The University of Southampton

2010 - Review of the Year in ECS

Published: 29 December 2010

2010 was another successful year in ECS, with record numbers of students, awards and accolades, and research successes. These are just some of the highlights, but a full account of the year's successes can be found in the ECS News Release Archive.

January The year began with a bang, when Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond took time out from filming in the Southampton Nanofabrication Centre (SNC) to visit the ECS Computing Lab. Hundreds of students were in the Lab waiting to greet him, and the scale and warmth of his welcome can be seen on YouTube. The presenter was visiting the School of Electronics and Computer Science to film sequences for a BBC/Discovery Channel series - "Invisible Worlds", which was aired in March.

February The Prime Minster, Gordon Brown, hailed the work of ECS Professors Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt for the transformation they had brought to government processes. In a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research outlining plans for reform of the voting system, the Prime Minister said: 'Already as a result of the Berners Lee/Shadbolt initiative a transformation is at work. A myriad of applications are being developed on the web by citizens for citizens - new websites on health, education, crime and local communities - that inform, enrich and enliven our democracy. It is truly direct democracy in action.'

March ECS hosted the sixth Photovoltaic Science Application and Technology Conference (PVSAT-6. The event showcased UK and international developments in photovoltaics and illustrated how solar energy is rapidly becoming as cost effective as grid electricity. Event organiser, Professor Darren Bagnall of the ECS Nano Research Group, said: "This is an important time for the photovoltaics industry. It has always been an excellent low-carbon method of electricity production, but now, solar energy is rapidly approaching the point where it can compete with grid electricity."

April Researchers in ECS and Geography unveiled sensor probes which can predict the onset of landslides. Dr Kirk Martinez of ECS and Professor Jane Hart of Geography were funded by the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop fist-sized sensors to monitor erosion rates during California’s storm season. The sensors were placed in Los Laureles Canyon in Mexico, an area which is constantly under water due to torrential rain and mud slides. “Nobody has ever tried putting radio-based sensors into slopes before,” said Dr Martinez. “We are very close to having a miniaturised version that measures light, conductivity and tilt.”

May The School of Electronics and Computer Science was ranked 2nd in the UK for Electrical and Electronic Engineering in both the Times Good University Guide and the Independent's Complete University Guide. Computer Science and IT were ranked 4th in The Times Guide and 5th in The Independent Guide. The School was ranked 1st in the UK in the Guardian Guide for Electronics and 4th for Computer Science. The subject tables are based on a number of criteria: Student Satisfaction, Research Assessment, Entry Standards, and Graduate Prospects. In Electrical & Electronic Engineering ECS scored 98/97 (out of 100) for graduate prospects, the highest score in the table for the subject.

June Team Tarka, led by Dr Peter Wilson of ECS, achieved outstanding success in Solar Splash - the World Championship of Collegiate Solar Boating. The University of Southampton boat Tarka II took second place overall and won a string of awards in the Solar Splash event held in Arkansas, USA. It was only the second year Southampton had entered the challenge and for the second year running, the team was the only UK competitor. Tarka II was designed and built by Electrical Engineering and Ship Science students from the Schools of Electronics and Computer Science and Engineering Sciences.

July Leif Isaksen, a graduate student in ECS and the Archaeological Computing Research Group in the School of Humanities, secured funding from Google to make the classics and other ancient texts easy to discover and access online. Leif is working together with Dr Elton Barker at The Open University and Dr Eric Kansa of the University of California, Berkeley, on the Google Ancient Places (GAP): Discovering historic geographical entities in the Google Books corpus project. Scholars and enthusiasts worldwide will be able to search the Google Books corpus to find books related to a geographic location and within a particular time period. The results can then be visualised on GoogleMaps or in GoogleEarth..

August ECS researchers are developing technology that may enable people to power MP3 players and other devices through their clothes and the carpets they walk on. Dr Steve Beeby and his team aim to generate energy through people’s movement, eliminating the need to change batteries on devices. In a project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Southampton team will use rapid printing processes and active printed inks to create an energy harvesting film in textiles. This film can also be printed on carpets, enabling individuals to generate energy as they walk around the home or office.

September As part of the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary celebrations a two-day discussion meeting on Web Science was held in London. The Royal Society anniversary discussion meetings addressed the major scientific questions of the 21st century, aiming to identify and map out vital subjects that will help set the agenda for future generations of scientists. ‘Web Science: A New Frontier’ was organized by Professor Nigel Shadbolt and Professor Dame Wendy Hall of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, Professor James Hendler of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Professor Bill Dutton of the University of Oxford.

October Three Professors from the School of Electronics and Computer Science featured in the list of ‘100 most important figures in British Science’ published in The Times newspaper on 7 October. The Eureka list aimed to identify the most important and interesting people in British science, ‘those pushing back the boundaries of scientific understanding, transforming our lives through innovation and changing our attitudes to science, each other and the world’, wrote The Times Editor, James Harding. It covered researchers, inventors, engineers, communicators, policymakers and practitioners. In the same month Professor Nick Jennings and Professor Sheng Chen were also listed among the world's leading researchers.

November The award-winning ALADDIN research programme came to an end after five years of groundbreaking research and applications development. The strategic research programme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and BAE Systems, and led by Professor Nick Jennings, developed a multi-agent toolbox across a range of data and information applications, and won many awards and accolades. The new ORCHID project, announced in October, will take forward many elements of the ALADDIN research as it aims to develop true partnerships between people and computers.

December At the end of a busy and longer-than-usual first term of the year the School celebrated the graduation of around 250 MSc students from the 2009-10 cohort. This year’s MSc programme is bigger than ever with over 350 students admitted to the programme in October 2010. The programme continues to develop, which 12 different degrees being offered, including a new MScin Systems and Signal Processing available from 2011. The School also saw a record intake to its undergraduate programmes in October 2010, with over students admitted to 23 different programmes. You can read about their experiences in the ECS Student Blogs.

For further information about ECS news stories contact Joyce Lewis; tel. +44(0)23 8059 5453.

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