within Dr Laura Toni's learning and signal processing team in UCL's Information and Communication Engineering group, the initial focus of Silvia’s PhD was to predict the movement of users in virtual reality, however, feeling there was something missing, Silvia decided to take a step back from predicting movement to develop metrics that could be used to analyze user movements. She performed VR analysis and developed new metrics, including a new algorithm for clustering. The clustering algorithm enabled Silvia to groups users according to how they interact in virtual spaces, such as how much they move and whether they are looking at the same portions of content. For example, more active users vs more static users who exhibit less movement, independent of the content that is displayed. These groupings can inform how user behaviour and navigation is predicted. More static users’ actions will be easier to predict, whereas more data will be needed to predict active users’ behaviours. So for active users, they will need to send the entire VR content at the highest quality in order to ensure a sufficient quality in the VR experince. 

Silvia’s thesis was awarded the SIGMM prize due to the potential impact on multimedia communication and applications, as it studies the behaviour of interactive users by developing new behavioural analysis tools and methodologies, for the first time built for immersive environments, and shows the advantages of taking into account the user behaviour in immersive systems. 

Having graduated in 2022, Silvia is continuing her research on behaviour within virtual spaces in the Distributed and Interactive System (DIS) group at CWI, the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands. Her current research focuses on user behaviour analysis and Quality of Experience (QoE) metrics for immersive multimedia systems. For example, looking at how user movements vary within smaller and larger virtual spaces. She is exploring how users act and feel in different virtual spaces, finding that behaviour in these virtual spaces mimic that in real life, with users feeling more cramped and exhibiting less movement in smaller spaces.

Silvia continues to make an impact within the multimedia community; in the last 3 months, she has been a speaker at the Cross Media Café during Dutch Media Week, acted as workshop chair at the International Workshop on Immersive Mixed and Virtual Environment Systems and had her paper accepted at the second edition of the Workshop on Interactive eXtended Reality (IXR), associated with the ACM International Conference on Multimedia 2023.


Inspired by Silvia? PhD studentships available now:

Applications are open for 70 fully funded UCL ESPSRC DTP studentships, with 11 potential Electrical and Electronic Engineering projects available. The deadline for applications is 8 January 2024. For more information, please see:

Applications open for fully funded PhD studentships