Institute for Mathematical Innovation

IMI Secondees 2016-2017

Joining IMI from six departments at the University of Bath, our secondees utilise sophisticated mathematical methods to develop exciting new interdisciplinary research proposals, link up research across campus, and collaborate with industrial partners.


Dr Philippe BlondelDr Philippe Blondel

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics and Deputy Director of the Centre for Space, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

Philippe’s research focuses on remote sensing and in particular the use of acoustics in marine environments. A new generation of sensors and applications, with subsea platforms and observatories, provides extremely large amounts of data, in which signals of interest might be lost. Philippe's aim is to make the most of the data using new processing approaches, based on experiments at sea and in the laboratory.

Collaborating with academics from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, Philippe will address two key questions in marine acoustics during his secondment to IMI:

  • What is the best mathematical way to analyse large acoustic datasets fast but accurately?
  • Is there an optimal way to integrate vast amounts of acoustic data into a spatial information management system in order to detect structures and correlations in the data at different nested scales?

Answering these questions is important for the monitoring of human impacts on the ocean environments and remote sensing of variations in biodiversity.


Professor Chris BowenProfessor Chris Bowen

Professor in Materials Science and Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Chris’ research interests are functional materials such as ferroelectrics and piezoelectric composites. His research focuses on the development of novel ceramic and composite materials as well as nanoporous and nanostructured materials. His research is also aimed at developing the dielectric properties of materials – as well as the embedded actuator motors and sensors within these materials.

During his secondment, Chris will work with IMI’s Commercial Research Associates to apply mathematical techniques to improve the modelling of bistable materials used in the production of energy capturing trees. He will also work on applying mathematical techniques to further the use of temperature fluctuations to create powerful acoustic pressure waves used in energy capturing systems.


Professor Chris BraceProfessor Chris Brace

Professor of Automotive Propulsion and Deputy Director of the Powertrain Vehicle Research Centre

Chris leads a wide portfolio of powertrain-based research projects with a common theme around the measurement, analysis and control of multi-cylinder engine systems running under dynamic operating conditions. All his research is conducted in collaboration with industry, most notably Ford Motor Company and Jaguar Land Rover.

During his secondment to IMI, Chris will collaborate with IMI’s Commercial Research Associates to develop a proposal for new interdisciplinary research aimed at gaining a better understanding of important but complex behaviours seen in engine systems. An example of this is the formation and migration of condensation in engine exhaust gasses. Improving our understanding of this is important, as it will enable the recirculation of a higher proportion of exhaust gasses, at optimal temperature and pressure. In turn this will lead to cleaner and more efficient engines, which ultimately carries huge environmental benefits.


Dr Katherine ButtonDr Katherine Button  

Lecturer in the Department of Psychology

Katherine’s research is focused on understanding the cognitive mechanisms that contribute to common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. She uses experimental techniques from cognitive psychology and neuroscience to gain insight into how these mechanisms can be modified to improve psychological treatments for patients. She also analyses existing data sets to investigate how current psychological treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can be optimally delivered.

During her secondment to IMI, Katherine will collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of academic researchers and business partners, to develop a proposal for new research investigating factors which influences patients uptake of psychological therapies offered under the NHS’ IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) initiative. Amongst others, the research will use sophisticated mathematical modelling techniques to analyse over 10,000 anonymised patient referrals and treatment progress, with the aim of identifying ways to improve NHS treatment services, uptake and success rates for specific patient groups.


Dr Sean CummingDr Sean Cumming

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Health

Sean’s research focuses on adolescent health and development, in particular, the growth and maturation of youths. Having an understanding of this enables sports organisations to intelligently select and train young elite athletes in a way which can optimise development and reduce the likelihood of injury. Sean works in research and consultancy roles with a number of leading sports organisations, including the Premier League, Lawn Tennis Association, and Bath Rugby.

As an IMI secondee, Sean will work with IMI’s Commercial Research Associates to apply statistical expertise to better understand the growth and development of young athletes and how this impacts athlete development and performance. His aim is to significantly improve the way the data is used to help monitor growth and development of young athletes and accommodate individual differences in biological maturity. During his time at IMI, Sean will also develop new improved equations to predict the adult height of a child, with the longer term aim of developing bespoke models of youth growth patterns.


Dr Thomas KjeldsenDr Thomas Kjeldsen 

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering

Thomas’ research focuses on the development of statistical tools for assessing the risk natural disasters pose to infrastructure systems such as roads and bridges. His work has, amongst others, led to the development of industry guidelines and a national framework for flood risk assessment in the UK.

During his secondment to IMI, Thomas will collaborate with Dr Ilaria Prosdocimi, Lecturer in Statistics at the Department of Mathematical Sciences, to develop a proposal for new research aimed at creating advanced statistical methods to assess the reliability of infrastructure systems. He will also work with international research partners to improve typhoon impact assessments and initiate closer collaboration with businesses for whom the risk of environmental extremes is a major concern.


Dr Nicholas PriestDr Nicholas Priest 

Lecturer of Population Biology in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry

Nick’s research focuses on why we age and most of this work involves empirical studies underpinned by mathematics. His lab uses large-scale demographic studies of fruit flies to understand the functional constraints imposed by infection and nutrient absorption. The Priest lab also uses a range of modelling approaches to estimate those constraints and show how they influence the evolutionary process. The ultimate goal of his research is to resolve the classic questions about the biology of ageing and organismal evolution.

During his time at IMI, Nick will work closely with Dr Ben Adams, Dr. Chris Guiver as well as IMI’s Commercial Research Associates, to identify general rules for how the optimal diet changes with age and test the models using data on nutrient processing collected in Nick's lab. Gaining an understanding of this problem is important not only for pest control, but also because it has implications for human health, where protein absorption appears to generate paradoxical trade-offs between immunity and healthy ageing.


Dr Michelle St ClairDr Michelle St Clair 

Lecturer in Developmental Psychology in the Department of Psychology

Michelle’s research focuses on many related aspects of developmental psychopathology. Amongst others, she is interested in the underlying reasons behind common mental illnesses and the mechanisms causing the increased rates of emotional disorders that are found in young people with language impairment.

During her secondment to IMI, Michelle will develop an interdisciplinary research proposal aimed at estimating the long-term economic costs of the childhood developmental disorder SLI (Specific Language Impairment), which affects between 7-10% of children. The research will involve statistical and mathematical ways to estimate the costs, drawing on multiple sources of data. Understanding the long-term costs of SLI is important, as it will justify increasing the funding of early speech therapy. The therapy is currently underfunded leading to long waiting times for treatment. This can be detrimental as early intervention is key to preventing costly long-term consequences of the disorder for the impacted children, such as psychiatric disorders, unemployment or low income.


Professor Nigel WildingProfessor Nigel Wilding 

Professor in the Department of Physics

Nigel’s research is focused on the study of novel phase behaviour in complex fluids such as colloids and liquid mixtures. Many of these fluids’ interesting properties have decades of length and time scales making them unobtainable with current computational approaches. Nigel’s research involves developing and applying theoretical and simulation techniques which bridge the length and time-scale gaps, thus allowing a detailed study of the properties of complex fluids.

During his time at IMI, Nigel will collaborate with the groups of Professor Robert Scheichl and Dr Dan Simpson to bring together state-of-the-art Monte Carlo and multilevel MCMC (Markov Chain Monte Carlo) simulation methods to explore the physics of complex colloids and develop new approaches. Once developed, Nigel will seek to apply these new methods to models of colloid-polymer mixtures using the high-performance computing facilities at the University of Bath. As part of his secondment, Nigel will also spend time exploring possibilities for industrial collaboration.