News 2008

Research Assessment Exercise Confirms World-Leading Research Quality at York

December 2008: The Department of Electronics shared in the University of York's success in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). A majority of the research submitted by the department was judged world-leading or internationally excellent by the Electrical and Electronic Engineering RAE panel. Overall, the University of York was ranked 8th in the UK for research quality.

Muslim Heritage Seminar Co-Chaired by Prof El-Gomati from Electronics Department

December 2008: Professor El-Gomati was the co-chair of a one-day symposium held at the Church House, Westminster, sponsored by the Schools Minister, the Rt Hon Jim Knight. The symposium follows the successful "1001 inventions" exhibition at the House of Commons in October this year, organised by the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC) of which Professor El-Gomati is a trustee and deputy Chair. The exhibition has been touring major UK cities for the last 18 months as part of a community cohesion project. FSTC is a non-political non-religious voluntary organisation which has been working with schools and local communities in the UK promoting dialogue amongst the various communities by revisiting inventions that we still use today. The exhibition has recently received a major sponsorship for its extension and to allow it to tour the USA, Europe and the Middle East. Amongst the publication of FSTC is the award winning web site,, of which Professor El-Gomati was the Chief Editor from 2005 to 2007.

York Provides Expertise for New European Project on Future Aerospace Systems

December 2008: The increasing use of "fly-by-wire" systems in aircraft, together with the use of advanced electronic devices by passengers has led to increasing concerns about the safety of electronic flight control systems. A 28 million euro research project has recently started to help ensure reliable operation of flight-critical systems. York is the biggest University partner in the project, with a budget of over 1 million euros to support our work. The project aims to produce tools to enable aircraft designers to consider the effects of electronic interference and lightning at the design stage, reducing the time required for certifying a new aircraft for flight. York will provide expertise in modelling the electromagnetic interaction between systems in complex systems, and develop training programs for aircraft designers.

Novel Antenna Developed at York for Railway Internet Access

November 2008: A major milestone was passed when a new lens antenna developed at York was shown working with satellite TV at the end of November 2008. The mechanical tracking system, also developed in the Department of Electronics, allows the antenna to communicate simultaneously with two satellites. It is intended for use on trains where there is limited headroom, and conventional dish antennas cannot be used.

Prize-Winning Video Game uses Advanced Image Compression Technology from York

November 2008: The new N-Gage game "ONE" from Nokia and Digital Legends has been awarded the Pocket Gamer Gold Award. The game delivers "stunning, cleverly handled 3D visuals" including "detailed urban environment backgrounds" within a very small memory footprint. This compactness is achieved by using APT, the advanced image compression method developed by Professor John Robinson here at York. The method was published in IEEE Transactions on Image Processing in August 2006, and John's implementation of APT is freely available for people to use and extend. APT has been used in medical image coding, high definition video systems and image archives. John is delighted it is now appearing in mobile games, but is completely hopeless at ONE.

Nobel Laureate Prof Peter Gruenberg gives the 2008 Cantor Lecture

October 2008: Prof Peter Gruenberg gave the Cantor Lecture on Wednesday 19 October. Organised this year by the Department of Electronics, the Cantor Lecture is a high-profile event in nanoscience. Prof Gruenberg was joint winner of the 2007 Nobel prize in Physics for his discovery of Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR). His lecture, titled "A short history of the electron: from amber to GMR", covered the fundamentals of electronics, from the 1600s to the present, with a special emphasis on electronic spin.

York Academic wins Runner-Up Prize in Business Competition

October 2008: Strokes are the biggest single cause of disability in the developed world, and helping patients recover is a key focus of Dr Adar Pelah's research, Yorkshire Enterprise Fellow and Reader in the Department of Electronics. His team has developed a unique machine 'StroMoHab' that can accelerate the rate of recovery of stroke victims by immersing them in a virtual world, allowing them to regain their confidence in movement without risk of injury. Dr Pelah's project was runner-up in the 2007/08 Research Councils' Business Plan Competition, winning £10,000 for further business development.

York Student wins Audio Engineering Society Award

October 2008: It was recently announced that Ally Moore, a PhD student at York, has won the AES 125th Convention Student Technical Papers Award. Ally's paper, "An Initial Validation of Individualised Crosstalk Cancellation Filters for Binaural Perceptual Experiments" was written as part of his PhD project, being undertaken with the Audio Lab at York (part of the Intelligent Systems research group). The work is sponsored by France Telecom.

Ally received the award after delivering his paper at the AES Convention in San Francisco.

Electronics Students Rate York's Courses as the Best in the UK

September 2008: The results of the annual National Student Survey were announced this month. This annual nationwide survey asks graduating students throughout the UK to rate their degree course in 22 different categories, including the quality of the lecturing, how useful students have found the feedback on their work, levels of support provided by the department, and how well the course has supported their personal development. The average ratings given by York students were the highest of any university in the majority of the 22 questions including "overall satisfaction", and the highest overall.

This outstanding performance has been recognised by the Sunday Times newspaper who have awarded York first place in their results table: Sunday Times NSS Results (PDF).

Full results are available on the Unistats Website.

New MSc in Digital Systems Engineering

September 2008: The MSc in Digital Systems Engineering is a one-year full-time taught programme, starting in October 2009, that makes extensive use of the knowledge and expertise from our well established Intelligent Systems Research Group.

It is intended to provide students with a good theoretical background and solid hands-on experience of the techniques used in modern digital systems design. Using FPGAs as a hardware platform and VHDL as a design language.

More Information...

The World's Only High-performance, Compact, Field-Emission Scanning Electron Microscope developed at York

August 2008: Researchers at the University of York, led by Professor Mohamed El-Gomati, have developed the electron cathode for the world's only high-performance portable, personal scanning electron microscope. Professor El-Gomati is a world leader in the design of novel electron cathodes. The new microscope is being marketed as the MySEM by Novelx, and is being launched this month at the Microscopy and Microanalysis Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Professor El-Gomati is a guest speaker. This microscope will dramatically cut the costs of owning an electron microscope, and allow many more researchers unlimited access to their own microscope for the first time.

Challenging Talented Pupils to Build an iPod Amplifier

July 2008: Professor David Howard, an EPSRC Media Fellow working in the field of music technology, recently led a very successful workshop day for talented year 8-10 pupils from Yorkshire schools in partnership with the Regional Partnership for Gifted and Talented pupils. 28 students from Yorkshire schools spent a day in the department, talking to current undergraduates and postgraduate students, touring our facilities, and then built their own iPod amplifier with the help of the support staff from the Department of Electronics. Feedback from the pupils was excellent, and we hope to run more events like this in future, to help convey how interesting and exciting electronics can be.

EPSRC awards £400,000 for New Research on Self-healing Cellular Architectures

July 2008: Professor Andy Tyrrell, Dr. Gianluca Tempesti and Dr. Jon Timmis have been awarded £400,000 to carry out novel research on biologically-motivated approaches for designing highly reliable electronic systems. The research will build upon the Intelligent Systems research group's current leading position in biologically-inspired fault tolerance and artificial immune systems to develop VLSI systems with self-diagnostic and self-healing properties. This research will pave the way for the biologically-inspired design of reliable electronic systems across a wide range of applications; from communication, through computing and control, to systems operating in hostile environments. This research will be carried out in collaboration with the University of the West of England and members of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Dr. Jon Timmis introduces Artificial Immune Systems to Performance Evaluation Professionals

June 2008: Dr. Jon Timmis was invited to present a tutorial on Artificial Immune Systems at the 2008 IEEE International Symposium on Performance Evaluation of Computer and Telecommunication Systems, a leading international conference for professionals involved in performance evaluation of computer and telecommunication systems. The tutorial covered aspects of modelling, tools and methodologies, and engineering actual artificial immune systems. This is the first time that a tutorial on bio-inspired engineering has been presented at this symposium, and reflects a growing interest in the role of biologically-motivated approaches across the spectrum of engineering applications.

Dr. Chesmore speaks at the UN Conference on Biological Diversity

May 2008: Dr David Chesmore gave an invited talk at the United Nations Conference on Biological Diversity, making him probably the only electronic engineer to speak at the event. His work focuses on automatic methods to detect invasive insect species by analysing the sounds they make - providing valuable information used to track and monitor insect pests and monitor the effects of climate change on insect distributions. The method is much more efficient than traditional labour-intensive methods involving manual identification, and can provide continual monitoring of any location, day and night.

PLAZZMID project receives £816,661 grant from EPSRC

April 2008: Tim Clarke, together with researchers from the Departments of Biology and Computer Science, has been awarded £816,661 for PLAZZMID: a novel flexible and extensible computational framework and toolset inspired by sophisticated models of complex biological evolutionary processes that occur in bacteria and in bees. The tools will be able to be used both to build and analyse testable models of biological evolutionary processes, and to build and analyse powerful novel computational metaphors and algorithms based on these more sophisticated biological models. Within the research project, the tools will be used in a series of theoretical biological experiments on the relationship between genome structure and evolvability, and used to evolve computational systems exhibiting complex homeostatic control in a changing environment.

EPSRC funds new research on Artificial Biochemical Networks with £648,286 grant

March 2008: The Intelligent Systems Group has been awarded £648,286 for 5 years funding to research novel computational architectures motivated by the structure and organisation of biochemical networks. Project number EP/F060041/1. Biochemical networks are one of the most complex sets of structures found in biological systems. These structures are fundamental to the development, function and evolution of biological organisms, and are the main factor underlying the complexity seen within higher organisms. This work will promote the development and understanding of artificial biochemical network models and show how how they may be applied to complex real world computational tasks.

EPSRC funds new Artificial Ribosome research with £170,325 grant

March 2008: The Intelligent Systems Group has been awarded £170,325 for 3 years funding. Project number EP/F055951/1. We intend to design a nanoscale chemical factory in which the machines, like the products, are molecules. The factory will not only build molecules but will be capable of evolving them to have desirable properties. The products will be linear molecules produced by linking together smaller building blocks in a defined sequence - at each stage the molecular machinery will be capable of choosing the correct building block from a range of possibilities. The system will be capable of synthesizing a library of molecules with different sequences and selecting 'successful' molecules for their fitness to perform a specified task. We will also develop designs for more powerful systems in which the molecular machinery responsible for chemical synthesis has internal computing power and can direct its own operation.

Professor David Howard on the BBC

January 2008: Professor David Howard, who specialises in the field of Music Technology, presents a one hour television programme on 'The Voice' this Sunday. David explores what humans can do with their voice, how the voice works and why replicating it is such a challenge. As well as working with singers, there are contributions by Rory Bremner, Jeremy Hardy.

Dr. Jon Timmis appointed Visiting Professor at Helsinki University

Dr Jon Timmis has been appointed a Visiting Professor at the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT). This position will strengthen on-going collaborations in the area of immune-inspired engineering between Dr Timmis and the Department of Electrical Engineering at Helsinki University of Technology.

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