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Young researchers win sought-after prizes to pursue their research

14 November 2005
By Laura Gallagher

Two Imperial academics have won prestigious prizes aimed at recognising and facilitating the work of outstanding young researchers.

Dr Molly Stevens Opens in new window, a Reader in the Department of Materials, and Dr Sebastian Uchitel Opens in new window, a Lecturer in the Department of Computing, have each been awarded Philip Leverhulme prizes worth £50,000.

Twenty five prizes are awarded every year to researchers of international standing, usually under the age of 36, who have already influenced the understanding of their field.

Winners are able to use their prize money to pursue their research in the way they consider most useful.

Dr Molly Stevens's research has made exciting advances in tissue engineering and nanotechnology

Dr Stevens's research has made exciting advances in both the fields of tissue engineering and nanotechnology. In particular, her team has been able to engineer large quantities of bone, using a novel approach which uses the body as a "bioreactor". The researchers hope this method could be used to generate new bone for transplantation into patients.

In the field of nanotechnology, her team has found new ways to design and control molecules to create new dynamic nano-materials, biosensors and drug delivery systems.

She said: "I was delighted to find out I had won the award. The prize means that I will have more support and flexibility to develop my international research collaborations - both in the US, where I am already collaborating with MIT, the University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, and also in Europe.

"It can also be used to try out some really innovative and exciting research ideas that are still at the proof of concept stage. For example, we have some novel ideas for how to make more biomimetic nanostructured materials as cell scaffolds for tissue engineering of complex tissues such as bone, cartilage and liver. Our recent work in this area is extremely promising and this award will help push it to the next level," she added.

Dr Sebastian Uchitel's work addresses the problems associated with designing complex large-scale software systems

Dr Uchitel's work addresses the problems associated with designing large-scale complex software systems. The traditional engineering approach to the design of complex systems has been to build a mathematical model of the system and to analyse it, in order to find faults and to understand its operation. Unfortunately for complex software systems this approach is difficult and rarely cost effective.

Dr Uchitel has developed a new approach to this problem. It uses automated techniques for both building and analysing such models in an incremental manner, to provide a powerful design tool.

He said: "I am thrilled to have won. It is the kind of prize you hope for, but do not expect to win. It is very competitive. The prize will allow me to pursue a number of ideas that I have not had the time nor funds to pursue. Hopefully, two years from now I will have consolidated two new lines of research."

Dr Uchitel hopes to use his prize to start two collaborations with research groups at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Buenos Aires, and to strengthen an ongoing collaboration with the University of Toronto.

He intends to draw on students to work on ideas he has not yet had the chance to pursue. The prize money will enable him to send these students on visits to their international colleagues.

"Collaboration is the key to producing novel, exciting and quality research, and this prize will enable me to create and strengthen my collaborations," he added.

Professor Julia King Opens in new window, Principal of the Faculty of Engineering, said: "We are thrilled that Molly and Sebastian have won these prestigious awards. They have both achieved much in their careers so far and it will be exciting to see what they do with the opportunities that these prizes open up."