During the academical year 1999-2000, we celebrated the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the Engineering Department, when James Stewart was elected to a new Chair of Mechanisms and Applied Mechanics in 1875. To mark that occasion, the Royal Academy of Engineering held its annual Summer Soirée in the Department on 13th July 2000 and the Cambridge University Engineers Association held a Reunion and Conversazione on 14th July. Both were Royal occasions. The Academy's Royal Fellow, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended the Soirée with many other distinguished guests, and The Chancellor, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, attended the Reunion of some 400 members and guests of the Association in his capacity as its Patron, which he has been since 1953. We were delighted to welcome the Vice Chancellor back to his old Department on both occasions. Sir Alec Broers was the last research student to work under Charles Oatley on scanning electron-microscopes, and on his return to Cambridge in 1984 set-up and led the Department's pioneering research on nanotechnology. The CUEA was started by Professor Inglis in 1929 with Sir Charles Parsons as its first President, and, except for the war years, has continued with annual events ever since. Our current President, the first woman to hold this position, is Baroness Platt of Writtle who was an undergraduate under Inglis.
To support the Anniversary celebrations, the Department arranged an exhibition of its work in collaboration with industry and there were over 40 exhibition stands spread throughout the Department and into the Scholars' Garden of Peterhouse, which the College generously made available to us for the occasion. Part of our strength is our fruitful collaboration with the many people outside the Department, and an impressive collection of Engineering companies, many part of the hi-tech Cambridge phenomenon, were represented.
The Department published an illustrated booklet to mark its history called Engineering 125, together with a celebratory issue of Enginuity. There is also an extended history of the Engineering Department on the Department's web-pages, including a number of multimedia video clips and interactive demonstrations.
In November 1999, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced funding for a five-year programme of collaboration between Cambridge and MIT. The Chancellorís objectives are to improve competitiveness, productivity and entrepreneurship. This has led to the formation of the Cambridge-MIT Institute (to be known as CMI). There are four main parts to CMIís programme: (1) undergraduate student exchanges and shared teaching, (2) integrated research in fields likely to have a substantial impact on the future evolution of technology, (3) a programme of professional practice aimed particularly at industry, and (4) the establishment of a national competitiveness network to encourage the spread of good practice and entrepreneurial skills throughout the UK. The Department is playing a leading part in this collaboration and the first party of MIT students joined our undergraduate programme in October 2000. Work is in hand to prepare proposals for joint research activities with MIT and to develop relevant professional practice activities.
Teaching in the Department continues to attract high ranking. The Guardian University Guide, part of the Education Guardian, published its rankings for general engineering. The Department was placed first in a list of 14 universities, ahead of Oxford, Warwick, Lancaster and Durham. The same issue ranked universities according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency's figures for research funding. The indicator used was the percentage market share of research funds, averaged over all subjects. This placed Cambridge top of the list, ahead of UCL, Oxford and Imperial College. However all these three had a higher total share of research funds than Cambridge, so we are not complacent. In March, a new computing facility in the Design and Project Office was inaugurated. It consists of a substantial suite of high performance PCs, donated by the Intel Corporation. The provision of this additional equipment will be of immediate benefit to undergraduate and graduate teaching in the Department, including project work and research.
Modernisation of the Trumpington Street site includes substantial development work to the Thermodynamics Laboratory which will be finished next year, and a major extension for the Laboratory for Communications which has been nearly completed. In December 1999, the Department won a Joint Infrastructure Fund award to establish a New Centre for Geotechnical Process and Construction Modelling. This building will be sited on the West Cambridge site adjacent to our Schofield Centrifuge Centre. The new Centre will enable us to undertake a unique new generation of high quality tests on many pressing problems faced by the construction industry both in the UK and overseas.
Rolls-Royce and the Department have agreed to establish a University Gas Turbine Partnership (UGTP.) This Partnership will build on more than a quarter of a century of collaboration during which a sustained financial commitment by Rolls-Royce, particularly at the Whittle Laboratory, has led to significant technological advances. The new Partnership will expand the scope of this collaboration and provide an integrated approach to the therodynamics and fluid mechanics of gas turbines. It will include research in turbomachinery aerodynamics, noise and vibration, combustion, heat transfer and advanced thermodynamic cycles.
The Department moved into the biosensors field with a new large EPSRC grant to Professors Piero Migliorato and Chris Lowe (of the Institute of Biotechnology). They will be exploring how thin film polysilicon transistors can be used to build microarrays of biosensors. These are expected to have important applications for genetic testing and medical diagnosis. The project builds on the success of our thin film research in the Department and continues the collaboration with Epson in Cambridge. The research will be carried out jointly with the Institute of Biotechnology and is supported by the Newton Trust. It marks a new direction of research in the Department as engineering and biology increasingly focus on similar objectives.
The Department hosted a seminar on 'Next generation process technologies: Engineering in Japan' on the afternoon of 15 June 2000. The event was organised by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science with help from the Royal Academy of Engineering and EPSRC: support in the Department was provided by Dr Kenichi Soga. There were two scheduled lectures 'Control of abnormal structure formation in materials processing - Structuralisation of knowledge and infrastructuralisation' by Professor H Komiyama (University of Tokyo) and 'Next generation system integration and packaging - Materials interfaces and interconnection' by Professor Suga (University of Tokyo).
As usual, there have been numerous individual honours to members of the Department. Professors Dawes and Glover were elected to Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Professor Denton to Fellowship of the Royal Society; Professor Langley was elected a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America; and Professor Ann Dowling gave the Twenty-Eighth Minta Martin Lecture at MIT on the subject Flames, Sound and Vortices - A Damaging Combination. Dr Migliorato, Dr Welland and Dr Woodhouse were promoted to personal chairs and Dr Burgoyne, Dr Davidson, Dr J. Robertson and Mr Woodland to Readerships. These promotions were all back-dated to October 1999.
Our students have also won many awards, including John Ochsendorf, a second-year PhD student, who won the National Final of the annual competition for Graduate and Student Papers awarded by the Institution of Civil Engineers on the subject Innovative cable-supported bridges in Japan, and a team of 4th year undergraduates who won the British Model Flying Association's Annual University Challenge on 14 June 2000. Their challenge was to design, build and fly a model aircraft with strictly controlled engine and wing area with the aim of lifting the heaviest payload.
Professor Ian Liddell, who is a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor and a graduate of the Department, won the Royal Academyís prestigious MacRobert Award for Innovation in Engineering, together with his design team at Buro Happold (which included Paul Westbury, also one of our graduates.) The award is for their design and development of the roof structure of the Millennium Dome, which is the largest fabric building in the world, made possible by the innovative use of straight tension cables and flat fabric.
One of our most famous graduates, Sir Anthony Caro, became a member of the Order of Merit in 2000. Sir Anthony, who is an Honorary Fellow of Christ's, was an undergraduate in the Department from 1942-1944. His works of art can be seen in many of the world's leading galleries, including the recently opened extension of the Tate Gallery in London.
Lastly, I am sorry to record the death during the year of Alan Percival, aged 87. Alan was head of our Mechanics Group for many years and a long time Fellow of Jesus College. He graduated from the Department in 1935 and, after a period in industry, was recruited by Professor Inglis. His wife, Moira, worked for several years in the Whittle Laboratory.
D. E. NEWLAND
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Last modified: October 2001