SOUE News Issue 7

Head of Department's Report to SOUE 2007-2008

Richard Darton


The past year has been the year of our centenary, 1908-2008. The celebrations are described elsewhere in this newsletter, and I am very grateful to Professor Al Borthwick who chaired the Centenary Committee and all those many members of the Department who contributed to the success of the programme. We really marked this milestone! The celebrations reminded us that there is a huge fund of goodwill amongst our alumni and our business contacts, and that we must make more effort to tell our friends what we are doing. Some highlights of our year are mentioned in this newsletter, though we do not say much about our "core business" - our teaching and research programmes in Engineering Science. Our research activities at least, written up for the Government's competitive Research Assessment Exercise, will be published around Christmas 2008, so those interested in the detail will get plenty of it, and be able to compare us with other places. Watch out for our ranking in the league tables.


For the second year in a row an Oxford student has been selected as Best Civil Engineering Student of the Year at the national SET awards: in October 2007 Ross McAdam (KBL) was named the winner of the Balfour Beatty Award Trophy for his work on Model testing of a novel design of a turbine to generate power from tidal flows. Three of our students were also given Royal Academy of Engineering Leadership Advanced Awards: Sofia Akram (SHU), Toby Miller (KBL), Nneka Orji (KBL). At the 2007 Awards Ceremony of the Institution of Engineering and Technology in November 2007, Oxford students won a large number of awards, including a Belling Award for Engineering Excellence to Marco Diliberto (JES). Others were: Jubilee Scholarships - Samuel Adcock (SEH), Louise Ellis (HTF), Joshua McFarlane (STJ), Rebecca Threlfall (KBL); Engineering Degree Scholarships for Women - Megan Duffy (WAD); IET Fuse Scholarships - Gary Gibb (STA), Alexander Johnson (SEH), Kevin Ling (EXT), Michael May (WOR), Edward McCaul (WAD), Tsun Wong (WAD).

Graduate scholarships were awarded by the IET to Mr Yangyang Zhang for Intelligent Transmission Strategies for Future Communication Systems and Mr Yi Liu. The Richard Way Memorial Prize for the best IC Engine thesis in 2006 was awarded by the Universities Internal Combustion Engine Group to Hongrui Ma for his thesis Optical Diagnostics and Combustion Analysis in a Gasoline Direct Injection Engine. Hongrui worked on a project funded by EPSRC, Jaguar and Shell, and now works for Shell at their Thornton Research Centre.

A team led by Departmental Lecturer Suby Bhattacharya, including three Oxford engineers (Joshua Macabuag - PBK, Louisa Man - STC, Peter Brice - SEH) won a top 2007 Mondialogo Engineering Award of € 20,000 following three days of presentation at Mumbai. These awards were set up by DaimlerChrysler and UNESCO to encourage engineering students in developing and developed countries to form international teams to create project proposals that address the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Their winning project was Extending the collapse time of non-engineered houses in the Himalayan Region during earthquakes. This is a simple technique originally developed at the University of Tokyo with further work carried out at Oxford. It will be implemented in Nepal and India.

Professor Lionel Tarassenko received a Rolls-Royce High Value Patent Award for Technical Innovation, for his QUICK technology for monitoring engine health. Dr Harvey Burd was awarded a 2007 Leverhulme Trust/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellowship to pursue a research programme in Opthalmic Engineering. Professor Steve Roberts' ARGUS II project won the 2007 Engineer magazine award for the best University-Industry collaboration. This five-partner project is developing distributed and reactive agent-based data and information fusion systems that are capable of adapting to their environment and making the best use of whatever information is available. It is a collaborative research programme under the Defence and Aerospace Research Programme initiative. Dr Constantin Coussios, whose research is in the area of Therapeutic Ultrasound, won an Institute of Acoustics 2007 Young Person's Award for Innovation in Acoustical Engineering.

While celebrating 100 years of the Department, it is appropriate to mention Sheila Widnall, who was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Oxford in June 2008. Sheila Widnall is a Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT and was a former United States Secretary of the Air Force, and former Vice-President of the National Academy of Engineering. She is renowned for her work in fluid mechanics, in particular the so-called Widnall instability. We are delighted that an engineer has been honoured by the University during our centenary year. Other achievements of merit during the year include the election of Professor Sir Michael Brady to a Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the elevation of Professor Richard Darton to President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, the election of Professors Alison Noble and Tony Wilson to Fellowships of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the admission of Professor Rodney Eatock Taylor to an Honorary Fellowship at University College London.

The University's own John Fell Fund made awards to: Dr Martin Booth for Three-dimensional optical nano-fabrication, Dr Chris Stevens for Nano-structured electrodes for enhanced dye-sensitised solar cells and Dr Hua Ye for Development of in vitro three-dimensional tumour models - a feasibility study.

It is very satisfactory to be able to report that an F1 team sponsored by Engineering Science has become national champion. In January 2008 the F1 in Schools National Finals took place as part of the Autosport exhibition at the NEC Birmingham. The "Hippos Strike Back" team, based at St Gregory the Great School in Oxford won the award for being the top team in the 11-14 year category with their model racing car. Engineers in the making!

Academic staff movements

In September 2007 Dr Janet Smart (previously Efstathiou) resigned to take up the post of Director of the BT Centre for Major Programme Management at the Said Business School. There were no retirements at that time, but during the year we lost Career Development Fellow Jinming Huang, and Departmental Lecturers Suby Bhattacharya and Alex Matthews. We wish all these well in their future careers.


The Institute of Biomedical Engineering, within the Old Road Medical Campus development at Headington, part of a £55 million building started in March 2006, was occupied in February 2008. It was officially opened by Sir William Castell, Chairman of the Wellcome Foundation, on 16 April 2008. The opening was a gala event, distinguished also by the first Oxford Medtronic Lecture, by Professor Shu Chien of the Whitaker Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, who spoke on Biomedical Engineering in the New Century. When fully staffed, the Institute building will house around 145 people (staff and students). The project was completed on time and within budget, and we are delighted to have acquired such a fine building, designed by Ken Shuttleworth, one of the country's leading architects.

As announced last year, the University has approved our establishing a new engineering research laboratory in the Axis Point building on the Osney Mead industrial estate, so that we can vacate the Southwell building. This £4.3 million project is now in progress with preparatory work at Axis Point. The move of wind tunnels and other experimental rigs will begin shortly.

The Department has also acquired fine new space at the Begbroke Science Park, for water research, high strain-rate mechanics, and electrical power systems for renewable energy. We are adopting the policy that projects that are space-demanding, and near-market, are appropriately located at the Park, which offers ease of business contact. Refurbishing the computer suite on Thom floor six was delayed from 2007 and is taking place now, so that students will be making use of a brand new computing facility from October 2008. They will also be able to make use of the newly refurbished, but creaking, lifts.

The University is also drawing up plans to renovate the whole science area - anyone with a billion pounds to spare should get in touch with the Vice-Chancellor! Rebuilding the iconic Thom building is part of this plan, but it is not clear if and when this might happen. Meanwhile, with its new Information Engineering Building (opened 2004) and the projects mentioned above, the Department is feeling relatively well-housed at the moment.

Development and fund-raising

As part of our centenary celebrations, we launched an appeal for contributions to the Centenary fund, whose primary objective is the support of graduate students reading for higher degrees. You can even contribute to this on-line: a first for the department (see Some may find this type of appeal rather brash, but I am pleased to say that it is delivering funds, and these are really really valuable to the department, so a huge thank you to our benefactors.

Earlier in 2008 the University reviewed the Division of which Engineering Science is a member, and concluded that this department should grow significantly. We see plenty of opportunities to do so - Engineering is one of the key skills needed in providing wealth and welfare to the world. The challenge of how to bring about this growth is before us, and one that we will take on enthusiastically.

Oxford, July 2008

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