Part 1

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When I started my PhD two and a half years ago, I would never even imagine that I would be writing those words from Ulsan in South Korea (at that time I did not even know such a place existed). Yet here I am on a three months research placement. This post is a brief recollection of my experiences in South Korea so far.

I arrived in Seoul early morning on a cold January day, and after short and uneventful journey I was sitting on a train going across South Korea to Ulsan. Through the window of a train I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful this country is. Wherever you look you can see hills covered in forests with cities blending between. I felt the beauty is under promoted by Korean modesty which is really a shame because the country is absolutely stunning. Nowadays whenever I travel around Korea I still cannot help myself but look around all the time to admire the views.

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University is also a nice place to be in. The place I am in is called Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology or in short UNIST. The university is new as it was started only 8 years ago, and building I mostly work in was open no longer than half a year ago. University is located among the hills about 5 km away from closest town but it is well connected to train station and town by numerous buses. Working hours a lot different than in UK, usually students do not come until 10 or 11 am but they stay till very late. When I usually leave at about 9 or 10 pm there are still researchers in the lab.

Another big positive aspect is food. In Korea often food is cooked by restaurant guests on the table in front of them (for example Korean barbecue). In restaurant we went, there was a big table (for about 10 people) and in the middle of the table three spaces for a real charcoal grill, which was brought to us by waitress for us to grill food on. The meat comes in small pieces and is eaten straight from barbecue with variety of sauces and vegetables (including famous Korean Kimchi). Of course there exists restaurants which serve food cooked in kitchen similar to European style restaurants. Also food variety is another point worth mentioning, I did not know you can have chicken in so many different ways before.

Overall the visit is a very positive experience. It is a great insight into Korean culture (and food!) as well as fascinating comparison between European and Asian culture. If you have any questions regarding Korea please feel free to contact me at: p.ladosz@lboro.ac.uk

Part 2

The last blog was mostly focused on Korean culture, food and landscape. In this part, I will focus on outlining the difference between universities20170314 130924in Korea and the UK. I will also talk a little bit about Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) itself.

There are a few key differences between universities In Korea and in the UK. First of all undergraduate students are expected to do internships in research groups in university. Generally, they are semester (or summer and winter break) lasting. The internships would be very similar to a final year project where the student is working on a small project. Another difference is freedom of choice of modules to study. In the UK, modules (lectures) are generally same for all students on given degree and module choice is limited to choosing one or two extra per semester. In Korea (or at least in most degrees and universities in Korea) about half of the modules is fixed, while students are free to choose the rest. The choice is very broad; to give an extreme example engineering students in UNIST can even pick up an instrument (Piano, violin etc.) learning module. From my brief encounters with students, it appears that such an approach results in very good independence, self-motivation and pro-activity. Finally, master’s and PhD degrees are similar to USA style where both consists of projects and lectures and lasts 2 years and 4 to 5 years respectively.

In recent years Korea started to invest heavily in science and engineering and UNIST is a result of such an investment. As I mentioned in previous post campus is very modern, and laboratories are well equipped. There is a significant amount of funding available for equipment if anything is necessary. In laboratories, equipment is state of the art (for example numerous motion capture systems or top of the range radio based positioning system). High-quality research orientation is also present in very simple and easy to use administrative support tools such as purchasing done with just a credit card. This approach resulted in many famous professors being attracted to UNIST such as Prof. Rodney S. Ruoff.

With capable students and significant available funding, Korea offers a great working environment for academic researchers. This is supported by other positive aspects like good food and excellent landscapes.

If you have any questions regarding Korea please feel free to contact me at: p.ladosz@lboro.ac.uk

CDT-EI researchers have managed to secure funding from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Innovate UK and Far UK Ltd to develop research that makes an impact on emissions savings from road vehicles. The Multifunctional Materials Manufacturing Lab at Wolfson School, led by Dr Carmen Torres-Sanchez, and her industrial collaborator (Far UK ltd) have been awarded more than £250k to develop excellent science that allows the design and manufacture of low weight structures for vehicle chassis components. Low weight is beneficial for reduced tailpipe emissions for both existing internal combustion engine vehicles but also as an enabler for further electrification of the fleet. The manufacturing of the optimised structures via the sonication process incurs another challenge: to achieve mass market weight reduction this needs to be done cost effectively. This project builds on top of the deliverables that a current CDT-EI studentship, awarded to Joe Holt (from cohort 1), is generating.

The project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is split into two categories. The first will explore ways that technology can improve care for the elderly, while the second will focus on using autonomous (AI) machines to deal with or operate in hazardous environments. Loughborough will receive a £500,000 share of the total funding, which has been allocated to 14 UK universities. The money will towards exploring ‘intelligent manufacturing environments’ – the idea that humans, robots and automated procedures work seamlessly, or ‘co-exist’, to execute challenging manufacturing activities. Through the University’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Embedded Intelligence, the project will be led by Professor Paul Conway, Dr Carmen Torres-Sanchez and Dr Niels Lohse. A new designed training facility has been created to allow scientists to carry out the research.

CDT-EI Director Prof Conway said: “The money from the EPSRC will allow us to build on the UK’s already impressive understanding of robotics, and Loughborough is privileged to be a part of this pioneering project. Here, our aim is to explore how humans can work in union with robots and artificial intelligence to explore off-limits environments and gather data about hazardous sites and situations in a way we cannot currently do. There are also possibilities within this field to use bespoke AI to boost work place and manufacturing productivity in challenging industries.”

In the area of extreme and challenging (hazardous) environments, robotics and artificial intelligence technologies will allow for the inspection, monitoring, and maintenance of sites that are dangerous for humans to enter. This includes hostile environments such as nuclear power plants, oil and gas sites and off-shore renewables. It also includes hazardous urban and suburban situations involving bridges, roads and railways. The aim will be to develop the science around image and vision computing, verification and validation, smart sensing technology and its associated connectivity with the Internet of Things, autonomous manufacturing, healthcare technology, and intelligent mobility.

For more detials visit Loughborough University News.

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The CDT in Embedded Intelligence was one of the four CDTs invited to this theme day dedicated to showcase the good practice in this area in the UK. Named as one of the Eight Great Technologies in 2012, identified as one of the strengths of the UK, and with the potential to revolutionise the economy and society over the next 20 years, the RAAI community met in London on Jan 31st to share experiences and be evaluated in front of a prestigious international panel which included members from Harvard Uni, UC San Diego, EPFL (Lausanne), Leeds, King's College and UCL, and experienced industrialist (eg Dyson, iTechnic and RU Robots). 

 

Our Executive Director, Dr Carmen Torres-Sánchez, represented the CDT-EI and explained our strategy in training provision through our 'Transition Zone', breadth of research topics covered, sectors who have partnered with us and quality of the student experience. 

 

Thanks to the EPSRC for inviting us.

Cohort 2 researcher Melanie Zimmer attended 'using the media to publicise your research' course at Loughborough University.

I never thought about using the media as a way of promoting my research. But on the 18th of January, I attended a workshop in the Graduate House just on that. The session was held by two ex-BBC journalists and was aimed at demystifying this particular channel of communication.

During this one-day workshop, we covered different topics ranging from the various types of media that exist, to understanding that journalists are not really interested in your research as such - but in a good story. A good story, or a pitch to media, is characterised by the following:

  • Relevance to the audience (so what?)
  • Unusual, unique
  • Facts
  • Scandal, conflict
  • Topicality
  • Human interest

Although this workshop was tailored to media, the knowledge we gained can also be transferred to other areas - it is always important to understand your audience and to get the right message across.

When it comes to understanding your audience, it is also important to understand what your audience judges your interview (or presentation, etc.) on. So be clear on (1) What you say, (2) How you say it (your personality), and (3) How well you understand and address the needs, concerns and prejudices of your audience.

Exposing your research through media might be a good way of leading to new funding channels and collaborations. But especially when you consider exposing your research through media for the first time, it might be best to get your University Press Office involved as you can get additional advice from there. Another way of getting your research published to a wider audience could be through https://theconversation.com/uk. The Conversation is a not-for-profit media outlet sourcing content from the research community and providing editorial support.

Some more general advice also includes:

  • Before an interview, take the time and google your topic under the news section to see what is currently going on in this field.
  • Create a fact sheet with general information on your topic area.
  • If filming is taking place at your office, inform your environment beforehand and keep a clean desk.

The workshop also contained a practical training session for us, where we individually got interviewed by one of the journalists for two times 3 minutes – only the first question being made available to us beforehand (As a note: be prepared to be asked questions about costs and when your research will be available!). 

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It felt quite uncomfortable to be put on the spot like this, but it was a great experience to go through such a situation as the sessions were recorded and we received instant feedback by the experts and the other peers.

We are delighted to hear Dr Qinggang Meng (Loughborough University)  and Motion Robotics Ltd have been awarded over £650,000 by Technology Strategy Board: Newton Fund China-UK research and innovation Bridges Competition for their project titled "YOBAN- a companion robot to assist walking, sitting down and standing up for older people". The project, which includes Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology and Shezhen Casun Intelligent Robot Co Ltd, will develop a robot to assist older people from poor, low or middle income with movement, provide companionship and cognitive stimulation. The robot will also provide remote health and activity monitoring for caregivers.  

As part of the Transition Zone training programme all our students are given training in how to use coaching as a technique for leadership and management. To follow on from the workshop delivered as part of the CDT-EI programme Cohort  2 researcher David Czerski recently attended a foundation course in professional coaching and came away with a Foundation in Professional Coaching Practice Certificate - well done David!

Cohort 3 researcher Gergely Hantos reports on the Introduction to Design of Experiments seminar he attended in Bristol on the 2nd of December 2016.

The seminar took place in the National Composites Centre (NCC). The seminar was part of the Catapult training programme and it was delivered by Claudius Consulting Ltd. It took place in a computer lab and consisted of a presentation and separate work on the computer using MINITAB software. The presentation familiarised us with the basic definitions and concepts and strategies and statistic methods.

A lunch break separated the presentation and the work with MINITAB. This part of the work consisted of various case studies that utilized the information cquired during the presentation. For the better understanding, the same exercises were conducted on the main computer of the lecturer, projected on the screen so we could follow the steps easily. The outcome of each case study was explained and discussed in details. The laboratory work familiarized aus with Plackett-Burman Designs, two level factorial experiments, factorial replicates of two level experiments, response surface designs and the MINITAB software itself.

The methods learned will help me to analyse and understand small or large datasets better and to design experiments based on the conclusions I draw from the analysis. This was applicable to the my semester 1 group project and I should be able to apply the techniques to my semester 2 group project as well as during future PhD work.

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General Enquiries Contacts:

Loughborough University

Loughborough, Leicestershire
LE11 3TU
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Tel: +44 (0)1509 263171
CDT Office
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Heriot-Watt University

Edinburgh, Scotland
EH14 4AS
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Tel: +44 (0)131 449 5111
Dr Keith Brown
k.e.brown@hw.ac.uk