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Imperial students win technology education 'Oscars'


BY LAURA GALLAGHER

Two Imperial engineering students are celebrating after picking up prestigious Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year awards in recognition of their academic excellence.

Billed as the most important awards for science and engineering undergraduates, the awards are known as the 'Oscars' of British technology education, with entries from all of Britain's leading universities.

Ian Pong and Paul BilokonPaul Bilokon, Department of Computing and Ian Pong, Department of Materials, received their awards at a gala dinner at the London Guildhall on 21 September 2005.

Paul Bilokon received the British Computer Society Award for the Student Making the Best Use of Information Technology. His project investigated how particles can be detected in biomolecular electron micrographs, which are used to analyse biological macromolecules such as virus proteins. These micrographs use a beam of electrons, rather than light, to illuminate the sample being examined.

A problem with this technique is that using electrons to illuminate the particles can damage them, but when exposure to the electrons is reduced to minimise this damage, the particles of interest can no longer be seen. Paul's work has resulted in a new image processing system called Horus, which can find particles automatically and allows the user much greater control of the particle selection process than existing systems.

Paul said: "The standard of the projects was very high; it was already a great honour to be considered along with the other contenders. This victory was totally unexpected and I was very, very happy indeed."

Ian Pong won the Morgan Crucible Award for the Best Materials Student. His project examined the properties of some magnesium alloys, such as cast magnesium alloy. Magnesium is the lightest of all structural metals and so has great potential in the aerospace and automobile industries where weight saving is highly desired. However, it is fairly brittle and it is difficult to use the metal working process of cold forming to mould it into the desired shapes.

Ian established that cast magnesium alloy, as well as commercial wrought alloy, could recrystallise and be deformed superplastically. Its superplasticity could provide a useful alternative processing route to cold forming.

Ian said: "I was absolutely delighted and very honoured indeed to receive the award. The gala dinner and presentation ceremony was an extraordinary experience and I was indeed truly humbled to be there amongst so many outstanding people. I am also extremely grateful to my supervisors, without whom I would not have won this award."

The winners received a trophy and a £500 prize at the gala dinner, which was attended by senior figures from industry, government, science and the media together with hundreds of technology students and academics. Students from Imperial were nominated in six out of sixteen categories and Imperial was the only institution besides Cambridge to have more than one prize-winner.

Professor Julia King, Principal of the Faculty of Engineering, said: "We are delighted for Paul and Ian and their awards are a fantastic achievement. The fact that two of our students have won such prestigious awards reflects the high quality both of the students we attract and of the tutors who nurture their talents."

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