In January 1998 the Department's teaching was assessed by a team of inspectors appointed by the Higher Education Funding Council. They were in the Department for the best part of a week and sat in on many lectures and laboratory classes, as well as examining in detail our quality control and monitoring procedures and the operation of the Faculty Board's Committee system. At the conclusion of the assessment marks are awarded and the Department was pleased to receive 23 points out of the maximum possible of 24. This equals the highest score given to any Cambridge Department so far and represents a substantial vote of confidence in the high standards of teaching in which we take pride. The successful conclusion of the assessment was made possible by the combined efforts of all members of the Department under the leadership of the Deputy Head (Teaching) Ken Wallace, the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Richard Prager and our Teaching Administrator, Clare Drummond.
Apart from the Teaching Assessment, the year has been notable for the continuous succession of building works that have been taking place within the main Department. The caretaker's flat on the fourth floor has been converted to be phase 1 of our new Laboratory for Communications Engineering, after our caretaker moved to a house near the Department in Lensfield Road. We intend to build further accommodation for this Laboratory on the roof. Work on phase 2 of the Library improvement scheme has been completed and now provides much better accommodation for both staff and users of the library. A refurbishment scheme for the Thermodynamics Laboratory was completed and plans have been made for the construction of new research and teaching accommodation in one part of the Structures Laboratory. We hope that this work will begin in the next academical year and it is part of a larger scheme to convert the roofspace above Lecture Room 3 into accommodation for research students.
Growth of the Department is occurring mainly by a steady increase in the number of research students and by an increase in the number and size of research contracts held by members of staff. Providing accommodation for them is difficult but so far we have been able to keep up with demand, although the Department is crowded.
The Manufacturing Engineering Division of the Department, led by Professor Gregory, has forged an alliance with the London-based Foundation for Manufacturing and Industry, which has been re-formed as the Foundation for Manufacturing Industry, and is now affiliated to our Manufacturing Engineering Division. This is intended to improve lines of communication to leaders of British industry and we welcome the opportunity it presents for more effective industrial liaison. We have also been pleased with the success of our Manufacturing Leaders Programme which provides mid-career opportunities for those in industry to obtain the new Master of Studies degree recently introduced by the University for part-time students.
At the beginning of the year Dr Andy Hopper, a Reader in the Computer Laboratory, was elected to our new Chair of Communications Engineering and shortly afterwards Professor Robin Langley from Southampton University joined the Department as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Later in the year, Professor Gehan Amaratunga from Liverpool University, and a former member of the Department, was elected to the Chair of Electrical Power Engineering, previously held by Professor Stephen Williamson. Also Dr Robert Mair, another former member of the Department and a Director of the Geotechnical Consulting Group in London, was appointed to the Chair of Civil Engineering which will become vacant at the end of the year on the retirement of Professor Andrew Schofield. A new procedure for personal promotions operated this year and I am pleased to report that Dr Peter Rayner was promoted to a Personal Professorship and Dr David Cebon, Dr Howard Hodson, Dr Jan Maciejowski and Mr Ken Wallace were appointed to Readerships. Dr Peter King of BP and Dr Meirion Lewis of DERA (the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency) were appointed to two Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professorships during the year.
Members of the Department continue to distinguish themselves across a wide front and awards during the year include the Institute of Materials Platinum Medal and Prize for 1998 to Professor Mike Ashby, the James Alfred Ewing Medal of the Institution of Civil Engineers to Professor Chris Calladine, and the Thomas Hawksley Gold Medal of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to Dr David Cebon and Dr David Cole (a former member of the Department), the ASME Melville Medal to Dr Howard Hodson, the ASME 1998 Aircraft Technology Award to Professor John Denton and the US Combustion Institute's Bernard Lewis Gold Medal to Professor Ken Bray. Many friends and colleagues of Professor Bray attended a reception in the Michaelmas Term to mark his retirement at the beginning of the academical year. There were numerous best paper and similar awards and our Speech Recognition team of Phil Woodland and Professor Steve Young again won the US Advanced Project Research Agency's Continuous Speech Recognition contest. This year it was necessary to separate speech signals from music and other non-speech sounds and then classify the speech signals. The Engineering Department's team succeeded in competition with eight other entries from teams in the USA, France and Germany. This year one of the 1998 Pilkington Teaching Prizes of the University was awarded to our colleague Dr Andrew Gee in recognition of his excellence in teaching.
During the year the Department received many visitors. Notable among them were the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan, who came to hear about teaching and research in the Department, and a team of Ministers and Officials from the EU's Internal Market Council which met in Cambridge in February. We are pleased that our reputation on the Continent remains high. In May, the German magazine Der Spiegel published the results of its survey of engineering faculties and the Department found itself in second place overall and the leading British department.
The year ended for us with two important events. To mark Professor Andrew Schofield's retirement, the Department's Geotechnical Centrifuge Centre was renamed the Schofield Centrifuge Centre at a ceremony on September 12th. A large number of representatives of the international soil mechanics community attended. And on September 25th the Cambridge University Engineers Association held its annual conference on Engineering, Energy and Sustainability. This was addressed by the Minister for Science, Lord Sainsbury, and the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Robert May and was the most successful CUEA Conference for many years.
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Last modified: October 1999