The University of Southampton

Southampton appoints new head of natural systems group

Published: 18 November 2005

The new head of a University of Southampton group which derives its inspiration from nature plans to make it the leading group of its kind in Europe.

Professor Dave Cliff, who joined the University's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) this month, is to lead the new Science and Engineering of Natural Systems group (SENSe) which will develop ECS research into the science and engineering of computational methods. His aim is to further an understanding of biological and other natural systems, and to undertake research into the development and application of novel computational tools and techniques that are inspired by natural systems.

Professor Cliff spent his early career in academia, initially at the University of Sussex and then MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab, and in 1998 moved to industry where he worked most recently as a director in Deutsche Bank's FX Complex Risk Group.

Professor Cliff's early research was in computational neuroscience/neuroethology, studying visual control of gaze and flight in airborne insects and using artificial evolution to automate the design of autonomous robots. In 1996, while working as a consultant for Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, he invented the seminal 'ZIP' trading algorithm, one of the first of the current generation of autonomous adaptive algorithmic trading systems which began his involvement in working on automating trading processes for the world financial markets.

He is now returning to academia because he believes that this is where the real challenges lie.

He commented: 'Having spent seven years as an academic and then seven as an industrial researcher, I now think that many of the most exciting opportunities lie in academia.'

Through SENSe, Professor Cliff aims to develop ECS's capability so that it becomes the leading group in Europe, if not the world, in naturally-inspired computing techniques. He plans to do this through developing its learning and teaching capabilities and its research collaborations with industry.

He commented: 'ECS at Southampton is the best place in Europe for this kind of work. We are already leaders in our field in terms of our unique combination of skills. It is difficult to think of any other comparable groups anywhere in terms of skills and expertise.'

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