From education to employment

Academy announces 2019 Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships

The Royal Academy of Engineering has announced three new Research Chairs and two new Senior Research Fellowships, awarded to excellent engineering researchers working on some of the biggest challenges faced by the engineering industry.

Focusing on industry-relevant research across the full range of engineering disciplines, the Academy’s Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships enhance the links between academia and businesses with each of the prestigious five-year positions co-sponsored by an industrial partner. Each awardee will establish a world-leading research group in their field of engineering.

Professor Roger Lewis, Professor Ping Xiao, Dr Priti Parikh, Professor Mikel Lujan and Dr Sotirios Tsaftaris

The newly appointed awardees will be addressing challenges ranging from the use of AI to predict and diagnose cardiovascular disease and improving energy consumption models for developing countries to advancing understanding of low adhesion on railway tracks.

The Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships appointments are as follows:

Professor Roger Lewis, University of Sheffield

RSSB/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Wheel/Rail Interface Low Adhesion Management

Low adhesion between a train’s wheels and the rail is a problem for railway networks across the world. Low adhesion can lead to issues with braking, including missed stop signals and station overruns, and in the worst cases can result in train collisions. The resulting delays reduce passenger satisfaction and the overall cost of low adhesion to the UK rail network is estimated at £345million a year. The partnership between the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and Professor Lewis aims to provide a fundamental understanding of how railheads become contaminated and the effect this has on friction. Professor Lewis will also test the effectiveness of cleaning and other mitigation methods are in removing and preventing low adhesion. Models will be developed, incorporating the changes in friction experienced as a train moves down the track and used to improve brake design and mitigation technology and assess train performance in low adhesion conditions.

Professor Mikel Lujan, University of Manchester

ARM/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Computer Systems

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to networks of electronic devices capable of communicating, allowing them to interact and exchange data. IoT devices go beyond traditional desktops and laptops, covering computing devices that operate with strict energy constraints such as using batteries for power. Professor Lujan will consider how future IoT devices will be designed and investigate novel approaches to reducing the energy consumption of each individual computing device while still enabling them to become smarter.

Dr Priti Parikh, University College London, Engineering for International Development Centre

BBOXX/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellow in Smart Solar Solutions for All (S34ALL)

Dr Parikh will develop predictive models for energy consumption for smart solar home system users in Rwanda and Kenya. Using real-time energy consumption data collected through BBOXX’s IoT platform, combined with qualitative tools such as consumer interviews, Dr Parikh and her team will use artificial neural network models to predict energy consumption trends for low-middle income countries where consumption patterns are erratic and limited historical data is available at scale. The models will provide valuation evidence to inform decision making on market expansion in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Sotirios Tsaftaris, University of Edinburgh

Canon Medical/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellow in Healthcare AI

Dr Sotirios Tsaftaris’s research focuses on artificial intelligence (AI) and its application to healthcare. In a world where healthcare systems are under-resourced and under-staffed, AI could help to reduce healthcare costs and improve quality of care by assisting or automating current workflows. Current healthcare AI systems rely on careful organisation of data, such as images and other parts of health records, together with annotation by medical experts to teach the algorithms how to identify anomalies. This project will develop new theory and computational methods to extract information and knowledge from healthcare records and imaging exams without the need for expert curation and supervision. In collaboration with Canon Medical’s global Centre of Excellence for Healthcare AI, based at Canon Medical Research Europe in Edinburgh, the aim is to translate these solutions into clinician-ready tools for detecting and predicting cardiovascular disease, a clinical target for which there are considerable benefits to society.

Professor Ping Xiao, University of Manchester

Rolls-Royce/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Advanced Coating Technology

Advanced coatings are key to ensuring the components of aero gas turbine engines function reliably in the high-temperature, high-demand environments encountered during operation. Rolls-Royce is developing next-generation materials for use in gas turbines, where temperatures can reach 2000°C. The materials used must meet increasingly stringent environmental, performance and fuel efficiency targets, while ensuring that Rolls-Royce maintains its international competitive advantage. Professor Ping Xiao, who has collaborated with Rolls-Royce on coating research and development for 20 years, will focus on developing his understanding of next-generation coating systems, including studies on their manufacture, assessing their properties and performance, and using state-of-the-art techniques to detail the material’s microstructure.

  1. Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships. The Academy’s Research Chairs and Senior Fellowships scheme has successfully supported numerous academic appointments and enhanced internationally renowned centres of excellence. This scheme aims to strengthen the links between industry and academia by supporting exceptional academics in UK universities to undertake use-inspired research that meets the needs of the industrial partners.

    Applications are currently open for the next round of Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellows and will close on 3 September 2019. For more information visit:

  2. Royal Academy of Engineering

As the UK’s national academy for engineering and technology, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers from academia and business – our Fellows – to advance and promote excellence in engineering for the benefit of society.

We harness their experience and expertise to provide independent advice to government, to deliver programmes that help exceptional engineering researchers and innovators realise their potential, to engage the public with engineering and to provide leadership for the profession.

We have three strategic priorities:

  • Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation and businesses
  • Address the engineering skills and diversity challenge
  • Position engineering at the heart of society

We bring together engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics, educators and the public in pursuit of these goals.

Engineering is a global profession, so we work with partners across the world to advance engineering’s contribution to society on an international, as well as a national scale.

For more information please contact: Siobhan Pipa at the Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0745; email: [email protected]

Related Articles