Two Imperial researchers have been awarded UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships to tackle ambitious and challenging research and innovation.
The Future Leaders Fellowship (FLF) scheme aims to develop the next wave of world-class research and innovation leaders in academia and business.
UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “The Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with the freedom and generous long-term support to progress adventurous new ideas, and to move across disciplinary boundaries and between academia and industry."
Imperial’s fellows both received support during the application process from Imperial’s Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre, including mock interviews.
Below we meet Imperial’s latest Future Leaders Fellows.
Dr Raj Patel, Department of Physics
The allure of quantum computers stems from the unparalleled processing power that they provide for certain calculations. They use quirky effects such as superposition, where a photon (quanta of light) can be in two places at once, and entanglement, where observing one photon can provide information about another no matter how far apart they are. However, these important effects are extremely sensitive to noise and loss of photons, which for a quantum computer results in calculation errors.
The Future Leaders Fellowship will allow me to investigate methods to detect and correct errors in both near-term and future photonic (light-based) quantum processors. This will involve developing new nanophotonic components to help mitigate photon loss in conjunction with low-loss integrated photonic circuitry where information can be processed and errors can be detected and corrected. Similar circuitry will allow exotic quantum states of light to be engineered that are robust to error and form the basis for future fault-tolerant quantum computers.
The support and resources provided by the fellowship allow for an ambitious project such as this. It will provide me with a firm base upon which I can develop as a leader, grow and expand my team, establish new collaborations in academia and industry, and tackle the most challenging problems in photonic quantum technologies.
Dr Alalea Kia, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Urbanisation-related flooding is a huge issue – it has a projected global cost of £500 billion a year by 2030 and is expected to cost the UK economy £27 billion annually by 2080, if no action is taken.
Current permeable pavements which are designed to absorb rainfall suffer from a number of challenges, including low strength and durability, as well as being prone to clogging by sediments. I have developed a clogging-resistant permeable pavement called Kiacrete which is engineered to solve these challenges. Developed through my extensive research and start-up company Permia, Kiacrete offers significant environmental benefits whilst contributing towards achieving net-zero, through flood mitigation, reduced emissions, water reuse and the decreased urban heat island effect.
If you’ve been to Imperial’s White City Campus, you might have walked on Kiacrete. My patented interlocking tile delivery system was deployed there two years ago and monitoring so far has shown excellent durability and drainage performance.
The Future Leaders Fellowship will enable me to become a leader in the field of sustainable and resilient permeable infrastructure. It will allow me to reengineer Kiacrete to develop the first permeable pavement with sufficient strength and resilience for essential infrastructure in the built environment including airports, highways, railways and buildings.
I will grow my research group through this fellowship by recruiting PhD students and postdoctoral researchers to conduct state-of-the-art research and innovation. The fellowship will also provide the opportunity to reinforce collaborations between leading academics and industrial partners, from local government to transport infrastructure operators, engineering consultancies and contractors, enabling me to deploy my engineering innovation and demonstrate its significant benefits to the environment and society.
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