ICSS student, Gwen Palmer is awarded an EPSRC Doctoral Prize to continue her research into knee joint pain.
22 April 2013
In her final year of study at the Complex Systems Simulation Doctoral Training Centre, Gwen Palmer has received a coveted EPSRC award to continue her research.
Gwen Palmer is currently in her final year of the ICSS Doctoral Training Centre PhD program, with a PhD titled "Modelling Neuronal Activity at the Knee Joint". Knee pain is a major issue among patients, with common causes being osteoarthritis or trauma. Although corrective surgery is possible, patients may still experience unacceptable levels of pain. Gwen is exploring how knowledge of nerve endings in the knee joint could help us to understand why these patients are still in pain. Using finite element methods, she and her colleagues have developed a computational model that represents a feline knee joint. This has been coupled with neural models, adapted from the Hodgkin-Huxley mathematical description of generation of action potential. She will be able to determine which structures in the knee joint contribute more to a neuronal response, and therefore which structures are more likely to contribute more to a patient feeling pain.
EPSRC doctoral prize
The EPSRC Doctoral Prize will provide up to one year of additional funding to enable students to research beyond the end of their PhD and to help them launch a career. Doctoral Prize awardees will be expected to participate in leadership development, outreach and impact activities, and contribute to the training of other PhD students. There will be a total of ten awards to be made across the University as part of the 2013 scheme. The funding will begin on completion of Gwen's PhD Viva.
There are four main nerve endings present at the knee joint, each with a different structure and behaviour. Three of these are branched structures. For the year of research funded by the Doctoral Prize, Gwen has proposed to explore the extent to which nerve ending behaviour is directly related to its structure. In order to test this, she will be developing finite element models of each of the three branched endings and observing how applied loads are transferred through the structure. If it is proven that the structure and behaviour are directly related, the neural models developed during Gwen's PhD studies will be generalised to address any nerve ending with a known structure. Not only would this work be directly related to her PhD topic, but this would also generate understanding of the behaviour of a range of sensory nerve endings.
Work with neuroscience groups
During the final year of her PhD studies, Gwen has been working with the neuroscience group in Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. Since her proposed research project involves further sensory nerve ending modelling, she hopes to continue communications with them, since they already work closely on mechanical sensing in nerve endings. "The University of Southampton has a strong neuroscience group (SoNG) and I hope to begin working with them also. One of the major reasons for wanting to work with neuroscientists is to ensure that my work remains applicable to real world".
Read more about Gwen Palmer here.
ICSS student, Robin Wilson, helps the Guardian Online with Dr John Snow's cholera map and shows that having a passion for analysing complexity can lead to many good things
27 March 2013
John Snow (1813-1858) was a doctor in London in the 1850s, who mapped deaths in the Soho Cholora outbreak of 1854, and found that they clustered around a water pump. At the time, the disease was mistakenly thought to be airborne, but his work gave significant evidence towards it being a water-borne disease. Snow's work stands out as being one of the earliest, and most famous, cases of the complexity of a real-world situation being analysed by plotting data points on a map -- a method upon which the whole field of Spatial Analysis is built.
Robin Wilson, a first class geography graduate from the University of Southampton and PhD student at the Complex Systems Simulation Doctoral Training Centre at the ICSS at Southampton plotted John Snow's data on a modern day OS map of London and played with the data -- all in his own time. He has also investigated how modern-day data privacy concerns may cause this data to appear differently on a map -- as the locations of individual deaths would not be released. Worryingly his results suggest we wouldn't be able to identify the pump as easily today. He released his data for free on his blog -- where a number of academics from across the world have downloaded it to use as a teaching tool -- and was more than happy to share it with a Guardian journalist, who then wrote an article about John Snow's story, and the data behind it. Robin is a big supporter of the Open Source and Open Data movements, and this is just one example of him releasing code and data for others to benefit from.
Robin is studying atmospheric pollution for his ICSS PhD and is researching how to use satellite images to obtain accurate and detailed maps of pollution, particularly in the developing world where ground-based measurements are sparse. As a side project, he is working on a hand-held device to measure this pollution which will cost around one hundredth of the price of similar commercial instruments, and which attaches to a smartphone to send measurements back to Southampton. A prototype of the instrument is currently being tested in South America (as atmospheric conditions there allow a full calibration, which is not possible in the UK). This instrument is being developed in association with the Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) department at Southampton, and will hopefully be made available to the public within the next year. Once the instruments are in circulation, the measurements sent to Southampton will provide an unprecedented level of detail on atmospheric aerosol distributions across the UK.
Robin is driven by a passion to explore geographical data, and his keen ability to program computer software is leading him into more and more extra-curricular activities. He has released a number of pieces of academic software -- all of which have the source code available -- which have been downloaded over 500 times in total. These tools -- which range from software plugins allowing modern statistical methods to be applied to satellite images (RTWTools), to a Python interface for an industry-standard model used to simulate the passage of light through the Earth's atmosphere (Py6S) -- have been used across the globe at both universities and commercial organisations.
An ecologist at a consultancy in Sydney, Australia commented:
"I recently used RTWTools to estimate the ground surface area for a large mining site in Asia. To be able to do that as ecologists truly put our company ahead of the rest, we could notify the mining company of the true environmental impact of the project. RTWTools in this respect was ground breaking, absolutely essential and worked very well. Calculating ground surface area as opposed to planimetric area should be a legal standard -- and RTWTools provide the solution! Let me congratulate you on your professionalism and on behalf of Cumberland Ecology, thank you for your precious time in helping us saving a lot of time. The updated tool is not only easy to use, it is fast and accurate."
He has also set up a website containing a categorised list of over 400 freely-available GIS datasets as diverse as population data, locations of terrorist incidents, and types and sizes of river dams. This site now receives over 500 hits a day, and has led to contacts from a wide range of international organisations including the United Nations, who have included the site in a list of resources to be sent to member states for use in disaster planning and management, and the World-wide Human Geography Data Working Group who have invited him to speak via video-link at their next conference in New York.
Robin runs a blog which deals with everything from how to fix your printer to his work on John Snow's cholera map, and if that wasn't enough he has reviewed a number of specialist books and is the Editor of the magazine of the national society for his field (the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society, or RSPSoc). Robin has recently been awarded a Software Sustainability Institute fellowship.
When asked how he manages to do all of these "extra" projects above and beyond his PhD work, Robin said "I try to work on things that I enjoy, and I'm always slightly surprised to see how much other people like them too. I suppose my other main philosophy is sharing -- I've got so much for free from other people over the years that I want to try and give something back."
More information about Robin is available on his website.
Complexity DTC student Sarah Ward makes the front cover of FBA News with her research into Flamingo Populations in Kenya
Studying for her multidisciplinary PhD at the ICSS (Institute of Complex Systems Simulation) Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Southampton, Sarah Ward's passion for tackling the complex problem of flamingo population decline has brought her research findings to the attention of the FBA (Freshwater Biological Association). Sarah's research is the feature issue and cover picture for this summer's edition of FBA news. Sarah was struck by the decline in flamingo populations and the relationship with Cyanobacteria. Flocks of flamingos up to one million strong gather where blooms of Cyanobacteria occur to feed, and the relationship between population dynamics and this food supply variability presented a complex challenge. "A decline in the East African flamingo population of at least 20% has been observed in the last 50 years, and has been punctuated by mortality events where large numbers of lesser flamingos have died at some of the soda lakes. There are many hypotheses postulated in the literature for the decline, but I am most interested in finding out whether this is due to a reduction in the availability of breeding sites, and also if deaths are a natural consequence of soda lake dynamics." (Sarah Ward, reported in FBA News, No.57 Summer 20). Sarah's research at the DTC has led her back to Kenya with a team from the University of Southampton, Queen Mary University of London and the Natural History Museum in March 2011. Sarah has used modeling techniques perfected at the ICSS Doctoral Training Centre. The model is driven by rainfall, and will initially simulate crashes in Cyanobacteria. Sarah is continuing her research and hopes that one more trip to Kenya is all that's needed to complete the research. "At the moment the most challenging part of my PhD is fitting in all the research I want to do in three years! One frustrating downside to studying an exotic location is that it isn't easy to pop back to Kenya to get more samples when I run out. "
To find out more about the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA)
ICSS PhD students come 5th in IEEExtreme Programming Challenge
Students at the Complexity DTC have done rather well in the IEEExtreme Programming Challenge held on 20th October 2012. Bob De Caux and Miguel Gonzalez, both 2nd year Complexity PhD students at the University of Southampton came 5th in the grueling 24 hour programming competition.
Their team was named "Emergent Phenomena" and the competition meant applying their programming skills to over 15 problems from fields including combinatorics, graph theory, pattern recognition, dynamic systems and spatial reasoning.
When asked how they managed to do it, Miguel was clear about their strategy "We slept around 3 hours each. Candy, chocolate, fruit, pizza, orange juice, water and extremely needed coffee was supplied by the organisers. The atmosphere was really nice. Basically, a lot of people coding in a room while being cheered by the organisers at IEEE who did an awesome job."
It was a really good atmosphere due to the fact that all the teams were in close proximity, and it definitely carried us both through to the end. I remember flagging quite badly around 9am-10am, but I felt much better after a couple of hours sleep!" said Bob. In the last 6 hours Bob and Miguel managed to figure out some bugs in their code and points started to accumulate. Miguel said "the last few hours were the best when we solved some tough problems and gained most of our points. Not sure how it was that we were better when we were so tired, but there you go!"
The pair wanted to give their thanks to those who motivated and inspired them to enter. "Special thanks to Davide Zilli who motivated us to get into the competition and Arinze Ekwosimba who was motivating and supportive for every team in Southampton during the 24 hours push.
The Complexity duo came 5th in the UK and 251st overall. "We did only have two people whilst most other teams had three, so pretty pleased!" said Bob.
Industrialists get exposure to complex systems research led by students at the ICSS DTC
Friday 8 October 2012
ICSS Doctoral Training Centre students presented their latest research and findings to key Industrialists of the DTC's IIAB (Industrial & International Advisory Board) at Southampton's Hilton Hotel on Monday 8th October 2012. It was an opportunity for students across the DTC to showcase the latest research in complex systems using state of the art simulation and modeling techniques, spanning diverse target systems from nanowires to ocean systems.
Key presentations included those given by Max Albert on 'Nanowires with Edge Roughness', Stuart Bartlett on 'Tackling Emergence and Lattice Models', Maike Sonnewald on her research into ' Impacts of Resolution on Open Model Fidelity' and by Chris Cave-Ayland on 'Computational Drug Optimisation'.
It was an ideal opportunity to explore complex issues from an industrial perspective and each presentation was followed by questions from a combined audience of students and industrialists.
All students, from newly-arrived first years to those in their final year of study, showcased their research in an open poster session. The afternoon concluded with a Board meeting of the DTC directors and IIAB members.
Members of the Industrial and International Advisory Board included representatives from Fujitsu, BAE, NAG, Xyratex, Lloyds, GSK, Independent Power Systems, Microsoft, Chemical Computing Group, and Hitachi, among others.
Open Day Event for Prospective Students (2012 Entry)
Thursday 9 February 2012 - from 1pm
This is an opportunity for potential ICSS DTC PhD students to meet current students, the DTC team and ICSS researchers and to find out more about being a DTC student, the ICSS research areas and more. To express an interest in attending please email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Student Conference on Complexity Science, Winchester 5th-6th August 2011
Thursday 23 June 2011
If you are a PhD student researching a complexity science problem, then you are invited to submit an abstract for the first annual Student Conference on Complexity Science. This conference is an opportunity for postgraduate students to network and meet others in the complexity science community.
The SCCS will be held at the Stripe Theatre, Winchester University, from 5th to 6th of August 2011; attendance is free of charge. All prospective attendees to the conference must submit an abstract, and be prepared to either give a 20 minute talk, or to present a poster to share their research.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of complex systems, research presented at this conference is expected to span a broad range of scientific disciplines. Work may be theoretical or applied and, for example, could cover social systems, networks, ecosystem dynamics, evolution, or non-linear systems.
Prizes will be awarded for the best presentation and for the best poster at the close of the conference.
If you are interested in presenting your work at this conference, please submit an abstract to <email@example.com> by 8th July in the following format:
The abstract, which must have a maximum of 250 words and should outline your project, summarise your methodology and results, and include any conclusions you have drawn. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact the SCCS organisation team on <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or visit the SCCS'11 website.
Open Day Event for Prospective Students (2011 Entry)
Wednesday 2 February 2011
Potential ICSS PhD students had the opportunity to meet ICSS researchers, to find out about the ICSS research areas, and to get information on the opportunity to pursue doctoral research in Complex Systems Simulation.
Time: 1.00pm onwards; Venue: Rooms 1007 & 1027 (Lecture Theatre), Building 67, Highfield Campus, University of Southampton
Open Day Event for Prospective Students (2010 Entry)
17 March 2010
Potential ICSS PhD students will have the opportunity to meet ICSS researchers, to find out about the ICSS research areas, and to get information on the opportunity to pursue doctoral research in complex systems simulation.
Time: 1.30 onwards Venue: Rooms 1020 & 3001 (Lecture Theatre), Building 34, Highfield Campus
Please email <email@example.com> to express an interest to attend and for further information.
Applications for 2010 Doctoral Programme Now Open
Southampton invests £3 million in Supercomputer facility
20 August 2009
The new supercomputer, with over 8000 processors, will enhance the ability of Southampton researchers to perform simulations to used in understanding and designing complex systems.
See the University press release for more details.
"Cutting Edge" ICSS Featured in National News
30 April 2009
The ICSS is featured in today's Independent newspaper, in an article focussing on the innovative doctoral training programme that is being launched this year.
ICSS Official Launch
18 March 2009
The Institute will be officially launched on 18th March 2009! The event includes speakers from both complexity science and industry, as well as an opportunity for prospective PhD students to find out more about the ICSS doctoral programme.
Photos, presentation slides and more from the event now available!
Recruitment Advertisements Go Live
17 March 2009
Advertisement for studentships popularise website.
UK Science Minister Supports ICSS
New Wave of Doctoral Training Centres Feature in National Press
3 February 2009
New Doctoral Training Centres reported in the Guardian.
ICSS webpages go live
23 January 2009
The ICSS web pages go live.
EPSRC funds new Centre for Doctoral Training
5 December 2008
The EPSRC announces GBP 250m of new funding for doctoral training including GBP6m to launch the Southampton Institute for Complex Systems Simulations as part of its Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) strategy for Complexity Science.