What are some of the Engineering projects that University of Leeds has embarked on together with other Institutions?
The University of Leeds is situated at the very heart of the UK – precisely half way between London and Edinburgh (320 km / 200 miles from each). We are therefore ideally situated to collaborate with other UK universities where this is mutually beneficial. In Engineering, these collaborations are typically around research or researcher training (e.g. PhD students) and include the sharing of specialist equipment and the pooling of complementary expertise. For example, we currently have joint PhD Centres with Durham (Soft Matter), Manchester (Nuclear Engineering), Nottingham (Carbon Capture) and Sheffield (Tribology) and have recently led (with Manchester) the launch of a new regional High Performance Computing facility that is located at Leeds.
Outside of the UK we have a large number of formal and informal partnerships with other leading Universities. European Union funding provides support for many collaborative research projects and training networks (too numerous to list), and we also have excellent relationships with co-members of the Worldwide Universities Network (including Alberta, Auckland, Cape Town, Sydney, Western Australia and Zhejiang University ). In student education we have international exchange programmes with universities such as Adelaide, Arizona State, Berkeley, Georgia Institute of Technology, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, McGill, National University of Singapore, Wisconsin Madison, and many more.
Currently I am focusing more of my attention on increasing our Engineering partnerships with Universities in Asia. In the last 18 months alone I have signed new collaboration agreements and MoUs with multiple Universities in China, Hong Kong, India and Malaysia. These fast-growing economies offer great opportunities for collaboration in both research and student education and I am particularly keen to engage with fellow Deans regarding the internationalization of UK undergraduate and grad students through such partnerships.
The University of Leeds is currently building a new Library, how will this addition contribute to your research and student education in Engineering at Leeds?
In fact the new library will be focused solely around the needs of our undergraduate students, and will be in addition to our existing research libraries. This new addition will be particularly valuable for us in Engineering due to the changes that we are making in the ways in which we teach. Like many other institutions, we are seeking to better prepare our students for their future life in Engineering by increasing the emphasis on research-led education, personal research, independent thinking, problem-based education and group working. The new library will have many additional resources to support these activities, which were not so high on the education agenda when our current libraries were built (in the 1920S and 1960s). This will provide a significant increase in the number, and availability, of group working and social learning spaces for example.
Can you tell us a little more about what you mean by “research-led education”?
Yes of course. We use the term in its broadest possible sense. We are certainly keen to ensure that our senior undergraduate students are exposed to cutting-edge research as part of their curriculum. This includes providing opportunities to undertake long-term projects working within our research laboratories and facilities, as well as providing advanced level modules that introduce our students to some of the open research questions being studied at Leeds and elsewhere. However, we also use the term “research led” to describe an expectation on our students that they will develop the capability to apply their knowledge and skills to be able to discover for themselves. All of our degree programmes therefore contain substantial components of problem-based learning from the outset, including, for example, an integrated design project even in the first year of study. A further example of this approach is our active engagement in the CDIO initiative, which stresses engineering fundamentals but set in the context of Conceiving - Designing - Implementing - Operating (CDIO) real-world systems and products.
What are EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training and why are they important for Engineering?
You’ve obviously been looking at our Web pages! The EPSRC stands for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and they are one the largest funders of research and postgraduate student training in the UK. As the name suggests their remit covers support for all Engineering disciplines. In 2013 EPSRC ran a competition to fund over 70 Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), each of which is to support the recruitment of 50 PhD students, with 10 starting each year from 2014 onwards. Engineering at Leeds has been successful in leading three of these, in areas where we have established research strengths: Bioenergy, Fluid Dynamics and Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine. We are also partners in a number of other Centres (as noted in my answer to your first question). We are now in the process of recruiting the very best grad students to fill these places.
Peter Jimack is Dean of Engineering at the University of Leeds, UK. He has held the role since August 2010, prior to which he was Associate Dean for Research. Engineering at Leeds is structured into 5 Academic Schools (Civil, Computing, Electronic & Electrical, Mechanical and Chemical & Process) each of which teaches a portfolio of related Majors. Between them the 5 Schools have over 3000 students and generate an income, from research and student education, of approximately £65M (US$100M) per year. Peter’s background is in Computational Science & Engineering and he currently teaches and undertakes research in this area. His particular research interests are in the develop of efficient and reliable numerical algorithms and software, and their application to challenging engineering problems, typically in computational fluid dynamics. Dr. Jimack is a member of the GEDC Executive Committee and Chair of the GEDC Planning Committee for the WEEF 2014 Dubai.