Engineers and scientists celebrate new EPSRC Fellowships - <em>News</em>
By Colin Smith and Lucy Goodchild
Tuesday 27 July 2010
Researchers focusing on state-of-the-art eco engines, gloopy cells, and nanoscale light are amongst the nine scientists from Imperial College London who have been awarded Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Fellowships this month.
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The researchers have been awarded more than £8 million in two different kinds of Fellowships: Career Acceleration Fellowships, which give support to early stage researchers, and Leadership Fellowships, which provide support for talented researchers with the most potential to develop into international research leaders.
Sir Keith O’Nions, Rector of Imperial College London, congratulated the new Fellows: “Here we have nine star researchers, some at the start of their careers and others already established leaders in their fields, awarded by the EPSRC to carry out important work in engineering and physical sciences, which could make a real difference to all our lives.
“The Leadership Fellowships will help established researchers to make great progress in their fields, giving them the opportunity to strengthen their research groups and make exciting new discoveries. Starting out in science can be tough and the Career Acceleration Fellowships will help the next generation of science and engineering leaders to kick-start their careers and overcome the obstacles that can hamper progress. Today’s news is a testament to the hard work and commitment shown by our scientists and engineers. I look forward to seeing the results of these Fellowships,” added Sir Keith.
Extending the range of eco cars (Department of Earth Science and Engineering)
Designing new types hybrid fuel cell/electric engines for the next generation of eco-friendly vehicles will be the focus of Dr Gregory Offer’s Fellowship. The aim of his research is to develop fuel cells that can extend the travelling distances of hybrid cars.
Dr Offer will investigate using biofuels such as bioethanol in fuel cells to create electricity to power electric motors. He says using biofuels would improve fuel efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, extend the range of hybrid cars, and enable driver’s to use existing infrastructure to refuel, making them more cost effective to run.
Making the internet more secure (Department of Computing)
Dr Sergio Maffeis’ research will focus on making the next generation of internet services more secure for users.
Dr Maffeis’ goal is to make different internet sites and online services such as online banking, social networking and email better protected. He aims to develop new programming techniques for web developers that will prevent web-based attackers from compromising the privacy and security of data stored online.
Improving the performance of power stations (Department of Mechanical Engineering)
New Fellow Dr Catrin Davies will develop techniques for assessing the performance and lifespan of metal components in energy generating systems such as nuclear power plants. These components are subjected to extreme conditions including high temperatures and corrosion, which means that engineers have to carry out costly and time consuming assessments to ensure they don't fail. Dr Davies will develop a new system for assessing components at high temperatures and pressures, ensuring that they operate in a safe and predictable manner to improve the lifetime and efficiency of power stations.
Assessing a sticky issue (Department of Chemistry)
Dr Marina Kuimova will design new ways of measuring the gloopiness of cells during her Fellowship. In cells, gloopiness, or viscosity, can affect signalling, transport and drug delivery, and abnormal viscosity has been linked to disease and malfunction. Measuring the viscosity of a single cell is a challenge for scientists, and Dr Kuimova aims to develop new tools for doing this, using fluorescence that becomes brighter as the cell becomes more gloopy. She hopes that the new methodology will improve our understanding of how cells function, and perhaps even enable scientists to design better drugs for certain diseases.
Keeping up to speed with change (Department of Mathematics)
Dr Martin Rasmussen will use his Fellowship to develop a theory for complex systems, which will help scientists to understand, for example, critical changes in financial markets or weather phenomena associated with climate change. The current theory assumes that conditions in these systems change slowly, and does not take rapid fluctuations into account, such as those that happened during the financial crisis two years ago. Dr Rasmussen will develop fundamental mathematical theories that can take into account both fast changes and random fluctuations, helping scientists to predict catastrophic events as early as possible.
Making light work of sensors, with metal (Department of Physics)
Dr Rupert Oulton will be working in the Department of Physics during his Career Acceleration Fellowship, developing new ways of using light during his fellowship. Although we use light to sense the world around us, it has a limitation: light cannot be imaged or focused to sizes below half its wavelength. Metals can shatter this ‘diffraction limit’ of light by storing energy on the electrons that collectively move in unison with light, called surface plasmons. Dr Oulton aims to reduce the size of light so that it can occupy nanometre-scale volumes for the first time. Exploring optics at untouched length scales offers the potential for fundamentally new discoveries and for developments in new technologies that expand the capabilities of computers and the internet, and in new sensor technologies for healthcare, defence and security.
The billions of cells inside the brain work as a team to process information, and understandin g how this happens will be the focus of Dr Kenneth Harris’ Fel lowship. He will investigate his new theory in which these cells interact like agents in a market economy, competing with each o ther to produce and exchange useful information, and forming complex neural networks in the process. Dr Harris will analyze his theory using computer simulations, mathematical theory, and laboratory experiments. Dr Harris says his work will clarify how the cells of the brain work together and enable new computer learning systems to be constructed that work along similar principles to the brain.
Making the next generation of automated machines safer with new computer models (Department of Computing)
Ensuring that the next generation of automated systems such as driver-less cars and medical robots can be used safely will be the focus of Dr Alessio Lomuscio’s Fellowship. His research will focus on developing new techniques for assessing autonomous systems, which are sophisticated computer programs that will enable automated machines to operate without human involvement. He will develop computer programs and models that will run diagnostic checks on automated systems to ensure that they are fully accredited, meeting safety, and legal, ethical, social and regulatory standards before they are used in the community.
Understanding antibiotics (Department of Mathematics)
Dr Robert Beardmore has been awarded a Fellowship to combine mathematical modelling and experimentation to understand how we should be using antibiotics. Previous research has suggested that doctors over-prescribe antibiotics for minor infections, which can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the treatments. Standard ways of thinking about this problem can miss certain aspects, including the problem of bacteria evolving resistance to drugs. Dr Beardmore plans to build experimental and theoretical models that include aspects such as the evolution of drug resistance, in order to work out the best way to use antibiotics.
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