The University of Southampton

ECS Review of the Year - 2013

Published: 20 December 2013

As 2013 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 in terrific style with two Royal announcements: firstly that the University was to receive a prestigious Regius Chair of Computer Science – the only one in the UK – one of 12 Regius Chairs bestowed by HM The Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee. Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Dean of the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences and former Head of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), said: “This is a fantastic honour for us. It pays tribute to the many people who have supported the development of Computer Science at Southampton over the years and students who have contributed so much to enable us to obtain the world-leading position we are in today.“

The second announcement was the Knighthood awarded in the Queen’s New Year Honours List to David Payne, Professor in ECS and Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre, for services to photonics, the science and application of light and electronics. Vice-Chancellor Professor Don Nutbeam commented: “The erbium-doped fibre amplifier is a crucial invention that has made possible the global information superhighway and high-speed telecommunication networks, which are so important to us all in the 21st century. I am delighted that the unique contribution David has made through his research is being recognised with this prestigious honour.”


In February, our annual Careers Fair was bigger than ever before, with companies attending from across the technology industries, transport, energy, media, finance, gaming, retail, security and communications. “The Fair is a great endorsement of the high regard that the UK’s leading technology companies have for Southampton students,” said Careers Fair Director Joyce Lewis. “We had 78 companies attending this year – a significant increase from last year, and it was fantastic to hear the buzz in the hall and to see the great interactions taking place between the company representatives – many of whom were Southampton alumni – and students across all years and many subject areas.”

Technology company Imagination Technologies were delighted with the results obtained by our final-year students in the Group Design Project. Imagination asked the students to produce a Home Recommender system which would analyse Web traffic on a home network and, based on the webpages visited, suggest new relevant webpages of interest. The students used Imagination’s latest Minimorph and FlowWorld technologies, along with the accompanying software. They were also able to experience producing a real-world system, using technology deployed in millions of shipped products. The students, Jack Andrew, James Justin, Peter Halles, Rajan Soni and Aljay Massiah, describe the process in the project video.


Representatives from ECS and the University celebrated the formal opening of the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus along with special guests from Malaysia’s Ministry of Higher Education, the Iskandar Regional Development Agency and Iskandar Investment Berhad for the ceremony at the EduCity@Iskandar, in South Johor. ECS is now offering a new degree of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) in Malaysia which recruited its first students to begin studying in October 2013. The students will spend two years at USMC before coming to Southampton to complete their degree programmes.

Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a leading academic in Web and Internet Science at the University of Southampton, was one of five joint winners of the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, given by The Royal Academy of Engineering. It honoured Tim for inventing the World Wide Web along with Marc Andreessen, who was honoured for his work in inventing the Mosaic browser, and Vinton Cerf, Robert Kahn and Louis Pouzin, who were honoured for their work in developing the internet. April

Erica the interactive rhino got ready to hit the streets of Southampton as part of a project involving the University of Southampton and Marwell Zoo. Students and staff from ECS adopted the life-sized model rhino from Marwell Zoo as part of the zoo’s Go! Rhino scheme to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Erica was brought to life by equipping her with a range of digital features enabling interaction with passers-by and a presence on social media. She spent the summer in the Marlands shopping centre in Southampton, where ECS Outreach Co-ordinator Dr Reena Pau also organized weekly workshops for local schoolchildren to explore the technology behind Erica.


A major research award was announced, bringing together a national collaboration of electronic engineers and computer scientists to develop the next generation of energy-efficient computing systems. PRiME: Power-efficient, Reliable, Many-core Embedded systems, brings together four world-leading research groups from the Universities of Southampton, Imperial College, Manchester and Newcastle. The five-year £5.6m Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project is directed by ECS Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, and will undertake creative research into the design and implementation of energy-efficient and dependable embedded systems with many-core processors.

Over 280 ECS graduates attended the annual alumni reception in London at the Institute of Engineering and Technology. ‘One of the great things about ECS that everyone comments on is the strength of the community,’ Professor White told guests. ‘We are very proud of our students and we take great pleasure in the success and influence that our graduates achieve in the world after ECS and the University of Southampton. We are delighted to have your support to help us continue to build the strength of the ECS community in the future.’

Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) was recognised for its work tackling the problem of gender inequality in science with an Athena SWAN Bronze Award. The national achievement recognises work in ECS to ensure women are encouraged into an area that historically has been dominated by males. Professor Michael Butler, Chair of the ECS Athena SWAN Team, said: "Applying for Athena SWAN was a team effort. We appreciate that this is only the start and we still have a long way to go. We have drawn up a plan of action detailing how we will continue our efforts to tackle this problem, how we aim to play a leading role in equality at University level, and how we can share our experiences with other science and engineering departments at Southampton.”

A new climate-controlled facility joined the Salt-Fog chamber and Faraday Cage as part of the continuing programme to enhance facilities in the Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory. The temperature and humidity chamber has a temperature range of up to 50°C with relative humidity variation from 10% to 80% making it capable of simulating a great majority of climates. It will be used commercially for sample pre-conditioning, thermal resistance tests and safety clothing testing. The working space area of 3.6m2 in combination with the versatile feedthrough panel allows electrical tests to be conducted under strict environmental conditions.


Professor Nigel Shadbolt, co-founder and Director of the Open Data Institute (ODI), was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to science and engineering. In a career spanning some 30 years, Professor Shadbolt has over 400 publications to his credit in topics ranging from cognitive psychology to computational neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence to the Semantic Web. In 2009 the Prime Minister appointed Sir Nigel and Sir Tim Berners-Lee as Information Advisors to transform access to Public Sector Information. This work led to the highly acclaimed site that now provides a portal to thousands of datasets.

Marc de Vos, a third-year student in ECS developed the world’s first screen-printed digital watch on fabric for his Part III Individual Project. Marc, who completed his BEng degree in Electromechanical Engineering, commented: “The project gave me the chance to put the theory learnt over the last three years into practice and led to my involvement in the brand new field of printed smart fabrics.” Marc’s project is a continuation of the development of smart fabrics as part of the successful EU FP7 “MICROFLEX” project which was successfully completed recently within the department.


Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, Associate Dean Research in Physical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Southampton, was elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering for his contribution to low-power design and test of mobile computing systems. Dean of Physical Sciences and Engineering Professor Dame Wendy Hall commented:“Bashir’s election as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering is excellent news and reflects and recognises his leading research and the contribution he has made to the technological development of low power mobile devices.”

ECS PhD student Muddasser Alam won the best student paper award at the prestigious Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent Systems (AAMAS) conference, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, for his paper ‘Cooperative Energy Exchange for the Efficient Use of Energy and Resources in Remote Communities’. His research presented a new approach to sharing resources in an electricity grid in remote rural communities in places such as Africa and Asia.


The University announced that it would be running its first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in Web Science, enabling anyone to study online, for free, wherever they are in the world in conjunction with our partner FutureLearn - part of the Open University.

Fifty students from over 40 schools around the UK took part in a highly successful Computing and Microelectronics course at ECS, organized by educational charity The Smallpeice Trust. The five-day residential course enabled students from Years 11 and 12 to build and programme a substantial autonomous robot. The final day of the course was devoted to a competitive challenge in which the robots had to manoeuvre a testing course, demonstrating their manoeuvrability and ‘intelligence’, as a result of the students’ inventiveness in design and programming. The course was sponsored by ARM, and delivered by the Student Robotics team in Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), under the direction of David Oakley, ECS Labs Manager.


A pioneering project from ECS which aims to improve energy efficiency in the home won the British Gas Connecting Homes Startup Competition. Dr Reuben Wilcock and Professor Alex Rogers, won first prize for MyJoulo at an event which saw 25 companies from around the world pitching innovative products and services in the home energy sector. Dr Wilcock said: “What was clear about MyJoulo was the elegant and simple concept and the careful attention to satisfy every stakeholder, from the supplier to the customer. MyJoulo is given to households free of charge by their energy supplier and in three easy steps gives them personalised advice about what new energy technologies they could benefit from in their home.”

For over two decades of contributions to global Open Access, Stevan Harnad, Professor of Computer Science in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liège in Belgium. In 2003, the Head of ECS, Wendy Hall, adopted the world's first OA self-archiving mandate, requiring that all ECS article output be self-archived in the ECS OA repository.


Two ECS students won an international award for their research developing a smartphone app to search for a rare insect in the New Forest, UK. Davide Zilli and Oliver Parson received the award for Outstanding Student Paper in the Artificial Intelligence and Computational Sustainability special track at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI). The award was in recognition of their work developing the app that is helping to rediscover the rare New Forest cicada (Cicadetta montana) – the only cicada native to the UK.

Senior academic staff in ECS were among a distinguished list of researchers who gained prestigious Fellowships from major funding organization. Professor Lajos Hanzo, Hywel Morgan and James Wilkinson all received funding with the support of the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering Future Academic and Research Leaders Mentoring Network, chaired by Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi. “Securing so many fellowships is a reflection of the outstanding quality of our academics and researchers and the relevance of the problems their research is addressing,” he said.


For the second time in three years, an ECS student won the title ‘Scholar of the Year’ awarded by the UKESF (UK Electronic Skills Foundation). Ashley Robinson, final-year student on the MEng programme, Electronic Engineering with Artificial Intelligence, received the award at the National Microelectronics Institute annual dinner, held in London. Southampton’s success in the UKESF Scholar of the Year title can be gauged from the fact that of the eight finalists in the competition over the last three years, four are from ECS: Adam Malpass (Dialog Semiconductor), Tom Dell (McLaren Electronics), Sam Hipkin (ARM), and Ashley Robinson. In 2013 Adam returned to the NMI dinner to win the title ‘Young Engineer of the Year’.

Researchers from the University of Southampton, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Quebec and Montreal, have developed a new microsystem for more efficient testing of pharmaceutical drugs to treat diseases such as cystic fibrosis, MG (myasthenia gravis) and epilepsy. “By putting the ion channel into an artificial membrane, we only have one type of channel, no living cells and a relatively inexpensive method for testing for several of these types of channels at once,” said lead author of the study Dr Maurits de Planque of the Nano Research Group in ECS. The research is funded by the EPSRC.

The University of Southampton launched the Web Science Institute to investigate how the World Wide Web is changing the world and the world is changing the Web. Professor Dame Wendy Hall says: “There is a ‘perfect storm’ brewing which combines open data, open education and open research, so this is a very exciting time to be launching the Web Science Institute.”


ECS students performed outstandingly well in this year’s global IEEEXtreme event, gaining the top four positions in the UK and the 21st place worldwide. IEEEXtreme is a global challenge held annually over an intensive 24-hour period. Twenty-one students from Southampton took part, tackling questions based on algorithms, cryptography, and assembly. The top result in the UK was achieved by Dragos Ristache and Ioana Tamas, first-year Computer Science students in ECS. Six out of the top ten positions in the UK were held by ECS students and the two top-placed teams from Southampton also came in the world top 30.


"These are an outstanding range of achievements across our research groups and our undergraduate and postgraduate teaching," said Professor Neil White, Head of ECS. "Not only can we celebrate a year of distinguished achievement and personal recognition of our leading academics, but the success of our students in international and national events demonstrates the ambition and diversity of the ECS community. This is only a small snapshot of what has taken place in ECS over the last year and as we look forward to 2014 we are already planning many new activities along with our partners in the research and business communities that will have significant impact on our education, research and enterprise agendas."

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