Interdisciplinary blog


Health Technologies USRG EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014

July 1, 2014
by Thomas Hardman

Tommy Hardman – ‘Fast and objective detection of auditory evoked potentials using statistical tests’

I’ve recently finished my second year on the MEng Acoustical Engineering programme. I have an interest in the biomedical side of engineering and more specifically in its applications in signal processing. I’ve been lucky enough to be working on a research project with David Simpson this summer involving the assessment of hearing without the use of voluntary responses by the patient.

Auditory Evoked Potentials are a means of objective hearing assessment. This is based on the analysis of EEG (electroencephalogram) signals obtained during repeated stimulation. A major application of this technique is in the assessment of hearing in new-born babies. The conventional method in the assessment of hearing involves visual and subjective interpretation of auditory evoked potentials. This requires trained specialists and suffers from large inter-rate variability. Two alternative objective methods will be considered. The first being a bootstrap statistical method that focuses on the clinically most relevant feature of the signal and the second by using sequential testing, such that the analysis can be stopped if a significant response is detected (without sacrificing false positive rates). These methods aim to increase sensitivity whilst increasing the speed of analysis and hence removing the reliance on subjective testing.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Signal

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Signal

My individual project next year is also of a biomedical theme, titled: Modelling Blood Flow, Metabolite and Drug Transport within Tumour Capillaries. I look forward to exploring a whole new side of biomedical research, enforcing the importance of signal processing and mathematical modeling in this exciting field.

Energy USRG EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014

July 1, 2014
by Natalie Sims

Natalie Sims – ‘Working towards developing sustainable biofuels’

I am currently studying at the University of Southampton, approaching the end of my second year in a masters degree in Chemistry. Although my degree covers many aspects of Chemistry, an area that has recently initiated an interest during studies is the development of sustainable routes in chemistry and the design and synthesis of catalysts in aid of this. To further my knowledge into this particular field I decided to apply for a research placement over summer. This internship will be undertaken under the supervision of Dr Robert Raja and his research group.

There is an unrelenting demand for the development of sustainable chemical processes that utilise renewable feedstocks. Catalysts have always been highly valued in the chemical industry and, with our dwindling energy supplies, there has been a major impetus for developing renewable energy technologies and biomass feedstocks (such as cellulose), have considerable potential for the generation of sustainable polymers. This cellulose, which is the most abundant naturally occurring polymer on Earth, can be transformed into the biomass-derived FDCA and it is this chemical that can serve as a sustainable substitute for terephthalic acid in the synthesis of poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET). The main objective of this project is to develop a bi-functional hierarchical aluminophosphate (AlPO) catalyst for the sustainable production of FDCA; a large portion of this will be developing my own design tools for creating active sites within the catalyst and then meticulously tailoring them to enable specific transformations involving these biomass feedstocks.

natalie sims

During my time in the summer, I hope to build upon my knowledge and research skills through working on this multidisciplinary theme which is strongly linked to sustainable energy applications. This project provides me with the resources to fully characterise any materials I will have synthesised using a range of techniques, such as 3D tomography and electron microscopy, which I have not previously had the opportunity to use. To surmise, this internship will be an invaluable opportunity for me to gain insight into a research career that adopts Chemistry for renewable energy applications.

Zepler Institute EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014

July 1, 2014
by Joshua Lamb

Joshua Lamb – ‘Suspended Si Nanowire Transistors for Quantum Simulations’

My name is Joshua Lamb and I am currently studying MEng electronic engineering here at the University of Southampton. I have just finished my 3rd year and am moving into my final year, my 3rd year individual project was on the characterisation and modelling of suspended silicon nanowire transistors, I was greatly intrigued by this research field and eager to continue. Nanotechnology has many applications from extending current CMOS technologies to creating new ways to sense and detect nanoscale particles. These devices have a variety of applications such as mass and bio-molecular sensing. As well as this they also have potential applications in quantum computing.

In my research project I will be studying the effects of low temperatures on these suspended silicon nanowire transistors for quantum computing applications. Research indicates that at very low temperatures these nanoscale devices do not behave as expected in their classical sense due to quantum phenomena. It is highly important to understand these quantum phenomena in order to begin creating quantum computing based devices. So far no research has investigated the low temperature effects on these suspended nanowire transistors. Using the equipment available in the ECS cleanrooms I will be able to measure these devices at very low temperatures down to approximately 1.7K. The results obtained from these experiments can then be compared against theoretical background knowledge in order to further enhance our understanding of the devices.

Images showing an example of one of the devices being studied during this project at different magnifications.The first image shows the configuration used for testing with the device in the very centre. The second shows the suspended silicon nanowire and the third shows the core of the nanowire with dimensions, the dark core is the silicon nanowire and the sourrounding lighter area is an oxide layer formed around it.

In parallel with this work I hope to improve on the simulation model I created during my 3rd year project. As the wire is suspended it is free to bend in the middle, the fields created by the gates of the devices could influence the bending of the nanowire. By taking into account these mechanical effects of using a suspended wire the model can be greatly improved.

The research in the project is part of a much larger scheme to create quantum computing technologies. After finishing my masters I am planning on staying on to do PhD, the research done in this project will provide me with great experience in this field so that I can hopefully go on to develop these technologies further.

IfLS EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014

July 1, 2014
by Rachel Greenhill

Rachel Greenhill – ‘Optimising the analysis of biomarkers to indicate metabolic changes in loaded soft tissues’

I’m a Chemistry student moving into the 3rd year of my Masters. I’ll be working with both Prof. Dan Bader and Dr. John Langley to optimise the analysis of metabolites in sweat obtained from both loaded and unloaded tissues using various separation sciences and mass spectrometry. I specifically wanted to work on an analytical research project, as I have a keen interest in this area, so I’m looking forward to gaining invaluable experience in analytical science.


Pressure ulcers (PU) result from sustained mechanical pressure on soft tissues, leading to ischemia, and the potential breakdown of the tissue. PUs often occur in many clinical conditions, e.g in bedridden or chair confined patients, and in addition to being a disabling chronic condition, greatly affecting a patients quality of life, the UK spends £4 billion per year in associated treatment. 

 Prevention of pressure ulcers requires early detection of changes in the soft tissue to be effective. This project looks to develop a non-invasive approach to examining loaded skin tissues, via the analysis of biomarkers in sweat, such as lactate, urate and purines, which have previously been shown to be elevated in loading and reperfusion periods. We intend to optimise the conditions in ultra high performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS) to determine the limits of detection for the metabolites with the aim of creating a standard operating procedure for purine detection.

Rachel Greenhill blog image

This work will support the EPSRC/NIHR HTC Partnership Award: “Medical devices and vulnerable skin: Optimising safety in design”, and will hopefully go on to provide a starting reference for a preventative biosensor for soft tissues damage. On a personal level, next year I’ll be undertaking a practical project for the duration of the year, and in my final year I’ll be conducting research as a guest in another university abroad during a 6 month placement, so the knowledge and skills obtained over this summer will be highly beneficial and I believe will help me make the most of these future opportunities.

Ageing USRG EPSRC Summer Busaries 2014

July 1, 2014
by Michalis Rodosthenous

Michalis Rodosthenous – ‘Development of an open-source finite element model of the knee joint’

I have just completed my 3rd year in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southampton and after this summer I will be continuing with my 4th and final year of my Master in Engineering (MEng) degree. My chosen theme is Mechatronics but through my 3rd year Individual Project (‘Using graphics rendering techniques for engineering data visualisation’) and modules such as Finite Element Analysis and Orthopaedics Biomechanics I have developed an interest in modeling, data analysis and data visualisation.  

This internship project entitled ‘Development of an open-source finite element model of the knee joint’ is supervised by Dr Georges Limbert and involves the development of an advanced finite element model of the knee joint as part of the international SimTK ( The geometry of the natural knee joint has been acquired from MRI data as part of the OpenKnee project.

This internship project aims to implement state-of-the-art models for soft tissues structures (ligaments, cartilage and menisci) in the commercial finite element code ABAQUS ( and run a series of finite element analyses to simulate particular knee activities such as flexion. Moreover, advanced rendering techniques will be used to produce attractive visualisations of the models developed.  

The finite element models which will be developed through this research project will be made available to the bioengineering research community where they can be used to study the interplay between mechanical properties of soft tissues, knee kinematics and loading conditions for a variety of different scenarios.

Nanoscience USRG – EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014

June 25, 2014
by Alexander Jantzen

Alexander Jantzen – ‘Enhanced sensitivity Golay cell’

alex jantzen

In recent years there has been great advancements in production of Terahertz (THz) emitters, which in turn have lead to a need in developing new reliable, sensitive detection mechanism. Terahertz refers to the part of the electromagnetic spectrum with a frequency of 109 Hz. Specifically THz radiation is consider to be in the region from 0.3 THz to 30 THz, bridging the gap between infrared and microwaves. The most common way of measuring THz radiation is using a time domain spectrometer (TDS) as it has a very high signal-to-noise ratio, however it has to be used as an emitter/receiver package preventing detection of asynchronous THz emission.

Now that the THz region is more easily accessible, part in thanks to the development of the quantum cascade laser (QCL), it is finding its way into an increasingly wide variety of applications. A few examples of this are, non-invasive detection of cancerous cells, material analysis, homeland security, information and communications technology, and more.

The current alternative to a TDS is using a bolometer, however it suffers from difficult operation and is impractical due to it requiring liquid Helium temperatures. Golay cells were forgotten for many years, but recently started to compete with bolometers as they are far more practical, cheaper and are slowly becoming as sensitive in the infrared/THz region.

pic 2 nano blogSONY DSC

Picture 1 & 2, THz Time Domain Spectrometer with receiver-transmitter package (left) and a Quantum Cascade Laser with a Golay cell detector (right).

I have just finished my 3rd year of my Masters of Physics with experimental research (MPhys) and I will be spending my summer working on the project of enhancing the sensitivity of a Golay cell through applying physical principles and engineering solutions. A Golay cell is an apparatus based on the simple concept of thermal expansion of a gas caused by THz radiation, whereby a membrane will push outwards. This expansion can be measured by deflecting an optical beam off the membrane, allowing the intensity of THz radiation to be determined. My aim is to finalise a design for a Golay cell allowing us to create them on site. Then, further to this, apply an interferometer to our cells thereby allowing for increased sensitivity of the measurements. Through refining the design and quantising the error sources, the overarching goal for the future will be to make a “Golay Camera”.  


Picture 3, Interference pattern from interferometer.

I will continue to work on this project beyond the summer as I intend to use it as my final year, masters research project. During this I expect that an array or a matrix of cells can be used to generate a camera for THz, which currently no company manufacture. This suggests to me that, with a good design, an industrial collaboration could be a very plausible outcome for the final product.




Nanoscience USRG – EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014

June 25, 2014
by Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson – ‘Cavity Cooling of the motion of Nanoparticles’

My name is Chris Dawson, and I am an undergraduate and have recently finished the third year of my four year ‘Physics with Photonics’ MPhys course at the University of Southampton. My internship is with the ‘Nano’ USRG in the School of Physics and Astronomy. I will be working with Dr Hendrik Ulbricht, a researcher in the department, as well as a Phd student and a post-doc. We will be investigating the Cavity Cooling of the motion of Nanoparticles.

nano blog 1

Cooling the motion of atoms was the starting point of a very active research field for quantum optics experiments. The extension of the ability to cool much more massive particles to the current tool set would enable a number of interesting experiments and applications. Interestingly, the same cooling principle – sideband resolved resonant cooling – as used for trapping ions and neutral atoms, can be applied to very massive opto-mechanical systems. This is the method that we will be using in the summer.

In this project we will trap a single dielectric polyethylene nanoparticle in the optical field inside a laser cavity and use the detuning of the optical resonance to the mechanical resonance to achieve sideband resolved cooling. The first step will be to lock a cavity to a stabilized laser (1kHz linewidth) at 1550 nm. This should be achieved during the period of the summer project. This will be the first part of a much more long term project in which we will be attempting to cool these nanoparticles in incredibly low temperatures, entering a regime in which the movement of the particles begins to obey a very bizarre set of quantum behaviours. This research could be a step towards systems that will be used in ultra-high precision sensing devices.

nano blog 2

The internship project will lead on to my Masters final project next year in which myself and another undergraduate will continue this research.

Complexity USRG – EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014

June 24, 2014
by Peter Prince

Peter Prince: ‘An agent-based model to explore time allocation towards foraging in response to rainfall and temperature conditions in large African herbivores’


I am a computer science student moving from my third year to my final Masters year in September. I have an existing interest in ecological modelling, previous creating an agent-based model of brown bears, attempting to minimise fatal interactions between humans and bears in American national parks. My interest in this field comes from wanting to take computer science knowledge I’ve gained and use it to help solve problems in other fields, such as ecological problems.

The plan for the research project is based on GPS tracking data on a number of large herbivores in Africa. Over a number of years a large dataset has been amassed, documenting the movement of various species such as antelope, wildebeest and buffalo across areas of Africa. By exploring the work done in previous papers on similar data, the idea of exploring the behaviour of certain herbivores in response to drought and extreme temperatures was decided upon.

For some species, effects such as high rainfall have been shown to cause population declines due to increased predation when foraging at night. However, certain species experience declines after periods of high rainfall, with long grass growing and providing more cover for predators during the day. It is effects such as these which our project aims to explore, optimising time allocation throughout the day and night.

The datasets do not record individual activities the tracked animals are performing, however research exists looking into translating movement rates into likely activity states. Taking movement rates, locations and previous behaviours, estimates can be made about the actions of each animal at a specific time step. Using these techniques our project team plans to build a model based on the activity states in response to recorded conditions.

The model itself is planned to be an agent-based model, taking into account the previous behaviours of each individual agent as well as its herd to govern future behaviour. Such models are extremely difficult to mathematically simulate, and make a lot of assumptions to minimise the complexity of the model. Agent-based models allow for more complex individual behaviour, which is a perfect fit for the problem being investigated.

In my fourth and final year of my degree I will be taking part in a year-long group design project, based on modelling and artificial intelligence. I feel that my work done as a part of this research project will help to equip me for the challenges of this style of research using artificial intelligence techniques.

Ageing USRG – EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014

June 19, 2014
by Charles Saunders

Charlie Saunders: ‘Analysis of blood flow control in the brain’

I’ve just completed my second year in the Acoustical Engineering MEng program. I have a particular interest in Signal Processing, specifically biomedical, so I’m thrilled to be working with David Simpson on the analysis of blood flow project, as part of the SPCG (Signal Processing & Control Group) in the ISVR (Institute of Sound and Vibration Research).

The main project is on the analysis of blood flow in the brain. The aim is to better understand the effect of the constriction and dilation of blood vessels within the brain as a response to blood pressure changes (known as the auto regulatory system), particularly in healthy individuals. It’s a great project to work on as I get to apply my knowledge of signal processing to data which is collected in collaboration with the Southampton General Hospital, as well as learn about the workings of various machines such as ECG’s. Another side project I am working on involves the creation of a program used by medical staff to calibrate a physiotherapy machine designed to measure the strength and mobility of a person’s wrist.

Image: Arm Calibration Program)

Arm Calibration Program

 My next project will by my third year individual project entitled “A computational tool for the assessment of local 3D strain fields in bone tissue” which is also relevant to biomedical signal processing.  I then hope to undertake another research internship in the summer between my 3rd and 4th year, and I will also have a group research project in my 4th year.  After I complete my degree, I am hoping to start a Phd. My research placement will provide me with fantastic experience and knowledge which I will be able to apply to all of these, and more in the future.

Energy USRG – EPSRC Summer Bursaries 2014

May 8, 2014
by Natalie Sims

Natalie Sims – Working towards developing sustainable biofuels


Chemistry Undergraduate, Natalie Sims, has good cause to celebrate. She has just won a Summer Vacation Bursary. These bursaries, part of the EPSRC vacation bursary programme, provide funding for exceptional students to gain first-hand experience of interdisciplinary research. They are awarded annually and allow outstanding students to gain valuable work experience.

Dwindling energy supplies have given a major impetus towards developing renewable energy technologies; and biomass feedstocks such as cellulose, have considerable potential for the generation of second generation biofuels and renewable plastics using heterogeneous catalysts. The cellulose, which typically might come from poplar, for example, can be transformed into biomass-derived FDCA, a chemical which can serve as a sustainable substitute for terephthalic acid in the synthesis of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. This biomass-derived FDCA can be generated by catalytic methods and has potential applications in the production of renewable plastics and biofuel intermediates. Natalie will gain a real insight into an interdisciplinary research career that adopts the principles of Chemistry for renewable energy applications. Building upon knowledge gained from her Chemistry degree, she will develop her own design tools for creating discrete active sites for enabling specific transformations involving biomass feedstocks, using a hierarchical porous structure. She will also have the opportunity to fully characterise her materials using a range of techniques including powder X-ray diffraction, BET, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, electron microscopy and 3D tomography.

 See blogs written by previous awardees here