Meet the Year 3 President's PhD Scholars
Faculty of Engineering
Eduardo Candela Garza - Deaprtment of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Name: Eduardo Candela Garza
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Title of Research: Safety Algorithms for Autonomous Vehicles using Artificial Intelligence
Personal Web Page address: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eduardo-candela-garza/
Supervisor(s): Dr Panagiotis Angeloudis, Prof Yiannis Demiris
About me: I am originally from Mexico City, where I simultaneously completed my two undergraduate degrees in Mechatronics Engineering and Industrial Engineering at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), graduating first in my class for both degrees. Afterward, I moved to the United States to get my master’s degree in Operations Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At MIT I also worked as a Research Assistant, focusing on developing new machine learning and mathematical optimisation techniques for forecasting and resource allocation. Furthermore, a research collaboration led me to join Harvard University as a part-time Research Assistant for an additional year.
After graduating, I moved to Silicon Valley in California to work as a Programme Manager at Tesla to lead several projects that involved developing and implementing tools for the optimisation of logistics when Model 3 was launched. Later on, I was a Data Scientist at the Bosch Centre for Artificial Intelligence, where I focused on applying AI to the BMW and Mercedes-Benz next generation ultrasonic sensors, in order to improve object detection and autonomous driving.
Summary of Research: I am a member of the Transport Systems and Logistics Laboratory, and also the Personal Robotics
Laboratory. My research aims to develop safety algorithms for Autonomous Vehicle Control Systems, which are essential for having reliable and safe autonomous vehicles on the roads.
In particular, I focus on the decision-making aspect of autonomous vehicles, which consists in the set of algorithms that control the actions (decisions) of a vehicle – such as lane changing or braking. Decision-making requires state-of-the-art learning methods, making artificial intelligence an indispensable tool for training autonomous vehicles. In order to achieve safety requirements, they must be trained with extremely rare and complex scenarios called “edge-cases”, usually using computer simulators.
Given that safety requirements for autonomous vehicles have not been achieved yet, the main goal of my work is to develop methods that can automate and optimise the generation of “edge-cases”, so that the decision-making training process in autonomous vehicles can be more efficient, therefore the required safety levels can be reached faster.
- Autonomous Vehicles
- Artificial Intelligence
- Reinforcement Learning
- Machine Learning
- Mathematical modelling and optimisation
- Applied probability and statistics
- Operations Research
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: During my years in industry I realised I wanted to return to research, particularly in the field of autonomous vehicles. I became very excited when I learned about a project at Imperial that involved self-driving, safety, artificial intelligence and optimisation – and that was a collaboration between the Transport and Robotics labs.
When I contacted my supervisor, Dr Panagiotis Angeloudis, and got to know him and his work, I immediately knew that I wanted to come Imperial. In fact, I did not even consider applying to other universities. He mentioned that the extremely competitive and prestigious President’s Scholarship was our only option for funding, because the other alternatives were only available to European students.
I am incredibly grateful for having been awarded with this unique opportunity at Imperial, as I am able to pursue my research with freedom at a world-class university. I hope the research my group and I do can make a meaningful impact in the world and save lives.
I have also been pleasantly surprised by the good friendships and connections I have made in the events the Graduate School has organised for us.
Xiao Hu - Department of Mechanical Engineering
Name: Xiao Hu
Department: Department of Mechanical Engineering
Title of Research: Attenuation of the unsteady loading on a high-rise building using feedback control
Supervisor(s): Prof. Aimee Morgans & Prof. Jonathan Morrison
About me: I am a research postgraduate at the Department of Mechanical Engineering working in the area of fluid dynamics. Before moving to Imperial, I obtained BEng (with honors) and MSc degree in Aerospace Engineering from Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), China. commenced studying on the stability of spinning flight vehicles. I attended BIT Flight Dynamics Laboratory in my junior year and commenced the research about aerodynamics and flight dynamics. And my research project during my master stage focused on the enhancement to decay of wake-vortex shedding off the aircraft wings.
Summary of Research: My project focuses on the feedback control for reducing the unsteady pressure loading on the building. Due to the bluff shape of high-rise buildings, unsteady loading is always associated with 3D wake dynamics. Numerical computations in the form of Large Eddy Simulations (LES) are employed to characterize unforced 3D wakes around a high-rise building, with various oncoming wind directions considered. Actuation in the form of synthetic slot jets is then added to the edges of the building, and the unsteady loading response to actuation characterised. This will allow the design of feedback controllers for reducing the wake fluctuation and drag.
Research interests: Fluid Mechanics, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Flow Control, Modal Analysis
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: Imperial college is a world class research institute where I can not only continue my research in a deep-going way, but also be exposed to others who are at the forefront of their respective fields. As the most prestigious scholarship offered at Imperial College , the President’s PhD scholarship offered me the freedom to work on my own research without financial constraints. Being a recipient of this scholarship is a life-long honor for me.
Leyang Liu - Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Name: Leyang Liu
Department: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Title of Research: Multi-level hierarchical optimisation for a whole-water system model
Personal Web Page address: https://www.linkedin.com/in/leyang-liu-6b8634117/
Supervisor(s): Dr. Ana Mijic
About me: I hold an MSc in Environmental Engineering (Pass with Distinction) from Imperial College London with Black & Veatch Prize, and a BEng in Hydraulic Engineering (Hons) from Tsinghua University, China. My research starts from investigating vertical water mixing in Pearl River Estuary based on the concept of water age in undergraduate study. Then I conducted systems modelling for integrated water management in my Master’s research.
Summary of Research: In current integrated water resources management, challenges still remain how to conceptualise and determine the optimal water systems structure with respect to centralised versus decentralised infrastructure within a socio-hydrological system, and its operation strategy considering simultaneously the short-term dynamics and a long-term planning, in an integrated fashion.
This study will firstly define a water catchment system through its urban, agricultural, ecological, natural and human components, and then build the cyclic loop between decision-making and feedback. A series of multi-scale applications of such model will be conducted. It is expected that the developed model will enable optimal decisions for water resources, asset management and decentralised storage planning, to satisfy the demand-supply balance, while minimising impact on the environment in an economically and socially-optimal way.
- Systems water modelling/Integrated water resources management
- Hydrology and water quality
- Multi-disciplinary modelling
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: I was advised by Presidents’ scholarship by my supervisor and am quite impressed how prestigious this scholarship is. It is based on candidate’ academic excellence and research potential, and thus can fairly value candidates’ research ability and academic potential. It provides abundant funding for candidates to accomplish their research without worrying their budgets, which makes me concentrate on my research and is thus hugely appreciated by myself.
Ashlyn Low - Department of Chemical Engineering
Name: May-Yin (Ashlyn) Low
Department: Chemical Engineering
Title of Research: Adsorptive Separation of Amino Acid Enantiomers
Personal Web Page address: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashlynlow/
Supervisor(s): Camille Petit
About me: Before coming to Imperial, I completed my undergraduate degree in Nanotechnology Engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada. This was a 5 year co-operative program, which allowed me to obtain 2 full years of working experience in the field of nanotechnology at various institutions before graduating. These experiences included placements at A*STAR and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, the University of Cambridge in the UK, and IDEXX Laboratories in the US.
At Imperial, in addition to pursuing my PhD, I am also the year representative for my cohort on the President’s Scholars Committee, as well as a committee member for the Imperial Outdoor Club. In my spare time, I enjoy rock climbing, hiking, cycling, playing badminton, and exploring different parts of London!
Summary of Research: The separation of enantiomers is important not only for basic science but also for technical applications, such as fine chemicals and drug development. The use of chiral adsorbents to separate enantiomers is arguably the most versatile technique available, with new technologies such as simulated moving bed (SMB) chromatography demonstrating large-scale separation potential. With this research project, we aim to discover how adsorption can be used to its full potential in this application.
We have identified tryptophan and serine amino acids as two industrially relevant enantiomers, where the production process of the D-enantiomers needs to be improved. Over the course of this project, we will develop new adsorbents capable of separating tryptophan and/or serine enantiomers, and experimentally investigate the material properties and process conditions that govern the separation. We also aim to determine ideal materials and process conditions for performing these separations using SMB process simulations.
Research interests: Porous materials, adsorption processes, chiral separation, simulated moving bed chromatography.
Taiyu Zhu - Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
Name: Taiyu Zhu
Department: Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Title of Research: Deep Learning in Diabetes Management
Personal Web Page address: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/taiyu.zhu17
Supervisor(s): Dr Pantelis Georgiou, Dr Kezhi Li
About me: Taiyu Zhu is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology. He has graduated with a First-Class Honours BEng degree from the Australian National University in 2017 and a Distinction MSc degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Imperial College London in 2018. He received the Outstanding Achievement Award for his achievements in the MSc courses.
Summary of Research: Empowered by the boosting data and advances of smart sensors, many cutting-edge AI technologies have achieved unprecedented performance in the health and biomedical areas. Taiyu’s research focuses on artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare. He has been working on developing novel machine learning and deep learning algorithms to meet the challenges in diabetes management. His research aims to deliver frontier biomedical engineering applications and AI-powered tools to improve the health and well-being for people with chronic diseases and solve real-world healthcare problems.
Research interests: AI in Healthcare, Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Diabetes Technology
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: The President’s PhD Scholarship is a prestigious award, which offers me the freedom to stay dedicated to my research and attend academic events that I’m interested in.
Faculty of Medicine
Alison Gaines - School of Public Health
Name: Allison Gaines
Department: Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Title of Research: Integrating health and greenhouse gas emission metrics for packaged foods to promote sustainable diets
Personal Web Page address: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/a.gaines20
Supervisor(s): Bruce Neal, Paul Elliott
About me:I received an MSc from University of Oxford in Global Health Science and Epidemiology. My undergraduate degree is a BSc from Cornell University’s College of Engineering majoring in Information Science, Systems and Technology. I also have 5 years of professional experience in healthcare technology and application management, product design and computer science.
Summary of Research: My research aims to develop a metric for assessing the health and sustainability (in terms of GHGe) of the packaged food supply. This definitely overlaps with the concept of identifying and targeting UPFs as a larger culprit than they are in much of existing research.
The specific goals include: (1) understanding the regulations defining food products package labelling for ingredients and ingredient origin data; (2) developing methods that will enable the estimation of product level indicators of environmental impact, with a focus on CO2 emissions; (3) exploring options for labelling packaged foods with visual indicators that provide consumers with the capacity to make purchasing decisions that are beneficial for both human nutrition and planetary health; (4) evaluating the potential impact of these join indicators on a wide range of stakeholders including policymakers, food producers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
Research interests: My research interests include healthy & sustainable food policy, public health nutrition, the intersection of health and environmental labelling of food, and climate change mitigation strategy.
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: I chose the President’s PhD Scholarship scheme because the opportunities are unparalleled! Not only does it enable a number of diverse students to pursue their research goals, it also creates a community and network for future career choices.
Theo Rashid - School of Public Health
Name: Theo Rashid
Department: Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Title of Research: Modelling small-area life expectancy in England
Personal Web Page address: https://theorashid.github.io
Supervisor(s): Professor Majid Ezzati, Dr James Bennett, Dr Seth Flaxman, Professor Mireille Toledano
About me: Prior to my PhD studies, I completed an MSci in Physics with Theoretical Physics, also at Imperial College. I focussed on atmospheric physics, taking several research internships in Professor Ralf Toumi’s Extreme Events group. Here, we conducted a statistical, global study looking into how the life cycle of a hurricane has shortened, and which physical processes in the atmosphere have caused this.
Summary of Research: As part of the Pathways to Equitable Healthy Cities collaboration, my research looks at small-area trends in mortality in London and England using both Bayesian parametric and nonparametric models. I am interested in how environmental and economic deprivation impact different subgroups of the population.
I am also part of a project modelling excess Covid-19 deaths across over 20 countries.
Research interests: Social determinants of health, Bayesian machine learning, socioeconomic inequality
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: The President’s PhD Scholarship Scheme is the most prestigious at Imperial College. Beyond the financial incentive, the scheme allows you to be part of a college-wide community of like-minded PhD students.
Faculty of Natural Sciences
Souro Chowdhury - Department of Chemistry
Name: Souro Chowdhury
Department: Department of Chemistry
Title of Research: Targeting DNA/RNA G-quadruplex structures using chemical-biology approaches to enable therapeutic intervention in neurodegenerative diseases
Personal Web Page address: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/s.chowdhury19
About me: Souro is a PhD Candidate in Chemical Biology, in the Department of Chemistry. Souro completed his undergraduate and Masters education from the University of Manchester where he specialised in Organic Chemistry working in the group of Prof. David Procter. He also acquired additional experiences in Computational Biology working in Cambridge at EMBL-EBI under the supervision of Prof. Dame Janet Thornton FRS. His time working in Computational Biology of enzyme-mechanisms as a chemist greatly inspired him to look at atoms and molecules, distances and forces for the first time from a life-science perspective, leading him to the interdisciplinary field of Chemical Biology. Souro subsequently worked for a year at the pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche (Roche) at their global headquarters in Basel, Switzerland in their RNA Therapeutics Research division, that further broadened his research vision and motivated him to pursue a Doctoral degree in the field of nucleic acid chemistry.
Outside of research, Souro is interested in writing and in public-communication of science. He enjoys reading and thinking on broader social issues that can affects science and ability to do science and is a member of the Equality, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) committee in the Department of Chemistry.
Summary of Research: The discovery of the double-helix structure of the DNA in 1960s by scientists including Rosalind Franklin, Francis Crick, James Watson amongst others made the iconic ‘double—helix’ structure ubiquitous across scientific disciplines and even in popular culture. However, around the same time there was early evidence suggesting that the DNA can adopt alternative structures, including a “quadruple—helix” topology. It is now well-established that DNA (and RNA) sequences that are rich in Guanine (which is one of the four DNA bases, the others being Adenine, Thymine and Cytosine) can often fold into alternative structures called G-quadruplexes (G4s). Over the past 2 decades, mounting evidence has accumulated that these structures are distributed throughout the human genome and transcriptome, and they have been shown to exist in living human cells.
Crucially, the presence of these G4 structures have been associated with many diseases in humans, including several types of cancers and neurodegenerative conditions such as ALS and FTD – one of the leading causes of dementia at old age. Souro’s research explores the design and synthesis of chemical constructs that can target and disrupt specific G4s, and measuring their impact on biological phenotypes such as gene-expression and protein-translation in the context of diseases. The project is highly interdisciplinary and makes use of many techniques including synthetic organic chemistry, biophysics and cell-biology.
Research interests: In a broad sense, Souro’s research interest is to create chemical-biology tools that can help understand, and improve human health and wellbeing. Particular research interests include the usage of chemically-modified antisense oligonculeotides (ASOs) and CRISPR-Cas9 systems as chemical-biology probes to investigate fundamental biological questions
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: The President’s PhD Scholarship scheme undoubtedly gives the recipients the capability to undertake research without being discouraged by financial barriers and risks. The highly prestigious and selective scholarship covers full funding for international and UK tuition fees, a consumables grant and a very generous stipend that enables researchers to have financial security during the entire period of their PhD research at Imperial. In practise, this means that researchers can potentially achieve a degree of independence in their project and do not necessarily need to undertake other work or duties to supplement their income – allowing complete freedom and focus on their research.
Alisia Fadini - Department of Life Sciences
Name: Alisia Fadini
Department: Life Sciences
Title of Research: Investigating Ultrafast Dynamics in Photoactivated Proteins
Supervisor(s): Prof Jasper van Thor
About me: I am originally from the city of Milan, in Italy. I came to Imperial in 2015 for my BSc in Biochemistry, where I was first introduced to the structural mechanisms of proteins. My curiosity towards how these incredible molecular machines are able to execute specific and efficient catalysis lead me to spend 12 months at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. SLAC houses a novel radiation source that emits extremely intense and brief X-ray pulses (an XFEL): with this resource it is possible to “film” atomic positions in photoactive proteins over time, bringing us closer to understanding the link between dynamics and function.
Summary of Research: Photon absorption by a protein can be the trigger for important biological reactions, such as those that occur in photosynthesis. My aim at Imperial is to apply spectroscopy and crystallography to characterize the ultrafast dynamical response in biologically relevant proteins after this photoexcitation. Ultimately, I am interested in the connection between the ultrafast changes that happen right after light absorption and the slower structural dynamics of the protein. How is information transferred across the protein network and how are dynamics tuned to ensure efficiency?
Research interests: Protein dynamics and function, enzyme catalysis, photobiology, XFELs, spectroscopy and structural biology methods.
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: This award has given me the freedom to propose and pursue my own research interests, as well as supporting me with additional funding to travel for experiments and conferences. Imperial is an exciting place to be academically. The President’s scholarship scheme then enables us to meet outstanding and interesting people from very different disciplines, which I have personally found extremely valuable.
Ronan Laker - Department of Physics
Name: Ronan Laker
Title of Research: Structure of the Inner Heliosphere
Personal Web Page address: www.ronanlaker.com
Supervisor(s): Prof Timothy Horbury
About me: I was very much familiar with Imperial College before becoming a PhD Presents’ Scholar, as I completed my MSci in Physics here, winning the Abdus Salam Prize at my graduation in 2019. During my MSci project, I worked on data from the newly launched Parker Solar Probe, with my work contributing to one of the first Nature papers from the mission. This led to me undertaking a UROP in the same field, the summer before beginning my PhD studies.
Summary of Research: The solar wind is a highly conducting plasma that expands outwards from the Sun’s corona at supersonic speeds, and low particle densities. This makes the solar wind an ideal laboratory to study the physical processes of plasmas that cannot be replicated on Earth, purely due to the large scales and low densities involved. I use data from the newly launched Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter missions, with the latter hosting an instrument built at Imperial College London. I am interested in using multiple spacecraft to measure the 3D shape of large-scale structures in the solar wind, particularly the heliospheric current sheet and stream interaction regions. This is the start of a golden age for studying the solar wind and its potential impact on Earth, and I am privileged to be involved.
Research interests: Solar wind, timeseries analysis, plasma physics and the heliosphere.
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: Imperial has a magnetometer laboratory for spacecraft and has been involved in space missions for 20+ years, meaning it is at the forefront of space physics research. The scholarship scheme has given me financial freedom to carry out my research and explore other interests, such as captaining Imperial’s third football team.
Ming Li - Department of Materials
Name: Ming Li
Department: Department of Materials
Title of Research: Bioinspired Structural Materials
Personal Web Page address: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/structural-ceramics/people/phd-students/
Supervisor(s): Eduardo Saiz, Florian Bouville
About me: Ming Li is a member of the President Scholar Group (2019-2023) currently, and pursuing his Ph.D. degree under the supervision of Prof. Eduardo Saiz at the Center of Advanced Structural Ceramics, Department of Materials, Imperial College London, the UK. He achieved his BE degree from China University of Petroleum (Beijing) in 2018.
Summary of Research: His research containing the development of new processing techniques for the fabrication of ceramic-based intelligent manipulation materials, self-healing & controllable composites, and super-hydrophobic / oleophobic surface, in particular hierarchical composites with bioinspired architectures.
Research interests: His research interest focuses on the design and synthesis of bioinspired interfacial materials with controllable adhesion and wettability, especially multi-level response interfaces with special functions. As well as the construction of smart soft materials, e.g. responsive and bioinspired hydrogels.
Topic 1: Bio-inspired and bio-mimetic materials
- Reference:Li, M., Xu, Q., Wu, X., Li, W., Lan, W., Heng, L., Street, J. and Xia, Z., 2018. Tough reversible adhesion properties of a dry self-cleaning biomimetic surface. ACS applied materials & interfaces, 10(31), pp.26787-26794.
- Highlight by Chemistry View：https://www.chemistryviews.org/details/news/11084784/Self-Cleaning_Sticky_Surfaces_Inspired_by_Geckos.html
Topic 2: Application of high-yield two-dimensional quantum dots and fluorescent hydrogels in the fields of tracking and bone wound healing
- Reference:Li, M., Li, W., Cai, W., Zhang, X., Wang, Z., Street, J., Ong, W.J., Xia, Z. and Xu, Q., 2019. A self-healing hydrogel with pressure sensitive photoluminescence for remote force measurement and healing assessment. Materials Horizons, 6(4), pp.703-710. (Cover)
- Highlight by Polymer Science: http://dy.163.com/v2/article/detail/E8RUIVRG05119KL5.html
Why did you choose the scholarship scheme at Imperial College: This is an outstanding project and I am deeply honored to be a member of it.