Postgraduate Research Showcase

Erika Berenguer

I’m a Brazilian ecologist who has always been interest in tropical conservation and policy-making. The present and future state of the Amazon rainforest especially interests me. I’ve come to Lancaster because here I could find at LEC some leading tropical ecologists, like Dr Jos Barlow, who has been working in the Brazilian Amazon for more than 10 years.

According to the IPCC, global deforestation and land-use change have a great impact on climate change, and together they account for 20% of global emissions of greenhouse gases. Preventing further deforestation has been considered a highly cost-effective way to reduce emissions. My research aims to enhance our understanding of carbon stocks in disturbed Amazonian landscapes. Therefore, I’m assessing past and present-day disturbances together with current carbon stocks in a mosaic of land-uses. In the near future I intend to set up an exhibition on the Brazilian Amazon on campus, so people can get a closer look of what life is like at the deforestation frontier. Later on, I would like to organize a conference on tropical ecology, gathering in Lancaster specialists to discuss high impact research and how Science can better communicate its findings to policy-makers.

Cherry Canovan

I went to university at the normal age and after graduating became a journalist. After a few years I became science correspondent of the Times Educational Supplement. I wrote so many stories about shortages of physicists that I decided to take personal action! I was about to start a family and it seemed a good time for a career change, so I enrolled for a physics degree at my local university, Lancaster. I only found out afterwards that it was one of the best departments in the country!

I absolutely loved the degree and found the department hugely accommodating of my efforts to combine studying with bringing up my two small children. After graduating in 2008 I joined the Mathematical Physics group to do a part-time PhD. We specialize in a form of maths called differential geometry, which I am using to explore problems in classical electrodynamics.

I have recently published a paper in the American Journal of Physics on the historic Wilson-Wilson experiment, which is regarded as providing experimental confirmation of Einsteinian special relativity. I also won first prize at the 2nd LU Creativity and Change conference for a presentation on Wilson-Wilson. I am now working on a covariant model of dispersion along with other members of my group. As I am part-time, I expect to be working on my PhD for a few more years, but in the long term I hope to pursue a career in physics research.

Kelum Gamage

After completing an undergraduate Engineering degree in 2007 at the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, I worked as a lecturer at the same department for a year. Having decided to continue studying to doctoral level in a world class university, I selected Lancaster University.

Engineering at Lancaster has an international reputation for cutting-edge research and high expectations, world class expertise in the field, multinational student body and besides the beauty of the countryside contributed in my decision to pursue a PhD at Control and Instrumentation Research group.

Currently, I am a third year PhD student and working on the ‘Locating the fissile material with digital fast neutron tracking’ project. The project is supervised by Professor Malcolm Joyce and funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. In this project we have developed a method for digital imaging of neutrons and gamma rays in a mixed radiation field, which is the first report of a system to image neutron-emitting contamination using a fast scintillator detector (Patent No.1016806.0 (2010)).

During the summer of 2009, I worked at the National Physical Laboratory, London for a summer placement with Dr Nigel Hawkes. During this placement, I conducted research, namely the realisation of a compact digital neutron / gamma spectrometer.

Dominik Schmidt

I am currently in the third year of my PhD in computer science. After having finished my studies in Germany and the US, I joined the Computing Department at Lancaster University. Here, I found an excellent environment to conduct the research I am interested in, combined with a very friendly and productive atmosphere.

In my work, I am interested in supporting users to improve their experience with shared interactive surfaces. Particularly, I am looking into personalising surface interactions. For example, bringing mobile phones into play allows users to easily transfer their personal data between devices by simply touching a surface with the phone.

Ming Ki Chong

Having completed my master’s degree in computer science at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, I discovered my passion for research, specifically in human-computer interaction (HCI), usable security and ubiquitous computing (ubicomp). After graduation, I decided to do a PhD degree and joined Lancaster University in 2009. The School of Computing and Communications provides a wonderful environment for conducting research. Here, I have the freedom to pursue the research that I want to do.

In my PhD work, I am interested in understanding how users intuitively pair/associate wireless devices. In a wireless world, users can establish connections between devices spontaneously, and unhampered by cables. However, in the absence of cables, what is the natural interaction to connect one device with another? Using the knowledge learnt from my research, I can design customised techniques for users to establish quick and secure device association. After my PhD study, I want to apply the skills I have gained into this area of research and industrial design.

Jennifer Wadsworth

I work in an area of statistics known as extreme value theory, which deals with the probabilities of rare events: floods, heat waves, and financial market crashes are just a few such examples. The fundamental challenge is how to use existing data on these rare events, which is scarce by definition, in order to best inform us about the probabilities of future extremes. In doing so, we can help policy makers to strike a balance between risk and cost, for example in deciding how high to build flood defences.

The frequency-based approach to probability, where chance is estimated by the proportion of times a particular event has previously occurred, produces very poor results here: interest may lie in an event which has never occurred, but which still might (records are consistently being broken). Consequently, development in this area relies upon exploiting mathematical theory which describes how processes behave when they produce extreme values. However, much of the mathematical theory relies upon having an infinite amount of data available. One of the most interesting aspects of the subject therefore is to create methodology which is suitable for the finite amount of data that we have, whilst still being sufficiently mathematically rigorous to provide reliable estimates of probabilities. I have greatly enjoyed working on this throughout my PhD, and hope to continue pursuing these challenges in a research career.