SYMBIOSIS: Synergy between Mathematics, Bio- and Nano-engineering at Southampton University

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Mathematics

Abstract

This proposal is to develop new collaborative and sustainable interdisciplinary research teams at the University of Southampton (UoS) involving researchers from a wide spectrum of the Mathematical Sciences, with researchers in Nano-engineering and in Bio-engineering. The University has significant strengths in these rapidly developing engineering areas but, despite its strong commitment and long-standing involvement in interdisciplinary research, has yet to fully develop engagement between these areas and the Mathematical Sciences. The project will develop a dynamic and flexible programme of activities, under the name SYMBIOSIS, which aims to overcome current barriers at the University to develop collaborative teams. There are two broad themes in the programme: Mathematics in Bio-engineering and Mathematics in Nano-engineering. These themes will create focussed interaction between researchers in the disciplines of mathematics and engineering, so that new questions will be asked and new ideas formulated, in both disciplines. The interactions will also enable the transfer of state-of-the/art techniques across the interfaces of these disciplines. The programme will have various mechanisms that provide researchers with ring-fenced time to learn about new scientific areas, to become familiar with different scientific languages, to identify and carry out preliminary investigations of potential projects and to prepare proposals for external funding to develop and sustain research activity. In addition, SYMBIOSIS will take advantage of the tremendous potential at the University of Southampton for future collaborations involving the large pool of recently appointed academic staff members who have only just started on an academic career. The programme will encourage their participation in interdisciplinary research and, more importantly, allow them to gain crucial mentoring and experience in initiating and developing such collaborations. Finally, SYMBIOSIS will give opportunities to break down the geographical, social and hence academic distances between the various different disciplines. SYMBIOSIS will use a physical presence on campus to focus attention and to allow uninterrupted direct discussions, a facilitator to initiate and foster new collaborations, a strong virtual presence and an electronic work environment, all of which will grow a culture of interdisciplinary research and new collaboration. Specific activities will also include: an extensive set of workshops, both real and virtual, which will act as a pipeline to developing new collaborations; fellowships to allow immersion in alternative disciplines within the programme; a Visitor programme and SYMBIOSIS seminars; UoS- funded interdisciplinary PhD studentships for long-term focus. Four broad areas of mathematics have been identified as likely to be stimulated within the themes through new research challenges: Mathematical Modelling and Multiscale Physics; Combinatorics, Geometry and Mathematical Analysis; Understanding Uncertainty - Experiment and Analysis; Optimisation, Computation and Simulation. These areas will, in turn, contribute to the engineering research. Examples of possible research areas include: engineering design of sensors for the environment and for robotics, developing and assessing novel joint replacements in humans, and designing and improving micro-engineered machines (MEMs) through the use of new materials.

Publications

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Richardson G (2011) Multiscale modelling and analysis of lithium-ion battery charge and discharge in Journal of Engineering Mathematics

 
Description The SYMBIOSIS project has been highly successful in generating new collaborative research teams across the University of Southampton. A feature of these teams is the large number of early career researchers who play a leading or pivotal role in the research. Their involvement has secured the embedding of the interdisciplinary collaborative ethos of SYMBIOSIS in the University's research culture, both during the grant and for the future.

A major outcome from SYMBIOSIS is the creation of the Southampton Initiative in Mathematical Modelling (SIMM) to enable the extension of the SYMBIOSIS role of proactive initiation and development of interdisciplinary collaborations involving the mathematical sciences and areas of engineering so that it applies to all disciplines.

The four facilitators who occupied the post of facilitator during the project each gained substantial experience at the interface between Mathematics/Statistics and Engineering. They have all gained prestigious positions as lecturers or post-doctoral fellows working at this interface: three are employed at the University of Southampton where they continue to nurture and expand the interdisciplinary ethos within the University; the fourth is at Oxford University. All continue their active collaborations with interdisciplinary teams they joined through SYMBIOSIS.
Exploitation Route Objective 2, to build at least four active new collaborations, has been greatly exceeded. At least three completely new interdisciplinary areas have been created and gained significant external long-term funding. Many other new areas have been nurtured to the point where medium-term funding in the form of Phd students and industrial research projects ensure that the collaborations will be able to grow and develop significantly in the coming years

Specific success includes the following.
Ultrasonically Induced Fluid Flows - A new collaboration between engineering medicine and mathematics was created including Martin Hill, Richard Oreffo, Rosie Boltryk and Marvin Jones. A large grant was unsuccessful but SYMBIOSIS funding underpinned the ideas that went into a successful EPSRC New Researcher grant by Rosie Boltryk.

The mechanics of tissue development in interaction with porous biomaterials - Two large but unsuccessful BBSRC grants were submitted supported in part by SYMBIOSIS funding drawing in new collaborators in Medicine, Chemistry and Engineering. A further new collaboration was created serendipitously as a result of SYMBIOSIS funding. This brought a new team of Bioengineering, Medicine and Mathematics (Rohan Lewis, Bram Sengers and Colin Please) together to create models of placenta transport mechanisms related to understanding deficiencies in nutrient transport to the foetus. A paper outlining proof-of-principle concepts was written and a successful grant to BBSRC was created in collaboration with Colin Sibley and colleagues at Manchester University.

Mathematical Models in Photovoltaic Devices - Highly successful workshops funded by SYMBIOSIS have brought together major research efforts in the University in engineering, chemistry and mathematics on lithium batteries and on solar cells that had previously been separate. This was further enhanced by a visit by International experts from Australia. A highly successful EPSRC grant with Oxford University drawing in new industrial collaborators NEXEON and TIAX has been awarded that will allow the underpinning mathematical ideas to build on the solid experimental program that already exists.

Construction of universal footprinting templates in DNA - A highly successful collaboration between topologists and biology (Jim Anderson, Graham Niblo and Keith Fox) has been nurtured by SYMBIOSIS to allow graph theoretical ideas on optimally constructing special DNA strands to be enabled in a software environment thereby allowing the ideas to be transferred in a practical manner to the user community.

Novel statistical methods for developing lubricants for transient systems through experimentation - A major new collaboration has been nurtured by SYMBIOSIS funding between statisticians and engineers at the University's EPSRC-funded National Centre for Advanced Tribology Southampton (nCATS). This collaboration is working on the development of novel lubricants using novel design of experiment methods to understand wear reduction. The collaboration of David Woods, Susan Lewis, Robert Wood, Terry Harvey, Ling Wang is collaborating and receiving support from the Lubrizol Corporation and anticipate a grant submission in the near future.

Other new collaborations include between the recently established EPSRC-funded CeM-CATS (Centre for Multi-disciplinary Computer Assisted Tomography at Southampton) and Mathematics with Statistics. This collaboration involves Ian Sinclair, Jeremy Frey, Thomas Blumensath and Stefanie Biedermann. Preliminary theoretical ideas and algorithms have been created under SYMBIOSIS and possible funding routes are being pursued.

A highly successful new collaboration in the area of understanding diabetes involves Sujit Sahu and Andy Chipperfield, statistician and bioengineer, who have been developing state-space models to analyse data on blood glucose levels. A PhD studentship has helped to take this work forward and the initial research outcomes are forming the basis of a much larger new collaboration, with a bid for funding at the planning stage, across medicine, nursing, electronics, statistics, mathematics and engineering on the development of new sensors for direct monitoring of diabetic problems and behaviour.

A new collaboration between Tracy Melvin and David Woods (bioengineer and statistician) has made preliminary identification of subpopulations in stem cells using statistical classification and Bayesian estimation techniques. A grant proposal and paper is in preparation.

SYMBIOSIS and GlaxoSmithKline have together supported a major, and on-going, proof-of-principle project across statistics, bioengineering and chemistry. This work looks at statistical design and modelling techniques for the closed loop optimisation of continuous flow systems in pharmaceutical development. An industrial research proposal is under consideration.

SYMBIOSIS funding of workshops and a problem definition study have enabled a collaboration to be developed in the complex area of the manufacture of optical fibres. The researchers involved are from the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton and statistics, applied mathematics and operational research. This work is now at the proof-of-principle stage and a grant submission is planned. A University PhD award in Statistics has recently been made to help to sustain this collaboration into the future.

The SYMBIOSIS project has provided the atmosphere and the pump-priming funding to enable researchers to identify and grow new collaborations. The mechanisms exploited have been various and the flexibility of the project has allowed each group to develop in its own way. In the longer term these groups will seek funding from numerous funding bodies but the general approach and ethos will be continued through SIMM.
Sectors Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport

 
Description BBSRC Grouped
Amount £356,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/I011315/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2011 
End 11/2014
 
Description BBSRC Grouped
Amount £356,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/I011315/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start  
 
Description EPSRC
Amount £282,464 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/G059101/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2010 
End 06/2014
 
Description EPSRC
Amount £101,085 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/H01392X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2010 
End 04/2011
 
Description EPSRC
Amount £282,464 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/G059101/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2010 
End 06/2014
 
Description EPSRC
Amount £101,085 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/H01392X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2010 
End 04/2011
 
Description EPSRC
Amount £283,483 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I017070/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2012 
End 01/2015
 
Description EPSRC
Amount £239,227 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I01702X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2011 
End 08/2012