Category Archives: hackathons

Students try to predict potential collaborations at Hack Cambridge

Our first event of 2016 was attending Hack Cambridge, the University of Cambridge’s very own hackathon.

The popular music venue, the Corn Exchange, was repurposed to fit 400+ hackers along with 20+ sponsors.  This was the first event by this team of organisers. They did well to get so many sponsors and draw such a large crowd, including teams from Spain and Croatia. Such a large gathering of incredibly bright people from all over the UK and beyond. Seems that building apps is old school, rather a lot of the teams that I talked to were turning their hands to number crunching types of hacks. Got to admit, I didn’t understand what some people were telling me.  Felt like a bit of a wally.


Where’s Wally?

However, we fear these first-time organisers have bitten off more than they could chew with such a large event. The single biggest issue was down to poor (almost non-existent) WiFi which caused some teams to head home, almost defeating the purpose of the event in the first place. Admittedly, this was an issue with the location.  The whole event felt chaotic and over subscribed. Sorry guys. Learn and iterate.

The team that stood out the most and won the Mendeley challenge was team Leev. They used the Mendeley API to retrieve papers devoted to biomedical disciplines (e.g. genomics, drug discovery and development, chemical similarity). Data from PubMed was sourced to complement Mendeley data so they could create co-authorship networks – graphs where every node represents an author and edges show co-authorship between two individuals. Through analysing the network topology, they were able to predict individuals who are important in their field, are able to bridge fields, as well as get a glimpse of how tight-knit is the field in general. Based on link prediction, they were trying to predict potential collaborations, hoping to benefit the research community.

They applied a number of methods from network science to solve the problem:

  • Louvain method for community detection and network clustering
  • Adamic-Adar index for predicting how the network will evolve and to suggest potential collaborators
  • HITS algorithm for calculating the “importance” of each collaborator




Team Leev –  Dilyana Mincheva, Chi-Jui Wu and Aleksejs Sazonovs. 

Congratulations to team Leev and thanks to all the others who participated in this event. You can read about the other Mendeley hacks here:


Mendeley attends University of Oxford’s first hackathon


In a strange turn of events one of the winners of our previous hackathons was also involved in organising the first hackathon at the University of Oxford. Not only that but so were the awesome Major League Hackathon which I’ve previously blogged about.

The hackathon was held in the Saïd Business School which describes itself as “a young, vibrant, and innovative business school deeply embedded in an 800 year old world-class university.” It was a fantastic venue due to the fact it was bright and airy. Most hackathons can end up being stuffy and dark. I turned up on the Saturday morning with abundance of swag waiting for me which was delivered by our awesome Community team. I’m sure almost everyone of the 120+ participants got a piece of Mendeley swag. There was an overall cash prize of £1000 and a runner up of £500. Also, we had categories for Best First-Time Coders and Best First-Time Hackers.

Of course there were other sponsors including Facebook (do I really need to link to this?), Google (again, really?), SendGrid and Bloomberg.

It always amazes me what students can come together and build, even with limited time and experience. One team developed an app called Howami. It used the Digit-Eyes app to read the Unique Product Code (UPC) of a food item and finds the ingredients of that food item. Sometime afterwards, 30 minutes, the app would ask you how you were feeling. It would then analyse your feeling, good or bad, and try and identify allergens. This sort of app would be invaluable to caretakers or child carers.

As a judge we were asked to consider weighting the criteria on 40% idea, 40% execution and 20% design so with this in mind I awarded the Mendeley prize to EasySkim. The team,  Rebecca Morgan, Keller Scholl, Deyan Levski and Josh Cai, provided a solution whereby they would summarize the abstract and the conclusion in papers. As students they often get told to read 20+ papers and some of the papers have extraordinarily long introductions, particularly older papers, so they wanted a tool that would allow you to get the jist of a paper so they could either consider or discard it.


EasySkim – analyse and summarise your academic papers.

The team all met through the website Codelaborate which brings together self-taught coders at university (Oxford based for now) so that they can come together and help each other and build awesome stuff. I love hearing stories like this and if you are Oxford based then I suggest you check it out.


Strangely enough this tweet went viral with over 500 retweets.

On a final note if you know of any upcoming hackathons then please get in touch with us here in the Mendeley API team. We are trying to make plans for next year and would love to hear from you.

Students, Staff and Hackers co-create EdTech of the future.

Back in September we sponsored our first hackathon and this is where I was introduced to Fares Alaboud who is a member of the Unitu team.

Unitu is a platform built by students for students. It allows students and university staff to work together to close the feedback loop. They have created a private space where students can raise their concerns about their module e.g. having issues find reading lists for your module. All department staff get notified of any Issues raised and therefore can resolve them in a timely manner.

They then decided to run their first hackathon on 8th November where they brought together students and staff from university departments to create/develop solutions for challenges they see in their universities. The judges were looking for ideas that solved real world problems in higher education. The hacks had to be effective and had demonstrate that the impact it would have on both students and staff.

Some of the hacks that stand out was a tool called CourseFeed which provided notifications of live lecture uploads from KEATS (Kings E-Learning & Teaching Service). Another excellent hack decided to move from the lecture theatre to the kitchen. They tackled that problem all students have when they begin college: cooking. UniCook wanted to provide students with a mechanism of converting ingredients in your fridge into a recipe.


Post prize giving group shot

Princess - the Hack Cat

Princess – the Hack Cat

Lukas Ondrej, Artemis D’Arcy, Jordan Thomas and Oskar Bzoma came together and created the winning hack by building an online collaborative platform called EduTrail. EduTrail allows students to search for a particular subject and gain access to questions already answered by other users in a chat room style. The vision was to be be able to plug into any MOOC or other linked resources such as your Mendeley account. The team felt that there was a need to improve collaborative learning as universities systems were often oriented more around self study. This often leads to students feeling isolated and can slow down students research.

The event was such as success that during the prize giving one of the judges, Mischa Dohler (Head of the Centre for Telecommunications Research, Kings College London) announced that every team was invited to trial their solutions at his department.

I really hope to see more hacks like this in the future where students and staff collaborate and change they way students learn in the classroom.

Read more here

Mendeley Sponsors a Hackathon.

Major league is an American concept and something that, according to Google, relates to professional sport.

So we weren’t too sure what to expect when we received an email from “Tim Fogarty – UK Commissioner at Major League Hacking “. What the hell?

Major League Hacking was created with a mission to:

“Major League Hacking’s mission is to spread the hacker ethos to every student on the planet; to cultivate communities where aspiring hackers have the opportunity to learn, build, and share their creations with the world.”

Every semester they run over 60 hackathons worldwide in the US, Canada, Mexico and now they can add the UK feather to their cap. This is a league and universities earn points for the number of students they send to a hackathon, those with the most points wins.

Mendeley was happy to sponsor the first UK event which was held in the Bloomberg Offices here in London. The event itself consisted of about 200 students from universities around the UK. Such a diverse bunch. We even had some students under the age of 16! The event kicked off early on Saturday morning with pitches from all sponsors. Each sponsor had 5 minutes to describe their product and set their challenge.  The challenge that we set out for the students was the “best use of the API”. As this was our first sponsorship of a hackathon then we were not so sure as to the uptake but we were surprised that we had 4 teams try and build using the Mendeley API.

So, why did we attend? As a company who has monthly hackathons then this was right up our street of continuous learning. It’s not about getting teams to use the Mendeley API, it’s an opportunity to meet and mentor passionate students in building innovative cool stuff. And they did not fail to innovate. We were blown away by what we seen. The full list of projects are described here but alas there can only be one winner.

The application that we decided to nominate as the winner was developed by Oxford students Taimur Abdaal and his 2 friends Lukas Koebis and Joshua Hannah.  They built an application that generates an interactive graph of collaborators based on an author search using first name only. The backend as built in Python, and the frontend using normal HTML5 and CSS3 with jQuery and d3.js.  Here are some screen shots.

Note: Click on the images for larger versions.


Landing Page – Paul Erdős



Collaborators of Kris


This is a lovely example of building something fun and interactive using our API. To figure out an author’s collaborators they used our catalog search endpoint with the ‘author’ query parameter set to ‘kris’ e.g.

If you click on the nodes in the graph it then performs another author search using our catalog search.

The guys from Oxford have set a high bar for future hackers and we can’t wait to see what the next bunch do with our API.

If you have any hacks to share with us then we would love to see what you have done using our API. Get in touch