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A PhD student with their supervisor

Newsletter for prospective research students

Welcome to the Department of Electronic Engineering newsletter for prospective research students. Our aim is to give you an overview of the research in the Department and what it is like to be a student here. We undertake a wide range of research activities from 5G ultra-high capacity density systems and underwater networks, to autonomous robots and healthcare. Our research is focused around three major groupings: Communication Technologies, Intelligent Systems & Nanoscience, and Engineering Education & Management. In each newsletter we highlight specific research activities and individuals along with a round up of recent research news.  We strive to be a world leading research department - we hope you enjoy reading about our research.

Our PhD conference was held remotely this year on 21-22 June. Over two days we had presentations from first year PhD students, using the 3-minute thesis (3MT) format, poster presentations with a 5 minute overview from second year PhD students and seminar presentations from our third year PhD students. Each day started with a keynote presentation: "Looking beyond CMOS: reservoir computing with nanomagnetic arrays" from Professor Dan Allwood, University of Sheffield on day 1 and "Artificial intelligence: Paving the way towards global wireless connectivity" from Dr Muhammad Zeeshan Shakir, University of the West of Scotland on day 2. The event was attended by staff, students and industry partners. The event concluded with a prize giving ceremony for best talks and posters.

Our research labs and facilities are open allowing staff and students to undertake research in Covid secure conditions. The University is working on a return to campus plan for all staff and students in line with changes in government guidelines and restrictions. As a prospective student or offer holder, we understand you may have concerns about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the potential impact on your enrolment at the University of York. We want to reassure you that our shared sense of community and compassion puts our students at the very heart of our University, even more so during this unsettling period. On all programmes, for new students and for those returning to York, we aim to retain our friendly atmosphere, personal contact and small-group teaching, whether or not you are here in person.

Read more about what you can expect at York on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates page for prospective students.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Best wishes

Dr David Halliday, Chair of Department Research Committee and Prof Stephen Smith, Deputy Head for Research

In this issue:

Welcome from Graduate Chair

I want to welcome you all to the Department. It has been a challenging year but things are looking up, and that includes our research environment. Clearly, not everything is back to what it was a couple of years ago, particularly where travelling is concerned (and be assured that we are very much aware of the difficulties and don’t hesitate to let us know if you encounter problems), but our facilities are up and running and ready to welcome you.

What this means, in practice, is that the induction process (that is, the set of activities designed to welcome you to the Department and to provide you with the necessary information to start your research activities) might still be affected by the travel restrictions. Hopefully all of you will be able to reach York by the start date of your programme, but if that should not be the case, don’t worry: after last year, we have (unfortunately) acquired quite a bit of experience with remote supervision and we will be able to use this to ensure that disruption is minimal.

We will update you once our induction schedule has been finalised - details will be added to our departmental welcome pages for prospective students.

Don't worry if this is not entirely clear at this stage. Just remember to let us know if you will be in York and we will handle the rest!

Best wishes

Dr Gianluca Tempesti

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PGR Community at York

You can find lots of useful information and resources to help you settle into the research community at York on the University PGR Student welcome pages including the 'How to Thrive and Survive in your PhD' series and the University PGR buddy scheme.

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Student profile: Maher Alzyadat

Photo of Maher Alzyadat

“I am a third-year PhD student in the Department of Electronic Engineering and part of the Engineering Management Research Group. My research study focuses on exploring the driving factors of intrapreneurship among engineers and how technology-based SMEs can foster an intrapreneurial culture that empowers engineers to act as intrapreneurs. This study following qualitative research through an in-depth case study approach.

I have a BSc in Telecommunication Engineering in 2005, followed by a professional career in the ICT industry. I worked as Network Switching Engineer at Orange operator in my home country- Jordan, for one year. Then Joined Ericsson AB as a Solution Architect engineer in the GSM core network for 11 years.

Moving away from home was a huge dream of mine, and I have a passion for continuing higher education when I was young.  But where to study is the big question!, especially when having a family and children. The University of York was my first choice as a well-ranked and high reputation university. I did MSc in Engineering Management in 2017/2018. It was a fantastic year despite the challenges of shifting from industry life to academic life and being new to the British culture and environment.

I have chosen York as a friendly and multicultural city and for the higher reputation of the university. It is one of the leading universities in the UK. York is a small and lively city with great walks, especially along the river. The centre is just within walking distance from the university, with many cafes, restaurants, and attractions, it has something for everyone. Many surrounding areas, countryside, parks, and attractions can be explored in one day trip from York. The university organizes trips on weekends and running frequent outdoor walks.

The campus is charming, with many green spaces and lakes around, which make life more natural. Seeing ducks and rabbits once getting out of the lecture is enough to relieve any stress. Living on campus is a great experience. I have neighbours from all around the world, and it is easy to make friends and socialize with others in a multicultural environment. The facilities provided in family accommodation are excellent, with a small backyard garden and a playground area. Many social activities and family events organized around the year. I feel really at my home.

The university offers many opportunities to build various academic and soft skills. The courses and training provided by the Research Excellence Training Team (RETT) and the writing center supported me throughout my PhD study. Moreover, students are given the opportunity to develop academic practices. I have worked as Graduate Teaching Assistants as a lab demonstrator and Tutor for MSc students. Also, I have attended the York Learning and Teaching Award (YLTA), a ten-month-designed program to develop professional academic practices according to higher education standards, and eventually awarded the Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA).

The department as a whole is an excellent place to work and grow. I found all the academic and administrative staff very supportive and friendly. Being part of the Engineering Management Research Group and supervised by experts in my field of study is a great experience where they always motivate and encourage me to walk the extra mile.  

York is a fantastic and incredible place to live and study, and I highly recommend it for international students to have a great academic and life experience.”

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Technology at York: High Altitute Platforms (HAPs)

Today, frequent access to broadband and mobile network services have been considered absolutely essential in the daily lives of many people. At the moment over 98% of the UK population has mobile coverage, however the wireless coverage of the UK landmass is just over 90%, which leaves some remote areas of Scotland, British National Parks, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty under-served. Setting ground infrastructure in rural areas has never been cost effective, installing giant antenna masts in natural reserves may receive local resistance. These issues have been stopping wireless coverage from expanding to every corner of the country.

The Helikite carrying a Software Defined Radio payload

High-altitude platforms (HAPs) can solve the civil planning and cost issues of serving such areas by filling coverage gaps and working alongside existing and future terrestrial infrastructures in the cities. HAPs located at an altitude of 17 km–22 km, are poised to become reality within the next two years given several well-funded activities and advancements in the key enabling technologies of materials, battery and energy capture.

In 2016, the university launched the Centre for High Altitude Platform Applications (CHAPA) to capitalise on this new generation of delivery platforms. It is important to have a readily accessible test facility for early prototyping and trials. CHAPA has been conducting wireless communications experiments using National Instruments USRP Software Defined Radio (SDR) testbeds carried by a 21 cubic meter Helikite, which is a tethered helium balloon that can carry a 10 kg payload up to 400 meters altitude. SDR testbeds such as the Ettus Research USRP N210 and NI USRP-RIO have been operated airborne. To ensure the connectivity between the airborne USRP devices and the host PCs on the ground, Ethernet over fibre is developed with a second winch to store the fibre, tensioning the fibre loosely on the tether, using a clutch and preventing the fragile fibre from stretching. The fibre Ethernet can achieve 1 Gb/s throughput, which can support multiple USRP devices operating at full duplex.

In May 2021 several experiments were conducted with the Helikite and SDR testbed. We have set up a ground based private LTE small cell to provide 4G connectivity for commercial User Equipment (UE). Our MANY project industrial partner Safenetics has tested their handsets designed for mountain search and rescue tasks using our small cell, capable of push-to-talk, push-to-video and group chat/video functions. We are developing an LTE payload for the Helikite to provide aerial 4G coverage for remote areas. We have tested an inertial measurement unit (IMU) on the Helikite to help us understand the movements of the Helikite, which will affect how we design payloads in the future.

Several activities have been planned to evaluate the airborne LTE small cell this summer and autumn using the Helikite and SDR testbed. In July and August we are planning to test the small cell carried by our larger 35 cubic meter Helikite (14 kg payload capacity) on the campus rugby pitch near Halifax College. In September we will use the developed airborne small cell to provide temporary LTE coverage for a public location, potentially at the Forbidden Corner which at the moment has limited cellular network coverage.

If you'd like to find out more about this work, please contact Dr Yi Chu (yi.chu@york.ac.uk)

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York - The River Ouse

Second in a series of short features on the tourist attractions of York and surrounding area, Yorkshire. York is the second most-visited city in England (after London) and has a wealth of historical buildings dating back two thousand years. It was an important town for the Romans (when it was known as Eboracum), and the Vikings (who called it Jorvik).

Students walking by the river

Originally set up as a Roman camp in AD71, York was cited at the strategic junction of two rivers, the Foss and the Ouse, providing an easily defensible position. The Ouse in particular has been important to York, as it is navigable, and boats could bring goods from the sea-port of Hull up to York. Nowadays the river is used for pleasure boats, rowing, and for tourists who can take historical boat trips along the historic waterway.

 

The level of the Ouse has caused concern in recent years as it can flood after heavy rain: walk along the riverside footpaths and you'll find that the gardens that slope down to the river have walls half-way along them, with strong waterproof gates: these can keep the flood waters at bay. It is not unknown for the waters of the river to rise five meters above their normal level, flooding the footpaths on either side of the river, and many properties built too close to the water.

St Mary's Abbey

One pub, the King's Arms, is flooded so regularly that it keeps a record of the high-water marks on the left-hand wall. Another notable feature of the river is the most recent, and perhaps most spectacular bridge to be built over the river: the Millennium Bridge in Fulford. A very popular riverside walk in York takes in the Millennium bridge, and the footpaths along the river on both sides.

Along the banks of the river many interesting buildings have been built, including Clifford's tower, originally part of York Castle, and once used as a mint to make coins in the middle ages. St. Mary's Abbey is now unfortunately in ruins, however the hospital attached to the monastery survives, now in an area of parkland in the city centre. The hospital was a very popular place in many medieval monasteries, as by the rules of the monastic orders that the monks belonged to, they were not permitted to eat meat. However, an exception was made for any patients in the hospital, who, it was felt, would benefit from meat to build up their strength. Soon, hospitals became very popular places with most of the monks taking their meals there!

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