UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Four UCL Staff Awarded European Research Council Consolidator Awards

27 January 2016

Prof Sofia Olhede, Dr Philip Pogge von Strandmann, Prof Jochen Blumberger and Dr Stephen Hogan were all awarded ERC Consolidator Awards:

Sofia Olhede, a UCL Professor of Statistics, honorary Professor of Computer Science and honorary Research Associate of Mathematics has been awarded 1,587,602 Euro from the Mathematics panel of the European Research Council, to design new methods for studying large networks that evolve over time.

The grant will support the development of new models and analysis techniques with broad disciplinary applications, but with particular focus on networks in ecology and neuroscience. It will build upon past work investigating the dynamics of animal and plant populations, atmospheric and physical processes, and neurophysiological systems.

Such areas involve vast quantities of complex data. Networks are pivotal in modelling these Big Data volumes, and are an active area of research at the interface of discrete mathematics and statistics.

Professor Olhede is a key UK researcher in Data Science, and has recently been appointed Chair of the Science Committee of the new national data science institute, the Alan Turing Institute.

Commenting on the award, Professor Olhede said, "Networks are fascinating phenomena, defined whenever we try to simplify a set of objects and the relationships between them. Adding the extra dimension of time significantly complicates their structure and poses a number of challenges that must be resolved in order to describe and understand them. I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to invest my time in this burgeoning field."

Olhede has been at UCL since 2007 when she joined the department of Statistical Science, having been awarded a Chair at the age of 29.

Dr Philip Pogge von Strandmann, of the Earth Sciences department, has been awarded a €2M ERC Consolidator grant to study the processes that have kept the Earth's climate habitable for almost 90% of its life. The project will study atmosphere and ocean chemistry through periods of rapid climate change in Earth history, to determine the processes and rates by which the climate is stabilised. This will then be combined with advanced carbon cycle modelling. Overall the grant will attempt to answer one of the fundamental open questions in Earth Sciences: why life has managed to continue for so long on Earth.

Jochen Blumberger, Professor of Chemical Physics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has been awarded a €2 M ERC Consolidator grant to develop a novel computational method for the simulation of charge carrier transport in organic semiconducting materials and proteins that find applications in organic photovoltaic cells and nanobioelectronic devices. The envisioned methodology, based on solving some of the most fundamental equations of quantum mechanics, will be able to access length and time scales that are presently out-of-reach with existing approaches. The simulations will lead to a better fundamental understanding of how the charge carriers propagate through the material (e.g. as waves, wavepackets or particles), and how composition, structure and temperature affect carrier transport. The project will contribute to the development of an open computer programme package freely available for the scientific community. It will also yield important guidelines informing the development of high-performance materials that have the potential to transform emerging technologies of the 21st century.  

Dr Stephen Hogan in the Department of Physics and Astronomy has been awarded a €2M ERC Consolidator grant to carry out laboratory studies of collisions and decay processes involving atoms and molecules in highly excited electronic states (Rydberg states), which are present in the upper atmosphere of the Earth.

To carry out these studies Stephen will use a set of chip-based decelerators and traps, which he has developed since moving to UCL in summer 2012, to prepare cold samples of these atoms and molecules. These devices will allow he and his group to study collisions and decay processes involving these samples on timescales that were not previously possible. Through this work he aims to obtain new insights into the role that high Rydberg states play in the physics and chemistry of the Earth's upper atmosphere.

This new project will complement ongoing work in Stephen's laboratory in which he exploits atoms in high Rydberg states in hybrid approaches to quantum information processing, and collaborative work involving positronium and antihydrogen Rydberg atoms in which he and his colleagues employ similar experimental techniques.