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Imperial undergraduates win top science and technology prizes

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-SET Awards
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Wednesday 29 September 2004
By Abigail Smith

Two final year students from the Department of Computing at Imperial College London are among this years winners at the SET Awards, the UK's most prestigious awards for science, engineering and technology undergraduates.

Philip Howson and Alexander May both won £500 and a trophy at the awards ceremony, which took place at London's Guildhall on 20 September.

Philip received the Institution of Electrical Engineers Award for the Best Information Technology Student and cites the input of his mother as a major factor in the success of his project, 'Generic algorithm for nurse duty rostering'.

Philip Howson and Alexander May

"The experience of my mother and her nursing colleagues, who the project is really aimed at, was very valuable," he says. "Putting together a good duty roster is extremely complex, and it also needs to satisfy the wishes of the nurses so that workplace morale isnt affected."

He adds:" I was very surprised and pleased to win the award. I flew back from New York where I am working for Morgan Stanley not expecting to win at all. Winning the prize certainly made the trip worthwhile."

Professor Istvan Maros, who supervised Philip's project, is impressed by the scientific depth as well as the intelligent user-friendly nature of his design. "It shows a high level of insightful original thinking," he says. "The system has undergone a thorough field testing in two wards under real life circumstances to the great satisfaction of the participants."

Alexander May, Imperial's second winner, was awarded the Microsoft Research Award for the Student Making the Best Use of Information Technology, as judged by the British Computer Society. His project 'Image and video navigation' develops software for an image and video search engine to navigate, browse and search in recorded TV, videos and annotated image collections. He explains:

"I wanted to allow users to discover a film clip or an image using a contents-based search rather than searching by title, which they may never have known. My project integrates new and traditional techniques for navigating through archives, which enables the user to create a custom searching strategy."

"I was delighted to win this award, especially considering the competition from leading universities around the country," he adds. "I hope I can use my success to inspire future generations of students."

Alexander's supervisor Dr Stefan Rueger describes the project as "a highly ambitious task" that has real time-saving potential. "There is a real information overload problem for people dealing with visual material such as still images and video," he says. "This video and image search engine could reduce that substantially."

Congratulating the winners, Jeff Magee, head of the Department of Computing, said: "We are all delighted and proud that Philip and Alexander achieved these awards for their final year projects, and Im confident that these innovative young people will go on to even greater successes. Highly qualified and motivated science and technology graduates are vitally important to the UK - Im pleased that our department is contributing to this."

The SET Awards are held by the World Leadership Forum to showcase educational excellence in a range of technology-based disciplines. This year's awards were presented by BBC Television presenter Kate Humble.