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STEAM Scholarships

Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment 

Faculty of Computing, Engineering and The Built Environment

The Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment (CEBE), housed in Millennium Point, unites the University’s engineering and technology subjects into a single faculty. CEBE comprises the School of Engineering and the Built Environment, and the School of Computing and Digital Technology, and has an excellent track record of collaborations with industry including the BBC, Cisco, Microsoft, Rolls-Royce and SAP.

The Research Excellence framework (REF2014) found world-leading (4*) research in both subjects submitted: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning (UoA16) and Computing (UoA11), with Computing producing one of the top 20 Impact Case Studies in the country.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are essential for the development of new solutions to major societal challenges including the ageing population, sustainable buildings, energy, transport and health. When STEM expertise is combined with creative practices from the arts and humanities, and understanding of people and societies from the social sciences, truly innovative things can happen.

CEBE is making major investments in growing the quality and volume of research across both Schools, through investments in academic staff and researchers, doctoral students and new labs, and equipment. CEBE is seeking “STEAM Scholars” to undertake PhD projects across its centres:

    • Advanced Systems Engineering
    • Advanced Design Engineering
    • Cloud Computing and Networks
    • Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics
    • Digital Media Technologies
    • Enterprise Systems
    • Integrated Design and Construction
    • Resilient Environments

The tabs below provide detail of some examples of projects that are currently available, and we also welcome other project ideas that are aligned to the stated technical areas.

Potential applicants are invited to contact the supervisors to discuss a submission before the application is submitted. International applicants are advised that the faculty may consider covering the full fee if the candidate is successful in securing scholarship funding.

The closing date for applications is 23.59 on 13 October 2017.

Projects

Computing

Project title: Developing interactive media to promote empathy and understanding between family members living with long term medical conditions   

Contact:Andrew Wilson

Project summary: This project will look at developing and evaluating how interactive technologies can be used to help individuals understand and create empathy with family members who are living with long term medical conditions.

Project title: Development of heuristics and analytics for the development of games for children and young people living with long term medical conditions

Contact:Andrew Wilson

Project summary: The project will look to create heuristic and analytical models which can be used to assist in the development of educational games for young people who are living with long term medical conditions.

Project title: Using game-based technology to support people living with anxiety disorders

Contact:Andrew Wilson

Project summary: This project will develop and evaluate the use of novel and immersive technologies as a way of supporting people living with anxiety disorders.

Project title: Adaptive personalised games

Contact: Andrew Wilson

Project summary: This project will use state-of-the-art biometric tools to explore how games can be made more adaptive and personalised to enhanced player experience, learning and behavioural change.

Project title: Assistive Technologies for Creative and Artistic Work

Contact: Chris Creed

Project summary: Disabled people often experience significant barriers when producing creative and artistic work – for instance, people with severe physical impairments (e.g. related to cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease, etc.) can find it difficult or impossible to use traditional artistic tools such as pencils, brushes, or large canvases. Digital technologies such as eye gaze tracking, mid-air gesturing, speech recognition, and virtual/augmented reality hold huge potential to support and transform the opportunities available for disabled people when doing creative work. This project will therefore involve developing and evaluating new digital methods/tools that will support disabled people in conceptualising and producing digital graphics/artistic work. The project will also provide collaborative opportunities to build and research technical prototypes in partnership with disabled artists and other stakeholders such as disability arts organisations, local and national charities, and special needs colleges.

Project title: Inclusive Learning: Assistive Tools for Disabled Students

Contact: Chris Creed

Project summary: Disabled students can be excluded from some forms of learning experiences due to the nature of their impairments and can often be highly dependent on support from others. People with visual impairments, for example, may experience significant difficulties in courses that place a strong emphasis on activities such as programming and design. The same also applies to people with physical impairments who may have issues in using traditional input tools such as a mouse and keyboard. This project will focus on exploring and developing new approaches that enhance inclusive and independent learning experiences for disabled students. A particular emphasis of the project will be on how innovative sensors can be used to create new forms of interaction that help facilitate these learning experiences. There will also be the opportunity to work with special needs colleges and local/national charities as part of this project.

Project title: Web Accessibility: Enhancing Access for Severely Disabled Users

Contact: Chris Creed

Project summary: The Web has transformed how we access information, communicate, work, learn, and entertain ourselves. However, many disabled people are still excluded from using the Web due to a wide range of accessibility issues thus creating a “digital divide” that can further isolate disabled people from society. This project will investigate how web accessibility can be enhanced through the development and evaluation of new interactive techniques using affordable assistive technologies (e.g. switches, eye gaze tracking, mid-air gesturing, speech synthesis/recognition, etc.). In particular, the project will require working in collaboration with disabled users and other related stakeholders/organisations to research the impact of the new approaches developed and to ensure they address real world needs.

Project title: A Socio-Technical Approach to Information in the Internet of Things

Supervisor: Sharon Cox 

Contact number: 0121 331 7438

Project summary: The Internet of Things (IoT) enables vast amounts of data to be easily captured from different devices across infrastructures and industries in a smart city. Each device provides data about specific aspects of a wider context, whether in the external environment or within a building. Data need to be integrated from different devices in order to provide usable information in a range of exciting applications to improve the lives of citizens. Technology provides access to data but people need to be able to derive meaningful information that can be acted upon.  The challenge is therefore how to bridge the gap between the information needed by people and the data provided by the IoT. This research will adopt a socio-technical perspective to explore the information needs of application stakeholders, focusing on areas such as soft systems methods, information modelling and semantic data modelling.

Project title: Business Process Knowledge Model for process transformation within Small to                  Medium Enterprises (SME) manufacturing sector

Contact: Gerald Feldman

Contact number: 0121 331 7542

Project summary: Standard approaches for supporting process transformation are error-prone, time-consuming, and cumbersome. Additionally, costs, lack of process knowledge and resources, and dedicated Information Systems capabilities play a vital role in SMEs when considering business process improvements. Moreover, transforming business process requires extensive knowledge, which is usually subjective and differs from one organisation to another. Thus, it is important to gain a systemic view, which incorporates knowledge about processes and its components accrued from consultants, vendors, early adopters, existing standards and published literature to support business improvements projects. This study aims to conceptualise a process knowledge model to provide a better understanding of the process resources and facilitate evaluation of capabilities to leverage innovative and cost-effective manufacturing processes.

Project title: An Occupant Perspective on Building Information Modelling

Contact: Mohammad Mayouf

Contact number: 0121 202 2446

Project summary: Building Information Modelling (BIM) is transforming the way in which information is managed through the building life-cycle. Major research efforts are being invested in understanding various issues that prevent its effective implementation at different stages in a construction project. ‘Information’ occupies a crucial role in terms of driving an effective process that leads towards gaining full potential of BIM capabilities. Within an industry that is claimed to be information-intense, with the involvement of multi-disciplinary stakeholders, each stakeholder within the life of a building requires a different perspective on information. This research focuses on the information needed by building occupants, both during the design of the building and post-occupancy. The research will adopt a socio-technical approach to explore the information needs of occupants and how the information needs could be met in BIM. The anticipated outcomes should potentially suggest a way of handling occupants’ requirements and needs within buildings.

Project title: Enabling social engagement and interaction among people with disabilities

Contact: Yevgeniya Kovalchuk

Project summary: People with disabilities have a limited range of means by which they could interact socially. For example, people with impaired (lost) vision and/or hearing can express themselves using only non-verbal communication such as eye gaze, sounds, facial expression, gestures and touch. Often, this type of communication is difficult to interpret and understand by other people. Equally, it is not easy for other people to negotiate their ideas to people with disabilities. This project will explore how technology can facilitate this kind of communication. There will be an opportunity to collaborate with a local charity that specifically works with deaf blind people in order to improve their lives using various artistic tools. The project will involve working with sensors and biological signal processing. Some knowledge or interest in neuroscience, psychology and/or movement science would be advantageous. 

Project title: Integrated Approach for Comprehensive Analysis of Patient Outcomes

Contact: Yevgeniya Kovalchuk

Project summary: Patient trajectory and outcomes depend on many factors including patient genetic predisposition and lifestyle, prescribed course of treatment and patient's adherence to it, quality of nursing care provided, etc. However, there is no unified mechanism in place that would allow objective analysis of patient outcomes across all these factors. Furthermore, there is lack of agreement on how many of these factors should be quantified. As a result, it is very difficult in practice to answer such questions as whether and how certain care procedures or personality qualities of nurses contribute towards patient recovery. This project will investigate which data should be collected and in what way in order to provide objective and comprehensive measurement of quality of healthcare service without introducing extra burden on patients and care providers. Examples of data sources that would need to be integrated and analysed as part of this project include sensor streams, patient records, hospital management records and medical literature.

Project title: Designing lightweight machine learning algorithms for IoT solutions for energy efficient predictive building control

Contact: Shadi Basura

Project summary: The aim of this project is to design lightweight machine learning algorithms that can run on IoT devices without exhausting its resources. It will also focus on performing multi-objective optimisation to identify optimal machine learning algorithms and data acquisition techniques that work the best for various types of IoT devices.  In addition, to identify the optimal communication mode between IoT devices by using various collaboration models when processing the data. For example, IoT may share knowledge to generate adaptive accurate models for buildings to be efficiently monitored and controlled.

Project title: IoT-aided Energy Efficiency Upgrades and Energy Distribution at Community/ City Level

Contact: Shadi Basura

Project summary: This project focus on community models for retrofitting utilising a multi-agent system approach. The aim is to deliver smart energy management scheme that distributes renewable energy fairly and efficiently across the community houses.  We will investigate how residential retrofit can be developed and delivered at a community level, from bottom-up, including the stakeholders that need to be involved, and their incentives / influential factors that may help sustaining the community self-regulatory energy management system.

Project title: Mini-Private Cloud Computing Paradigm for IoT environment

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: Recent development in the IoT devices has produced several opportunities and challenges in terms of their process, storage and connectivity capabilities, therefore, IoT devices can generate data at high speed and large volume. Often the data require real-time processing to support high system responsiveness which can be supported by localised Cloud and/or Fog computing paradigms. This project will investigate the feasibility, prototyping and performance benchmark definition of a Mini-private Cloud or Cloud on the move to incorporate IoT devices within 5G for real-time application. This is to be done by clustering single board computers (SBCs) to provide on-demand services as a new method of managing urgent data-driven event.

Project title: Physical layer data heterogeneity management frame-work within large-scale IoT Environment

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: To attain the ambient socio economic impact for fifth Generation (5G) wireless network, the data generated within a large-scale IoT environment should have an end-use value in the sense of applications or services development perspective. By nature, IoT system is built in a heterogeneous environment, which has various technological components (communication protocols, IoT devices profiles, contents, networks profiles etc.) operate at different layers a cross the IoT stack. Such heterogeneity produces several challenges especially in large scale development where thousands of IoT devices and sensors are scattered and generate huge volumes of data in different formats. This project will investigate this issue by looking to this diversity and provides a generic/adaptive framework which take into account the characteristics of the above profiles and provide the optimal solution for each particular condition at a given time. A set of on-demand data-clustering and application dependent/independent topologies to be derived and validated within this project. Potentially a data set to be developed for 5G test bed performance evaluation.

Project title: Application aware network function virtualisation optimization models for large scale IoT within 5G wireless Networks

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: Managing delay, congestion and throughput within a high volume data environment is considered as one of the key challenges to be resolved to embed IoT within 5G wireless networks for product and service development for Smart city, smart health or other real-time data requirements. NFV (Network Function Virtualisation) is a promising paradigm for such situation due to its features and capabilities. This project intends to investigate optimal solution to provide network functions & services such as load balancing at lower cost for application aware NVF.

Project title: IOT Security and Optimisation in Cloud based Environments

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: Generally in Cloud computing, resources are centralised in a location leveraging the proximity of hardware and software. However, multiple Clouds may be required or desired for certain applications, enterprises or projects. Therefore introducing timing variations (latency) on the arrival of data at the destination, hence making it difficult to archive a given Quality of Service (QoS). This latency is even more prominent in IoT and may be critical for example in a high value production environment or a critical defence application where timing is important. This project will investigate the issues around IoT traffic and Cloud adoption for time critical applications and propose a secured optimised solution to overcome these issues.

The Centre for Cloud Computing is looking for a Research student who has 1st Class Hons Degree or a MSc in Cloud Computing, Networking or Computer Science; with some knowledge of Edge/Fog Computing and Cloud configuration techniques together with good programming skills for example C, C++, Python in a Linux environment.

The Researcher must have excellent communication skills, be able to work in a group to undertake his/her independent research that will contribute to the Centre REF Research activity.

Project title: IoT in 5G, network resource utilization

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: Internet of Things is known to be one of the main pillars of the development in next generation of the communication systems and networks. The next generation of access technologies such as the enhanced versions of Wi-Fi and LTE alongside IoT-driven technologies such as Low power-WANs and Narrow band-IoT are also expected to support massive IoT traffic. The main challenges will be the network densification, the need for further optimization of the network resource utilization and maintaining a high quality performance in a heterogeneous environment. This project will investigate the capability of the state of the art and the forthcoming technologies to serve IoT traffic and the existing bottlenecks particularly where the existing centralized management of the Virtualized Network Functions are falling short to react appropriately to the dynamism of the IoT nodes. We are interested in developing solutions which improve the reaction of the network to the changes in the users’ status through fast reconfiguration of the existing connection or vertical handover at the presence of multiple licensed and unlicensed access technologies and also various network operators. The proposed solution is expected to distinguish the situation where a vertical handover is more beneficial than reconfiguring the involved slice of the resources and vice versa.

Project title: IoT in 5G, service provisioning

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: Internet of Things is known to be one of the main pillars of the development in next generation of the communication systems and networks. The next generation of access technologies such as the enhanced versions of Wi-Fi and LTE alongside IoT-driven technologies such as Low power-WANs and Narrow band-IoT are also expected to support massive IoT traffic. The main challenges will be the network densification, the need for further optimization of the network resource utilization and maintaining a high quality performance in a heterogeneous environment. This project will investigate the capability of the state of the art and the forthcoming technologies to serve IoT traffic and the existing bottlenecks particularly in a mixed indoor/outdoor use case where the horizontal handover is used for maintaining the connection of moving IoT nodes through the same gateway (i.e single access technology). We are interested in developing solutions compatible with the requirement defined for low rate/low power IoT nodes. The proposed solutions will be evaluated for IoT traffic at the presence of voice and video services where a high QoS/QoE is expected to be maintained for all types of traffics simultaneously through a mixed low latency and high rate service provisioning.

Project title: Cloud-controlled local air interface, subjective perspectives and business model

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: In spite of the revolutionary improvement of data rate and delay in new generations of wireless systems and networks, user satisfaction remains difficult to achieve. This is mainly because of the improved capabilities of the portable devices and the pervasive popularity of the web-based services. More recently, novel paradigms such as cloud-controlled wireless networking are emerging as solutions for breaking this stalemate through a centralized and network-aware configuration of the network nodes. This also includes wireless LANs and local communications. This project will investigate the state of the art cloud-controlled wireless solutions in the area of WLANs, the emerging trends and their applicability in various wireless networking use cases. We are interested in developing an approach for quantification of the subjective characteristics of various personal and enterprise use cases (i.e. coverage, required flexibility, network-dependency, reliability, security and Opex) as a metric to evaluate the suitability of a cloud-based solution for each specific use case. The proposed solution should be able to suggest the efficient level of network-dependency of local configuration based on a given business model and its technical demands.

Project title: Service Orchestration for P4 Based Software Defined Networks

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: Software Defined Networking promotes the separation of control and data planes, with a common API to facilitate communication between controller and network hardware device across what is known as the Southbound interface.  The most common approach and standard for this currently is OpenFlow.  While providing an open interface, OpenFlow does still create rigidity in networks, as packet matching and handling on network devices is constrained to match the version of OpenFlow supported.  The P4 language has emerged as a means of deploying code onto network devices, allowing network engineers/developers to specify specific behaviour on the device based on the system within which it is functioning (e.g. matching non IP based header fields).  This PhD will aim to investigate the orchestration of such systems, coordinating the deployment of specific functionality throughout a network, based on identified requirements.

Project title: Controller Distribution throughout Software Defined Networks

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: Within a Software Defined Network, control is abstracted from the network device and logically centralised.  The distribution of this control can, however, have a significant impact on network performance, with access to the control causing additional delay and bottleneck issues for traffic flows.  This PhD will seek to analyse the effect of controller distribution throughout a network, identifying optimal controller distribution architectures for varying network topologies.  This will include investigation of alternative controller devices (e.g. proxies, flow rule cache, etc.) and their role within the wider network topology.

Project title: A grid engine based approach to multi-agent systems

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: Suited to distributed implementation, multi-agent systems offer the possibility of directly representing the individual components of an intelligent system; its autonomous behaviour and interactions with other system components [Murch 1998]. Specialist behaviour encapsulated within an agent gives it the ability to adapt, interact, and evolve within the environment in which it exists. If multiple agents are hosted on independent computers within the same network, inter-agent communication is used to achieve interaction and collaboration.

Traditionally, blackboard architectures have emerged as a suitable host platform for multi-agent implementations [Jufeng 2004]. A blackboard architecture is a form of distributed Artificial Intelligence based on the analogy of a group of experts working together to solve a common problem. In general, these architectures consist of three distinct components including a blackboard, expert or agent modules, and a communications control unit. The blackboard itself represents an area of shared-memory where the experts or agents store and retrieve information.

Unfortunately, distributed blackboard architectures often represent bespoke software that can be removed from service sporadically as an institutes research direction changes. Fortunately, the core functionality provided by vendor maintained grid engine software such as Oracle Grid Engine [OGE 2017] and Son of Grid Engine [SGE 2017] closely match that of distributed blackboard architectures.

The aim of this project will be to determine the practicality of employing an off-the-shelf grid engine as a host for multi-agent systems. It will also investigate system redundancy in the event of hardware failure and the viability of broadcast, agent-to-agent and other communication models. 

Project title: An evaluation of loosely-coupled non-linear deformable co-registration

Contact: Mohammad Patwary

Project summary: Co-registration is an important step in image analysis tasks where information is extracted from a combination of sources. Medicine (monitoring tumour growth, treatment verification, and the comparison of patient data with anatomical atlases) is currently the most prominent field of application [Sotiras 2013]. The major limitation associated with non-linear image co-registration is its high computational cost and long running time >24 hours. As a result, it has limited application where fast execution times are required.

Non-linear deformable registration is based on the assumption that evenly spaced meshes of control points can be placed over fixed and moving images. In order for registration to be performed, each moving control point plus underlying image intensities are transformed and compared with their fixed counterpart until an acceptable level of similarity is achieved.

Such algorithms have been successfully hosted in tightly-coupled parallel architectures by assigning subsets of control points to individual cores. Conveniently, the use of free-form deformations [Loeckx 2004] permits the independent movement of control points. Similarly, spline-based representations [ITK 2017], where each control point has localised influence resulting in the movement of neighbouring control points is also realistic. Crucially, the resulting implementations address the computational burden associated non-linear registration in highly specialised architectures commonly found in supercomputing environments.

The aim of this project will be to determine the practicality of non-linear co-registration in grid engine style environments. It will also involve an investigation into the performance of any resulting grid engine style algorithms with increasing granularity.

Project title: Design of Secure System Architectures with Formal Patterns —DeSeAFoP

Contact: Nuno Amalio

Project summary: This project aims to provide an approach to the modelling of architectural designs for modern-day computing based on a supporting catalogue of patterns that encapsulate verified and validated architectural solutions that tackle or mitigate known security problems. The overall goal of the project is as follows:

Construct and evaluate an approach based on an associated tool-supported apparatus that enables the modelling of architectural designs and the instantiation of patterns that have a formal basis and encapsulate verified security solutions.

The project aims that its outcomes provide an impact on the state of the art in the design of secure system architectures at a time when we are witnessing the ubiquity of the internet in our lives, the reality of cloud computing, the rise of the internet of things and the malicious use of the internet and the growth of cyber-crime. In this intrinsically distributed computing world, the design of secure architectures that are resilient in the face of attack becomes crucial.

Project title: A Semantic-Based Recommender Safety Model for Alzheimer Patients

Abdel-Rahman Tawil

Project summary: Alzheimer is a progressively neurodegenerative disease and is the most common type of dementia in elderly patients. Updates show that there will be 950,000 people living with dementia in the UK by 2018 and that dementia costs the UK upto £28 Billion a year. It is predicted that there will be over one million people affected by the year 2025.

Patients suffering from Alzheimer are more susceptible to accidents (e.g., forgeting to turn off water/ gas hub or placing dangerous objects in a Microwave) and therefore requires continuous monitoring to ensure behaviours safety concerning their everyday activities in home-based environment. This research propose a sensory semantic-based safety model that can predict and identify dangerous patient Daily Living Activities (ADLs) based on personalised knowledge of previous activities and recommend the safest course of actions accordingly. The approach we propose allows for an enhanced safety recommendation by exploiting the semantics of available resources (e.g., IoT devices) and descriptions of model driven daily life activities in a patient surrounding environment. We use an innovative Course-of-Actions (CoAs) ontology to show how Semantic Reasoning (SR) can make the system automatic by improving the interoperability between systems, applications and domain environment. This research work will motivate our approach through building a novel semantic safety prediction\ recommender framework based on Alzheimer patient activities and show its benefits.

The proposed middleware framework will provide a generic knowledge model of semantically enhanced APIs that allows for the seamless composition of services centred around an architectural style of loosely coupled micro-services approach. This allows for developing intelligent APIs that makes use of our CoAs ontology and an agent-based infrastructure to provide alerts for the Alzheimer patients in a smart home environment.

An Ontology-Driven Approach to Adaptive Careflows for the Coordination of Elderly Patients Homecare

Contact: Abdel-Rahman Tawil

Project summary: Elderly chronic patients are beginning to saturate national health services with increased health-related costs in the UK and all across Europe. The process of care for lifelong and disabled patients requires enduring treatments under constant expert supervision in a flexible and dynamically changing environment. Moreover, healthcare providers and ageing people often consider traditional treatments in hospitals to be unnecessary and even counterproductive, with regards to time, economic cost and efforts required to treat medical cases with long-terms ailments or diseases. Therefore, it is increasingly necessary to develop computerised applications to support care providers in proposing suitable diagnosis and treatment procedures at the point-of-care.

 In the healthcare domain, a profusion of care workflows (careflows) are utilised and lots of implicit knowledge is used by domain experts in coordinating patients’ daily activities. Careflow models of patients’ care plans, plays an important role in the coordination and continuity of homecare as they are used to guide and manage all the established procedures required to carry out the activities related and specific to a patient care case at their home. The role of Careflow Management Systems (CfMSs) in this context is to coordinate the activities involved by conveying the necessary information, actions and tasks depending on the predefined patient intervention plan and the role of care providers. However, conventional workflow models are considered rigid in the sense that they are predefined and not configured to handle specific patient cases. Accordingly, health and homecare actors can find themselves in situations which are not already planned, may not have been anticipated or considered.

 Ontologies and semantic modelling technology can facilitate the personalized construction of care workflows (careflows) and guide their management in contingency cases, thus allowing them to deviate from their standard prescribed static definition. This PhD proposal investigates the use of careflows to automate the delivery, coordination, and monitoring of homecare processes and a formalisation that automatically adapts the process of homecare for elderly people based on their care plans  Our aim is to narrow the gap between health and social care and improve communication between formal (paid professionals, i.e. nurses) and informal (i.e. family members, close relatives, friends or neighbours) care providers’ networks. To this end, an semantically-enabled algorithmic approach based on ontologies and care planning is proposed for the dynamic construction of careflows supporting the automatic and flexible coordination and thus ensuring the continuity of homecare processes. We propose the use of Business Process Modelling Notations (BPMN) ontology associated with both Actor and Case Profile semantic knowledge models to dynamically build workflows capable of guiding the continuity of care at patients’ homes.

How to apply

To apply, please complete the project proposal form and then complete your online application where you will be required to upload your proposal.

Engineering and the Built Environment

Project title: Advanced Control Design for Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicle Powertrains

Contact: Dr Junfeng Yang

Project summary: Develop complete vehicle models and “thinking tools” that facilitate the advanced powertrain design for Electric Vehicle (EV) and Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) in order to develop low carbon and light weight vehicles for enhanced efficiency.

Motivation: The growing transport needs, finite fossil energy resources and expected climate change driven by GHG emissions are widely recognized as the major challenges facing modern society. Thus, there are urgent needs to develop more efficient vehicle propulsion systems. Electric vehicle and hybrid electric vehicle are the most promising technique for building Passenger Car Low Carbon Technology Roadmap by 2050 proposed by UK Automotive Council. Unlike the conventional vehicle powertrain system, the EV and HEV powertrain adopt more electric components, and thus require a more sophisticate control strategy for the complex system. The design and control of powertrains of EV and HEV need to be optimized in terms of energy management, exhaust emissions, cost effectiveness, performance and robustness. The successful candidate will be expected to develop a complete vehicle models and ”thinking tools” that can benefit automotive sector for powertrain control and optimisation of EV and HEV.

Project title: The Impact of Digital Technologies on the Real Estate Landscape

Supervisor: David Higgins

Contact number: 0121 331 7453

Project summary: Knowledge and communications is a critical factor in competitive real estate markets, where high unit costs and transactions fees can place considerable emphasis on informed decision making. As waves of digital disruptors challenges the traditional environment, new real estate research is required to understand the technological developments on several parallel and overlapping fronts. Investigation points can cover big data, algorithms, networks (including the platforms) and digital hardware. With this intense evolutionary innovation, the long-term development that will unfold requires research to understand the implications on the real estate industry with recommended strategies. This will be the aim of the PhD research.

Project title: Community Energy in Urban Areas – Bottom Up Experimentation?

Contact: Dr Beck Collins

Project summary: Denmark and Germany have significant amounts of renewable energy owned by the community.  Similar attempts to install renewable energy technologies that are owned by the community are seen in the UK, and the Coalition government showed support for this with its Community Energy Strategy (2014, 2015).  This represents an exciting opportunity for sociotechnical innovation, as technologies are installed in new governance structures with new opportunities for community capacity building and empowerment.  But how far reaching is this empowerment?  How can it translate beyond the members of the community energy initiative?  How effective is this way of installing and managing renewable energy technologies?   How can community energy really help towards a system-wide transition of energy?

Project title: Development of a Multi-Robotics Linishing System for Hazardous Materials

Contact: Dr Fawaz Y Annaz

Project summary: The polishing of cast parts or frames that are made out of Magnesium (say), will generate combustible dust deposit, which could cause explosions and fires with catastrophic consequences. Therefore, to completely clean all access material and all small specs, traditional methods would result into fires due accumulation or dust explosion. It is the aim of this project to address this industrial problem, which will benefit the university’s current partners, Meridian Lightweight Technologies. A system of several industrial robot arms is proposed as part of an architecture that will ensure efficient and high-quality linishing, with safety handling and fire prevention.

Project title: Envisioning, designing and shaping the future cities: citizens and innovative practices in planning European Cities

Contact: Dr Silvia Gullino

Project summary: Smart cities have increasingly, and globally, become an important new paradigm in urban development. ‘Smart’ is in the urban political agenda of city mayors, policy-makers and spatial planners for future cities. However, less attention has been given to how other urban actors, like citizens, can be empowered through the use of digital technologies, for example, in envisioning, designing and shaping the future of their city through local, bottom up and innovative initiatives.

The making of future cities involves challenging existing models of urban development and promoting alternative processes, practices and digital technologies designed to make urban areas more inclusive and liveable, and more environmentally resilient. As such, a number of questions should be answered, for example: who takes part in defining/designing the cities of the future? Which roles do citizens play? How can their imagination, enthusiasm and energy be mobilized for new modes of collaborative citymaking?

Project title: Measuring BIM and CDE associated cyber-physical attack vulnerabilities for critical infrastructure assets

Contact: Erika Parn

Project summary: As well as fuelling prosperity, cyber-physical connectivity has also created opportunities for cybercrime and terrorists. 21st century project managers, designers and coordinators of contemporary infrastructure are now faced with the possibilities of malicious cyber-attacks on critical infrastructures via existing embedded networked systems used to operate and maintain such infrastructures. Securing critical infrastructure assets against cyber-attacks has persistently persevered and a number of prolific cases with physical damage to critical infrastructure have been reported upon [c.f STUXNET worm destroying Iranian  industrial/military assets at  nuclear facility, ICS-CERT reported hacking of building energy management system of a New Jersey manufacturing company in late 2012; hacking of Ukraine’s power grid; ransomware attack on the NHS; attack on civil infrastructure against Ukrainian power grid operator]. Against this contextual backdrop, global focus on connectivity has bestowed ‘internet of things’ upon the digital built environment, to the threat of cybercrime, which has rapidly become a pervasive and omnipresent threat for sovereign states globally. Cyber-attacks remain an imminent threat with digitalization of operational, maintainable and networked assets, whether facilitated by a state or non-state actors. This research seeks to provide prima facie evidence of how the digitalisation of infrastructure assets via BIM and the Common Data Environment (CDE) increases cyber-attack vulnerability to illustrate the industry- government misalignment, particularly in dealing with non-state actor facilitated malicious attacks. This high impact, applied work will i) generate awareness of digital infrastructure cyber deterrence and augment decision making with/for the client (during conception), the project management team (during construction) and the facilities management team (during operations) of critical infrastructures (and buildings) assets; ii) sculpt global policymaking, consideration and implementation of  BIM; and iii) exert influence upon government policy makers to mandate greater integration of cyber deterrence  measures with BIM projects for critical infrastructure, individual buildings across an entire smart city grid. 

Project title: Measuring the impact of employer-based education and research facilities

Contact: Gareth Neighbour

Project summary: The future of transportation and in particular road networks and infrastructure face challenges in terms of talent stream and upskilling.  In response to this sector and others especially STEM-related, the Government has followed a policy of providing employers with the opportunity to create apprenticeship standards and provide a co-funding model through Levy and non-Levy organisations.   The increase of employer-led education will trend towards more on-site education and training to employees.  Where facilities exist on-site the question(s) arise whether this approach leads to a reduction of turnover, increase in staff morale and an increase in productivity.  This project will evaluate employer-based educational facilities, delivery models and pedagogical approaches and the influence upon HR practices and measures of performance, e.g. annual review, by the new approaches being suggested by employers.

Project title: Modelling stresses on the local electricity grid

Contact: Dr Timothy Lee

Project summary: As we move to smart houses and cities with photovoltaic systems, heat pumps and electric cars the loads associated with the residential building stock will change significantly.  They will become much more volatile with higher peak loads and periods of negative demand when local generation is feeding electricity back into the system.

Detailed modelling is required to simulate the likely uptake of different load and micro-generation technologies at the sub-station level under different scenarios.  This will then be required to predict half hourly electricity demand or supply at the individual substation level.  This research will be important to developers, planners and electricity suppliers as they seek to develop resilient communities going into the future.

Project title: Robots Workforce in Construction

Contact: Dr Fawaz Y Annaz and Dr Franco Cheung

Project summary: The construction industry has been criticised as low productivity gain as compared with other industries across the globe. The challenge is compounded by increasing skill and labour shortage in the UK in the wake of Brexit. Many activities on site are known to be skill based, labour intensive and accident prone. New development in collaborative robotic technology enable skilled workers to work together with the robots without the need to learn programme languages. The technology is very scalable which offers great potential for an industry dominated by SMEs. The study attempts to identify a number of typical onsite activities including painting, plastering and wiring and make apply artificial intelligence to simulate and learn those activities while working collaboratively with workers to facilitate automation.

Project title: UAVs for Extreme and Challenging Environments

Contact: Mohamed Kara-Mohamed

Project summary: This research project focuses on the development of UAV systems for extreme and challenging environments such as off-shore energy, nuclear energy and hostile weather conditions. The project will investigate the risk and operational scenario for extreme and challenging environments and then focus on development of fully-integrated UAV system to operate under the specified conditions. 

Project title: Virtual Reality-based Vehicle Safety Simulator for the Autonomous Driving System

Contact: Dr Junfeng Yang

Project summary: Aim: Develop Virtual Reality-based vehicle safety simulation tool to train the autonomous driving systems, and evaluate and enhance its performance, e.g. safety, reliability and robustness.

Motivation: The autonomous driving system (ADS) allows human being concentrating more meaningful work instead of tedious driving. It’s therefore expected to lead the next revolution in automotive industry and bring huge benefit for social economy.

The self-driving system consists of navigators (e.g. sensors), analyser (e.g. central computer) and actuator (automatic brake and wheel). In order to develop a safe, reliable and robust ADS, the road test is necessary. However, the road test generally requires to run the car on the public roads under various conditions for a very long time, for instance, Google self-driving car has been tested on a total of 2,400,000 km. VR engineering takes the advantages of 3D modelling and visualization technique, and hence brings great impacts to the auto industry, e.g. speeding up the design process. This project addresses to develop Virtual Reality environment database that contains various moving/static objects, e.g. pedestrian, vehicle, tree and building. Each object in the database can emit the electrical or optical signals that can be detected and identified by the sensors. This VR database can be used to mimic the various road conditions in real life. The ADS can be trained and tested in the lab using this VR-based simulation tool instead of the conventional road test, and hence shorten the length of development cycle. In addition, this simulation tool can mimic the extreme conditions to improve the reliability and robustness of ADS.

How to apply

To apply, please complete the project proposal form and then complete your online application where you will be required to upload your proposal.