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The University of Southampton

Southampton scientists and engineers present ground-breaking research in Parliament

Published: 20 March 2019
Lorenzo Zanisi
Lorenzo Zanisi (r) with fellow physics winners Amalia Thomas (l) and Katie Ley. (STEM for Britain)

Researchers from the University of Southampton presented advances across a range of topics in engineering and physical sciences in the STEM for Britain showcase at the House of Commons.

Multidisciplinary research including particle pollution detection using artificial intelligence, electroplating for digital memories and light dynamic DNA-nanoparticle devices were taken to Parliament for the high profile exhibition during British Science Week.

Early career researchers from Southampton’s schools of Chemistry, Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), Engineering and Physics and Astronomy, along with the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics, were all represented in the capital.

Astronomer Lorenzo Zanisi was presented a Silver Medal for his novel use of data science that exploited similarities between astrophysics and medicine to highlight potential shortcomings in the current methodology for treating high blood pressure.

“This is the most valuable recognition so far of the passion I put into my research,” Lorenzo says. “Being selected to participate in such prestigious event was already an honour, winning a prize was something absolutely special. These findings show that there are potentially many unexplored opportunities for breakthroughs that may only be possible when scientists from very different fields work together.”

Angela de Fazio, also from the School of Physics and Astronomy, presented in the Chemistry category at the STEM for Britain event.

“We have developed a method for the fabrication of 3D structures based on DNA and nanoparticles,” she explains. “These materials can be controlled through the presence of a chemical lock that can be activated and de-activated at will using an appropriate key, which is a specific frequency of light. In the future, these structures could be used in the novel field of 4D printing, where functional materials can change their shape in a post-production step, leading to the creation of new reconfigurable materials.”

Nanotechnology expert Dr Yasir Noori has worked alongside experts from ECS, Chemistry and Physics and Astronomy on his project, along with partners from the Universities of Warwick and Nottingham.

“Our work has involved developing an electroplating technique to make digital memories,” he explains. “Electroplating is commonly used for plating jewellery and coins with gold and silver, however, in our project we are plating Silicon chips with a special material that is made of Germanium, Antimony and Tellurium. This material is the fundamental building block of phase change memories and has been recently shown to have applications in Neuromorphic Computing.”

Dr James Grant-Jacob, of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), presented his advances in the real-time identification of pollution particles such as diesel soot, wood ash and pollen grains in air, and plastic microbeads in water, by using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence to analyse the light scattered from the particles when illuminated by a laser.

Dr Milan Milosevic, also of the ORC, demonstrated his progress on an ion implantation technique for automated testing in photonics.

“The technology we are developing is very promising for enabling effective large-scale manufacturing of photonic integrated circuits for the next generation of communications and integrated sensor technologies,” he explains. “A live demonstration will be given to the public during a showcase event at Southampton towards the end of the project.”

Bioengineering Science researcher Josh Steer presented his work in the field of prosthetics, where he has developed tools to support clinicians during the design process for artificial limbs by predicting the pressure distribution between the user and their socket in real-time. He is set to commercialise the innovative software in a recently announced Enterprise Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The STEM for Britain competition is run by the House of Commons Parliamentary Scientific Committee. Each year it attracts hundreds of entrants, of whom around a third are selected to present their work at a poster competition in Parliament.

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