Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I have been working for many years on validation processes for computational models of structures employed in a wide range of sectors, including aerospace engineering [see ‘The blind leading the blind’ on May 27th, 2020] and nuclear energy [see ‘Million to one’ on November 21st, 2018]. Validation is determining the extent to which predictions from a model are representative of behaviour in the real-world [see ‘Model validation’ on September 18th, 2012]. More recently, I have been working on model credibility, which is the willingness of people, besides the modeller, to use the predictions from models in decision-making [see, for example, ‘Credible predictions for regulatory decision-making’ on December 9th, 2020]. I have started to consider the complex world of predictive modelling of fluid flow and I am hoping to start a collaboration with a new colleague on the flow of sludges. Sludges are more common than you might think but we are interested in modelling the flow of waste, both wastewater (sewage) and nuclear wastes. We have a PhD studentship available sponsored jointly by the GREEN CDT and the National Nuclear Laboratory. The project is interdisciplinary in two dimensions because it will combine experiments and simulations as well as uniting ideas from solid mechanics and fluid mechanics. The integration of concepts and technologies across these boundaries brings a level of adventure to the project which will be countered by building on well-established research in solid mechanics on quantitative comparisons of measurements and predictions and by employing current numerical and experimental work on wastewater sludges. If you are interested or know someone who might want to join our research then you can find out more here.
About six months ago, I described the success of my research group in detecting the early stages of the development of damage in structural components using small, cheap devices based on infrared measurements [see ‘Seeing small changes is a big achievement‘ on October 26th, 2022] after it had been reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. The research was motivated by the needs of the aerospace industry and largely supported via the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. We are planning to extend the research to allow our technology to be used for diagnostics in future fusion power plants. Plasma facing components in these powerplants will experience significant structural and functional degradation in service due to the extreme condition in the reactor. Our aim is to develop systems based on our infrared monitoring technology that can identify and track material degradation without the need for plant shutdown thereby enabling unplanned maintenance to be undertaken at the earliest sign of component failure. We are collaborating with the UKAEA and are looking to recruit a PhD student to work on the project supported by the GREEN CDT and Eurofusion. If you are interested or know someone who might be interested then please follow this link for more information.
Last week brought excitement and disappointment in approximately equal measures for my research on tracking nanoparticles [see ‘Slow moving nanoparticles‘ on December 13th, 2017 and ‘Going against the flow‘ on February 3rd, 2021]. The disappointment was that our grant proposal on ‘Optical tracking of virus-cell interaction’ was not ranked highly enough to receive funding from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Rejection is an occupational hazard for academics seeking to win grants and you learn to accept it, learn from the constructive criticism and look for ways of reworking the ideas into a new proposal. If you don’t compete then you can’t win. The excitement was that we have moved our apparatus for tracking nanoparticles into a new laboratory, which has been set up for it, so that we can start work on a pilot study looking at the ‘Interaction of bacteria and viruses with cellular and hard surfaces’. We are also advertising for a PhD student to start in September 2021 to work on ‘Developing pre-clinical models to optimise nanoparticle based drug delivery for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy‘. This is an exciting development because it represents our first step from fundamental research on tracking nanoparticles in biological media towards clinical applications of the technology. Diabetic retinopathy is an age-related condition that threatens your sight and currently is managed by delivery of drugs to the inside of the eye which requires frequent visits to a clinic for injections into the vitreous fluid of the eye. There is potential to use nanoparticles to deliver drugs more efficiently and to support these developments we plan that the PhD student will use our real-time, non-invasive, label-free tracking technology to quantify nanoparticle motion through the vitreous fluid and the interaction of nanoparticles with the cells of the retina.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our work on a proof-of-concept for a digital twin of a fission nuclear reactor and its extension to fusion energy [‘Digitally-enabled regulatory environment for fusion power plants‘ on March 20th, 2019]. In parallel with this work and together with a colleague in the Dalton Nuclear Institute, I am supervising a PhD student who is studying the potential role of virtual reality and social network analysis in delivering nuclear infrastructure projects. In a new PhD project, we are aiming to extend this research to consider the potential provided by an integrated nuclear digital environment  in planning the disposal of nuclear waste. We plan to look at how provision of clear, evidence-based information and in the broader adoption of digital twins to enhance public confidence through better engagement and understanding. This is timely because the UK’s Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) have launched their new consent-based process for siting a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). The adoption of a digital environment to facilitate a consent-based process represents a new and unprecedented approach to the GDF or any other nuclear project in the UK. So this will be an challenging and exciting research project requiring an innovative and multi-disciplinary approach involving both engineering and social sciences.
The PhD project is fully-funded for UK and EU citizens as part of a Centre for Doctoral Training and will involve a year of specialist training followed by three years of research. For more information following this link.