Professorial Inaugural Lecture Series

Prof Martin Schroder, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering

"The inaugural lecture is a centuries-old tradition, a transition point in the career of an academic, recognizing leadership in their chosen field. I am proud to welcome such exceptional leaders to Manchester."
Professor Martin Schröder, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Upcoming inaugural lectures:

Michael Shaver

Professor Michael Shaver, Department of Materials

Title: Saving The World One Piece Of Plastic At A Time

Date: Thursday 18 June, 3:00pm (followed by Wine reception in the Great Hall until 5:00pm)

Location: C53, Sackville Street Building


David Attenborough in Blue Planet II did what many polymer scientists in my field have been trying to do for years: convince the public and government that the challenges of plastic waste are real and need to be fixed. But is this as simple as doing away with single use plastic?

This talk will explore the complex nature of our plastic environment, the interdependency of plastics on our goals for lowering our carbon footprint and increasing our expected lifespan, while also showcasing our own work on how polymer chemistry has the opportunity to shape a new sustainable future by developing interdisciplinary solutions.

This talk will explore how my own research – and indeed understanding of sustainability – has evolved over the years, transforming into our current foci of degradable plastics, functional materials and waste management.

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Previous inaugural lectures:

Professor Danny Dresner, Department of Computer Science

Title: The Attack on a Cyber Man: Finding the threads that bind information together and mending them when they break...

Date: Wednesday, 11 December 2019, 5.15pm

Location: Lecture Theatre 1.1, Kilburn Building


Cyber security has become a passion for me over the last 25 years: from editing the first national information security breaches survey in 1994, through to teaching international delegates at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.

In this lecture, I shall map a path from the analogies – and inspiration of – science fiction to a multidisciplinary approach to computer science. I shall talk about balancing technology with people, and discuss the very personal concerns of encouraging students to become a fifth column for good in our interconnected cyber world.

I shall explain the outcomes of action research that has improved the cyber security posture of small businesses, my work on navigating the increasingly confusing ‘library’ of standards and good cyber security practice, and how we live in a period of inevitable cyber risk. I shall also refer to a sustained attack on my own personal data...

The journey will take us from Maryland cookies to a security operations centre staffed by neurodiverse cyber specialists. Along the way, I’ll touch on the three laws of cyber security, a triple helix for teaching cyber security, and keeping the revival of The Ratio Club in the Turing family.

No security clearance required!

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Professor Anthony Peyton, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Title: Maxwell, Manchester and Me

Date: Tuesday 3 December, 5:30pm (followed by pizza)

Location: D45a, Sackville Street Building


This talk will take a look at the role of a research academic by tracking the journey of three different research programmes from their initial conception, through their various phases of fund raising and delivery, to their current position. The research is based on different aspects of electromagnetic inspection and in different industrial sectors, but conducted at The University of Manchester.

New non-destructive testing (NDT) system EMspecTM for monitoring the microstructure of steel during hot processing Monitoring the integrity of structure network cable Humanitarian demining.Each example highlights the challenges of delivering research from initial conception, through proof of concept and converting the results to impact, and the nuances of the translating research into practice.

The talk will reflect on the nature of the academic mission against an environment of increasing corporate management, TEF, REF, pathway to impact, H-index, impact factor, league tables, student satisfaction, social responsibility etc, and ultimately our duty to the public that fund us; as well as touching on the changing nature of the role Universities are expected to play in today’s society. This will hopefully be an entertaining accompaniment to early evening pizzas.

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Professor Megan Jobson

Professor Megan Jobson, Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

Title: Seeking synergies in separation processes

Date: Friday, 29 March 2019, 3.00pm

Location: Lecture Theatre C14 / C001 Great Hall, Sackville Building


Chemical processing plants are complex networks of process units, where separation units are at the heart of these networks. My research on process integration within these plants, focusing on separation processes, aims to develop useful approaches for modelling, design and optimisation: these techniques search for – and exploit – synergies that enable the clean and efficient use of raw materials, energy and equipment.

A major focus is on crude oil distillation. Although the technology has changed little in over 80 years, systems approaches continue to help with exploring and exploiting interactions between the distillation units and heat recovery system. Increasingly versatile modelling approaches are now being applied alongside machine learning to go beyond process design and retrofit towards real-time optimisation.

My work is also focusing increasingly on development of integrated processes, especially those which combine separation technologies and/or reactions. Such novel processes could potentially lead to step changes in what is technically feasible and what is economically viable. This work applies materials science, nuclear science, molecular modelling and industry-specific knowledge, together with process modelling and analysis, in fields as diverse as air separation and extraction of specific compounds from spent nuclear fuel.

This lecture will celebrate my journey – and my companions along the way – of some 25 years of seeking synergies in separation processes.

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Professor Simon Harper, Department of Computer Science

Title: Behavioural Modelling for Good not Evil

Date: Wednesday 27 February 2019, 5:30pm

Location: Lecture theatre 1.1, Kilburn Building


Monitoring, modelling, and changing behaviour have been getting a bad ‘rap’ recently; but it’s not all Russian Troll farms on Facebook, Cambridge Analytica swinging Brexit, Amazon recommending things you don’t want, or a social media bubble better tailored to the views of you and your friends. Measuring behaviour has a long and deep history which is not just limited to cynical manipulation. From its simplest form tracking fitness and sports performance to deeper understandings of health and wellbeing, my work is based on the three pillars of Unobtrusive Measures, BioMedical Telemetry, and Human-Machine Symbiosis.

I’ll talk about working with Blind people, Older users, people with Parkinson's Disease, and people with mental health conditions. We’ll look at different technologies and ways to understand behaviour and how we allocate meaning to that behaviour so that we can adapt ‘apps’, systems, environments and a person's behaviour to benefit them in their everyday lives. We’ll finish up with a cautionary note, elaborate what's coming up in the next 20 years, and elucidate a couple of ‘left-field’

‘Friday night experiments’.

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Professor Stuart Holmes

Professor Stuart Holmes, Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

Title: From Zeolites to Fuel Cells (and beyond): a career path through intricate porous structures

Date: Friday 1 February 2019, 3:30pm

Location: Lecture Theatre C53 / C001 Great Hall, Sackville Building


The use of materials for the enhancement of environmental processes has long been recognised, with an early example being Aristotle [1] describing the use of ‘sands or soils’ for the desalination of seawater, a possible example of an early ion-exchange processes.

Although I have been working in the area of porous materials for a long time, it is not quite that long. However, I will describe my career path through the use of zeolite materials in hydrocracking catalysts; via diatomaceous earth (the material Alfred Nobel used to make dynamite) and waste water treatment; into membranes and electrochemical processes, notably fuel cells. The pathway will describe the synthesis and development of a range of different structures to try and enhance the performance of these systems and will showcase how the work developed. This involved collaboration with numerous people and, where possible, I will embarrass them with old photos.

Finally, the recent work in fuel cells will be discussed with a simple explanation/demonstration of how a fuel cell operates followed by a description of our studies and speculation about the future direction of the technology and more broadly the hydrogen economy.

[1] Aristotle., Works. Vol 7, 933b (circa 300BC), publisher not known!

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Professor Angelo Cangelosi, Department of Computer Science

Title: Developmental Robotics: An Interdisciplinary Journey from Psychology to AI and Cognitive Robotics

Date: Wednesday 12 December 2018, 5:30pm

Location: Lecture Theatre 1.1, Kilburn Building


Developmental Robotics (Cangelosi & Schlesinger 2015) is the interdisciplinary field that aims to design sensorimotor and cognitive capabilities in robots, by taking direct inspiration from child psychology experiments. This relies on the combination of cognitive- and neural-inspired AI and machine learning methods. Such a highly interdisciplinary approach nicely fits Cangelosi’s own journey and epistemological approach which started with a background in humanities and experimental psychology, and then led to research in AI and cognitive robotics. During the talk we will present several examples of developmental robotics models of language learning and grounding. This will include studies with the iCub robot on early word and grammar learning, on embodied number learning. and a neurorobotics model combining the iCub and SpiNNaker. The implications and use of these models for human-robot interaction applications, such as robot companions for older people, will also be discussed.

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Professor Tony Kiss, Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

Title: Driving sustainable innovation in chemical engineering

Date: Monday 15 October 2018, 3 - 5.30pm

Location: Lecture Theatre J17 / B Floor Foyer, Renold Building


The modern society faces many challenges of improving quality of life and economic prosperity while also trying to reduce the impact and footprint of humankind activities on the environment. In this context, chemical engineering plays a strong role in driving sustainable innovation for a better world. The lecture will highlight key examples illustrating the substantial progress made on several topics:

  • Energy efficient chemical processes that exceed operational excellence and strive for tangible breakthroughs by sustainable process integration and intensification using a systems approach.
  • Development of bio-based chemicals and energy area where lays a whole world of undiscovered innovations in biofuels production, biomass refining and introduction of new separation methods.
  • Value creation from waste, which is made possible by developing and optimizing new processing methods and separation processes, and by improving strategies to reduce/recycle/reuse waste.

The chair aims to conduct research that is fundamentally interesting and with important applications, while at the same being innovative, impactful, insightful, inspiring, and also invaluable to the society. Frequent interactions between industry and academia are needed to enhance the practical skills of the students, provide talent for industry, and foster open-innovation projects that make sustainable growth possible. Linked to the Process Integration Research Consortium, the plan is to build more bridges across the industrial and academic research in the field of chemical process technology.

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Professor Philip Martin, Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

Title: Plasmas: from physical science to chemical engineering

Date: Friday 15 June 2018, 3 - 5:30pm

Location: Lecture Theatre C53, Sackville Street Building


Plasmas are all around us, from the sun to lightning and flames as well as technologically in neon signs and televisions. They contain an exotic mix of electrons and ions, excited atoms and molecules and we will explore how new techniques enable us to characterise these species. Low temperature plasmas, where the gas can be close to room temperature yet the electrons are very energetic with corresponding temperatures of a few thousand degrees Centigrade, enable many engineering applications that would otherwise only be possible at high temperatures. Examples from recent work are carbon dioxide utilization, pollutant remediation, thin film coatings and plasma catalysis. We will conclude with an outlook for plasmas in science and engineering: how can they be engineered for our benefit?

Professor Gavin BrownProfessor of Machine Learning in the Department of Computer Science

TitleFinding new ways to Think : Twenty Years in Machine Learning

DateWednesday 21 March 2018, 5:30pm

LocationKilburn Building Lecture Theatre 1.1, The University of Manchester


Machine Learning is changing the world. But it's still a young field, compared to the classical science and engineering disciplines. The exciting potential for the field has created a veritable sandstorm of new ideas and papers, increasing all the time.

Since I started my PhD in 1998, my time has focused on finding new ways to think, to see a clear path through that sandstorm. My team has found connections and built bridges that unify seemingly disparate parts of the literature - we've created principles, theories, and frameworks that simplify the field. This has enabled new directions, from stronger foundations. This lecture will review some highlights, where we've built bridges from deep learning to statistical feature selection, from there to computer architectures and reproducible research, and from medical drug trials to domestic violence.

Professor Konstantinos Theodoropoulos in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

Professor Konstantinos Theodoropoulos, Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

Title: Integrated systems approaches for the sustainable bioproduction of fuels and added-value chemicals

Date: Thursday 4 May 2017, 3 - 5:30pm

Location: Room J17, Reynolds building. 

CEAS Blog post by Professor Konstantinos Theodoropoulos

Professor David Johnson, N8 Chair in Microbial Ecology Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title: Life in Earth: Why soil biodiversity matters for ecosystem functioning

Date: Wednesday 15 Nov 2016, 1pm

Location: Theatre D, Simon Building

Abstract: Soils are repositories for a huge abundance and vast diversity of organisms, which drive processes that sustain all other life on Earth. The last two decades have seen considerable advances in our understanding of the crucial functions played by soil organisms. Soils provide fascinating examples of how evolution has overcome the need for organisms to acquire energy and nutrients; provide protection from natural enemies; form intimate symbioses with other organisms; and resist human-driven perturbations.

In this lecture, I will provide some examples of the critical roles soil organisms play in regulating life-sustaining ecosystem processes, and illustrate how soil organisms are the ideal model systems to test ecological theory. Finally, I will argue that we must better understand 'Life in Earth' if we are to manage ecosystems, both to mitigate predicted changes in global climate and feed a rapidly increasing human population. 

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