Imperial College London

Department of Computing researchers receive President’s Awards for Excellence


Aerial image of the Imperial College London's South Kensington campus

Categories for the awards include Research Support Excellence and Outstanding Research Team

The President’s Awards for Excellence are annual awards that recognise staff members who have made outstanding contributions in Education, Research or Societal Engagement. We’re delighted to announce that this year's awardees include researchers from the Department of Computing. 

Professor Alessandra Russo: “Winning this award means a great deal to me. I am really flattered and feel very privileged. 

Prof Alessandra Russo

The Award for Research Support Excellence recognises the contribution of research support staff at Imperial, including the beneficial effects their support has given to Imperial research and the innovative approaches and good practice they bring to a project. Professor Alessandra Russo is one of this year’s awardees and a recipient of the President Award for Research Supervision.  

Alessandra Russo is a Professor of Applied Computational Logic and leads the SPIKE (Structured and Probabilistic Intelligent Knowledge Engineering) research group that includes 14 PhD students. Her research expertise is in the area of Symbolic Machine learning and Inference. Since 2000, in collaboration with her PhD students and others, she has developed new symbolic machine learning algorithms that have been recognised to be among the current state-of-the-art symbolic machine learning systems. She has also applied these systems to address issues in security, privacy, policy-based management systems and software engineering. 
Winning this award means a great deal to me. I am really flattered and feel very privileged. Research supervision takes up a large portion of my research time here at Imperial, and it is the part of my work that I enjoy the most. I have been very fortunate to work with excellent PhD students who are eager to learn and not afraid to take risks with me in exploring new ideas and new avenues of research.

Being able to enthuse my PhD students about the excitement of research and the unique sense of fulfilment that it can bring has been one of the main goals in my research career. Seeing my PhD students grow and mature into strong, confident researchers, and supporting them along the way into successful careers, are for me some of the most rewarding experiences as academic at Imperial College, experiences that I will never grow tired of. 

Professor Julie McCann: “This award is a celebration 20 years of working with some of the best RAs and PhD students, many of which are senior academics and Professors themselves now all over the world.

The Adaptive Emergent Systems Engineering Group led by Professor Julie McCann were awarded the President's Medal for Outstanding Research Team. 

Prof Julie McCann

The medal celebrates the achievements of research teams at Imperial, recognising outstanding research that delivers impact, a team's international standing and their beneficial contribution to Imperial.

The Adaptive Emergent Systems Engineering group consists of about 20 people and is a mix of Computer Scientists, Computer Systems Engineers, EE Engineers and Physicists. Founded almost 20 years ago by Prof Julie McCann, they have been researching the behaviours and optimisation of Wireless Sensor Networks, Internet of Things and Cyber-Physical Systems. To them apart from similar groups internationally they aim to better understand the cyber-physical interactions that occur within such systems, to discover their behaviours, how to optimise these and from that to understand why they occur.  

To do this they mix Computer Science theory with Systems optimisaton to build frameworks, protocols and new hardware to create longer-living, secure and reliable sensor networks and this involves the use of decentralised and self-adaptive approaches. Their many applications of such technologies range from underground soil sensing for Agriculture, through to water distribution sensing and control to 3d printed space-sensors. They have achieved many £m of funding from a mix of national, EU and Industrial sources and continue to lead international collaborations, with research outputs being papers typically rated A or above and a patent for CogiSence which was recently discussed in the Financial Times as the future of sensing for Industrial applications. 

“This medal is a celebration 20 years of working with some of the best RAs and PhD students, many of which are senior academics and Professors themselves now all over the world. It gives us a warm feeling of what can be achieved as a team and is rocket fuel for the team moving forward.”

Leading the Network Modelling team is Dr Fatma Benkhelifa who joined us from Kaust University in 2017. Her interests are in using novel modelling techniques to schedule and better understand the behaviour of sensor devices that use Radio Frequency as a power source and which communicate over Low-powered Wide-area networks. She also examines the relationships between the theories of how such networks operate at the physical level and the unusual behaviors that the Sensornet Engineering team observe empirically to better understand why.  
Dr Mike Breza leads the Sensornet Engineering team. Mike, originally from USA, did his PhD with the group in 2016 and specialises in how to build sensor networks and the Internet of Things so that they are resilient to failure. To this end he explores their envelopes of operation aiming to understand failure, emergent behaviours, cyber-physical interaction to formally engineer Sensors so that they are robust in very diverse environments. This team have deployed sensors across London for a wide set of applications from Logistics 4.0 to Precision Farming to Smart Cities to 3D printed space sensors. 
RF Shadowing is the name we give to our ability to use the low-power radio as a sensor. Lead by Dr Mohammad Heggo, who joined us from Manchester University in 2019, leads a team that has been examining how everyday RF is changed by its environment. This enables us to detect heart-beats, determine the speed of a rotating machine, measure the amount of liquid in fruit non-destructively, and allow a drone to use its transceiver to monitor its operation and better inform its control. 

"It gives us a warm feeling of what can be achieved as a team and is rocket fuel for the team moving forward.” Professor McCann

Po-Yu Chen did his PhD in the group in 2018 and heads up the Machine Learning and Graph processing team. This team explores novel ML techniques that are adapted to run on tiny sensor devices, in a decentralised way, to allow us to detect failures or security breaches or to make control decisions using very little historical data. This work is currently being applied in Singapore to nowcast weather to allow rain capture systems to operate optimally and to minimise energy usage in a Vineyard/Winery in Kent. 
Dr Aisha Junejo who joined the team 2019, leads the Security team, examining how to securely perform sensor communications using the physical characteristics and behaviours of the sensor device itself. This work also examines how to allow sensor devices to self-protect given how vulnerable they are to both cyber and physical attacks and how levels of trust impacts our use of sensor data especially in control systems. 

AESE are thrilled to receive this medal for the hard work we've been doing over the years, it recognises that it takes more than top-tier research to make a world leading team in that it recognises the diversity and the culture of the group. We have been lucky to have members from nearly every part of the world, of all backgrounds and outlooks, join us and we have enjoyed pushing the boundaries of our topic while having a lot of fun. 

Dr Jackie Bell: "I’m honoured to have been nominated and to have received such positive comments from the panel."  

Dr Jackie Bell, Senior Teaching Fellow for Equality, Diversity and Engagement received high commendations by the panel from her nomination for the President’s Achievement Award for Excellence in Societal Engagement. 

Jackie joined the Department in 2019 and in this short space of time has led and supported the delivery of successful outreach and engagement programmes in partnership with schools and members of the general public.  

“Jackie has worked tirelessly to bring a more diverse audience both to her department and to engage with science in general, collaborating with internal and external colleagues. Jackie is active on social media as well as face-to-face events, she’s a very supportive member of staff and has achieved so much at Imperial in a short space of time - she clearly is a natural role model”  

"I’m honoured to have been nominated and to have received such positive comments from the panel. I thank my Department and the Societal Engagement Team for the support they have given me this past year, and I look forward to developing more engaging projects that reach new and diverse audiences in the very near future.” 

Find out more about the projects Jackie is involved in.

Professor Daniel Rueckert, Head of Department  

"I am delighted that three colleagues of the Department have been recognized in this year’s President’s Awards for Excellence. The President’s Award for Research Support Excellence to Professor Alessandra Russo celebrates her outstanding supervision of research students.Daniel Rueckert

Research students are at the heart of many research projects in the Department of Computing, so excellence in research student supervision is key to a thriving research culture. I am equally delighted that the President's Award for Outstanding Research Team has gone to the Adaptive Emergent Systems Engineering Group led by Professor Julie McCann.

Professor McCann’s group has a worldwide reputation for their excellent working in Cyber-Physical Systems and IoT systems. Last but not least I am also delighted that Dr. Jackie Bell’s work on Equality, Diversity and Outreach for the Department has been recognized!"


Ahmed Abdullahi Idle

Ahmed Abdullahi Idle
Department of Computing