Two leading UofG academics named as RAEng Research Chairs

Published: 3 April 2023

Two leading researchers from the University of Glasgow have been named as new Research Chairs of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng).

Two leading researchers from the University of Glasgow have been named as new Research Chairs of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng). 

Professor Jon Cooper, of the James Watt School of Engineering, and Professor Dimitrios Pezaros, of the School of Computing Science, are among seven new Research Chairs from universities across the UK announced today (Tuesday 28 March 2023). 

The Academy’s Research Chairs scheme enhances the links between academia and businesses, with the prestigious five-year positions co-sponsored by industrial partners. Each awardee will establish a world-leading research group in their engineering field. 

Over the course of the next five years, Professor Cooper and Professor Pezaros will work with industry partners to tackle major challenges in diagnostics and digital infrastructure security.

Professor Cooper will take on the role of the Global Access Diagnostics/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Community-based Health. A picture of Prof Jon Cooper of the James Watt School of Engineering

The new Research Chair role will build on Professor Cooper’s ongoing development of new low-cost medical diagnostics which combining DNA detection technologies with paper lateral flow devices. It is expected to result in new technologies for highly sensitive, self-performed DNA testing on disposable devices. 

Currently, the implementation of DNA testing in infectious disease diagnosis methods, such as the PCR test, requires expensive equipment, with the sample often being tested by trained staff. Lateral flow testing is much more convenient, with a diagnosis being performed at home, but it can often leave doubt over the correct interpretation of the result. 

This project aims to combine the accuracy and sensitivity of DNA and RNA testing, with the convenience of lateral flow technologies. This will mean that the highly sensitive tests can be widely used at home or in community settings. The technology will not only improve our resilience to new outbreaks of infectious diseases in the UK, but importantly will have impacts in the Global South where endemic infectious diseases, such as malaria and schistosomiasis, remain important healthcare problems. 

Professor Cooper said: “Our affordable, low-cost diagnostic tools have already been field-tested on several occasions over the last few years, with very encouraging results. This Research Chair position and partnership with Global Access Diagnostics will help us build on those successes and bring us closer to making this promising technology widely-available across the Global South.” 

Professor Pezaros has been named as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and Control & Instrumentation Nuclear Industry Forum (CINIF)/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Digital Resilience for Critical National Infrastructure.A picture of Professor Dimitrios Pezaros of the School of Computing Science

UK Critical National Infrastructure is becoming digitally enhanced and increasingly modernised to support better automation and efficiency. This happens through the interface between operational technology that controls physical processes, such as sensors, valves, and turbines, with generic ICT offering advanced compute and interconnection capabilities. A consequence of such modernisation is that elements of these vital systems are exposed to cyberattacks and adversarial events manifest through the digital infrastructure. 

This research programme aims to devise a holistic approach to protect the complex operation environments in defence and civil nuclear facilities. These comprise legacy and resource-constrained components and can have stringent performance requirements and reaction timescales. 

The project will include the development of technical mechanisms to measure and enrich the ability of systems to respond to challenges in their dynamic operation. It will also include machine-learning approaches for timely diagnosis of adversarial events as they evolve, and the effective integration of technology within broader organisational and regulatory frameworks governing the relevant sectors. 

Professor Pezaros said: “I’m pleased to be partnering with Dstl and CINIF in this new Research Chair role. Together, we will help to develop and deliver the robust and effective systems that will keep our critical infrastructure resilient against the increasing threat of cyberattacks.” 

Professor Máire O'Neill OBE FREng, Chair of the Academy’s Research Committee, said: “I am always impressed and encouraged by the ingenuity of engineers in developing and harnessing new technologies that address our many societal and global challenges and deliver public benefit. When research engineers partner with industry the solutions they deliver together can be transformative and these latest appointments illustrate this perfectly—the breadth and scale of their potential impact is truly exciting.”CooperPezaros2

First published: 3 April 2023

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