The University of Southampton

ECS Review of the Year - 2011

Published: 21 December 2011

Professor Don Nutbeam, University Vice-Chancellor, and David WillettsDr Zakaria Moktadir
Ready for action: the Student Robotics arenaProfessor Hywel Morgan and Dr Matt Mowlem with the sensors
Philip Basford watching a Rembrandt painting being imaged by the RTI systemSir Tim Berners-Lee's inaugural lecture in SouthamptonHighfield Campus Interchange
 Adam receives his award from Neil Dickens of IC GroupSilicon Roundabout, London
Click the individual images above to view the year's top ECS stories.
As 2011 draws to a close we look back on a year which saw a series of prestigious awards, research success and high-profile events in ECS.


The year began with a visit to the Mountbatten Building from The Rt Hon David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science. Before touring the Southampton Nanofabrication Centre cleanrooms, and the photonics labs of the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Minister declared the Building open and paid tribute to ‘the spirit of Southampton’ in creating such an impressive facility.


The Nano research group announced that a research team led by Dr Zakaria Moktadir had developed a new transistor made from graphene – the world’s thinnest material. According to Dr Moktadir, in the context of electronics, graphene could potentially replace or at least be used side by side with silicon integrations. "CMOS (Silicon Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) downscaling is reaching its limits and we need to find a suitable alternative," he said. Having created the transistor, Dr Moktadir is now undertaking further research to understand the mechanism which causes the current to stop flowing in the channel, testing its reliability and performance under various noise and temperature conditions.


ECS student Andrew Cowan was named Young Engineer of the Year at the British Science Association's 'Big Bang Fair', held in London to mark the start of National Science and Engineering Week. Andrew received the accolade for his Search and Rescue Robot built during his A level Systems and Control coursework at Sutton Grammar School. ECS hosted a number of events as part as part of the University’s contribution to National Science and Engineering Week, including the popular Murder Mystery Event and the Technology Zone in the Activity Area.


The final event of the Student Robotics Challenge was hotly contested by teams from around the country and as far afield as Grenoble. They had all drawn on huge amounts of ingenuity in designing robots able to undertake the testing circuit of the arena. Now in its fifth year, the Challenge brings together school teams which have all been mentored by a member of the Students Robotics team, which is drawn from current and former engineering students of the University of Southampton, University of Bristol and Imperial College London and is based at ECS-Electronics and Computer Science.


The first miniature sensors designed to measure saltiness and temperature across the world’s oceans were deployed in an ambitious rowing expedition from Australia to Mauritius. The expedition provided the opportunity to measure ocean conditions and provide valuable information about climate change. The sensors were designed by Professor Hywel Morgan of ECS and Dr Mat Mowlem of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. The ECS researchers were able to test the sensors and to assess their application in areas such as ocean meteorology and water quality monitoring, and as fish tags. The longer-term plan is to commercialise the sensors.


ECS played an important part in World IPv6Day when the world's major content providers including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, CNN and the BBC offered their content and services for 24 hours over the new IPv6 Internet Protocol. ECS has been contributing to the development of IPv6 for many years, and runs IPv6 throughout its own network, so was able to participate fully and help validate the new technology by encouraging its staff and students to use Facebook, YouTube, the BBC and other sites available via IPv6 on the day. "We shipped over 100GB of IPv6 traffic on 8 June, which was significantly more than we've ever done before, without any reports of connectivity problems for our users," said Dr Tim Chown, who has led ECS's IPv6 research and deployment work since the late 1990's. "It's been a fantastic day for the future of the Internet."


New imaging technology developed by computer scientists and archaeologists at the University of Southampton in conjunction with academics at the University of Oxford was demonstrated at the British Museum. Dr Kirk Martinez of ECS and the team have developed two Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) systems to capture images of documentary texts and archaeological material. The RTI technology systems developed by the project will allow researchers to study documentary and other artefacts remotely in great detail without being restricted by fixed lighting angles. The result will be to ensure that high-quality digital versions of these materials can be consulted by scholars worldwide.


Twenty years on from the day that Tim Berners-Lee made the first web page available, it is now 'the single most important thing breaking down barriers around the world', according to Professor Dame Wendy Hall, who spoke about the anniversary on BBC Breakfast News (Saturday 6 August). "I don't think any of us realized the significance at the time,' says Dame Wendy. 'When I saw Tim Berners-Lee demonstrate it in 1991 I saw an interesting system, but not what it was going to do. The Web has changed the shape of nations, and enabled the silent majority to have a voice. It’s now the single most important thing breaking down barriers around the world."


University Open Days saw hundreds of prospective students and parents visit ECS for tours and presentations about the ECS degree programmes and results of the National Student Survey provided excellent endorsement of our courses from recent graduates. Figures for employability of ECS students continued to be particularly strong with both Electronics and Computer Science graduates achieving employment rates of 95% after graduation. This year Electronics and Electrical Engineering was ranked 1st and 3nd in the UK in recent league tables (The Guardian and The Times May/June 2010) and Computer Science and IT is ranked 5th and 8th.


Professor Dame Wendy Hall received an ‘Internet and Society Award’ from the Oxford Internet Institute as part of its tenth anniversary celebrations. The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) has become a major centre for the study of the dramatic societal implications of the Internet. Professor Hall received her award as being one of the first computer scientists to undertake serious research into Web Science. She was a founding director of the Web Science Research Initiative (now Web Science Trust), alongside Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the Web, and Professor Nigel Shadbolt.


Adam Malpass, final-year student in Electronic Engineering at ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, was awarded the first annual Scholar of the Year award by the United Kingdom Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF). The other finalist in the award was another ECS student Tom Dell. UKESF was founded in 2010 by collaboration of public bodies, private companies and UK universities to address the threat of a diminishing skills base in the UK electronics sector. Its principal aims are to increase and sustain the supply of industry ready graduate engineers and boost career take up in the industry, worth £23 billion per year to the UK economy.


The Government’s White Paper on Research and Innovation included the announcement of a new Open Data Institute, to be led by Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt of ECS, both members of the Public Transparency Board. The new £10M Institute will be based at Shoreditch, the location of ‘Silicon Roundabout’ and will work with business and the public sector to use data more effectively. “Data is the new raw material of the 21st century and the UK is world-leading in the release of Open Government Data", said Professor Nigel Shadbolt." Open Government Data not only increases transparency and accountability but also creates economic and social value. The Institute will help business to realise this value and foster a generation of open data entrepreneurs."
All our news stories from 2011 can be viewed in our News Archive and further information about any news stories in ECS can be obtained from Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453 ILLUSTRATION:hide

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