UCL News


Royal Academy of Engineering medals for UCL professors

6 June 2006

Two distinguished UCL academics were recognised with medals at The Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Dinner last night.

Professor Peter Kirstein

Professor Peter Kirstein, Director of Research at UCL Computer Science, received the Lifetime Achievement award for his exceptional contribution to the development of the global internet from its early days as an academic research tool to its current position as a basic infrastructure for academia, industry and society. Sir David Davies, a former Professor of Electrical Engineering at UCL, was awarded the President's Medal.

Professor Kirstein has been described as an 'Internet Giant' for his work at the forefront of the development of the internet over the last 30 years. In 1973 he established one of the first two international nodes of the US ARPAnet, a military communications network that was a precursor to the internet. Since then he has been a key player in a number of important internet developments, leading a group which spearheaded the emergence of international network connections, mail services, directories, security, internet video conferencing and the Next Generation Internet (Ipv6). He later led the group which provided the main internet link between the US and UK for over a decade, during which time he was responsible for both the .uk and .int domains.

He has consistently fostered close international collaboration in networking research and distributed applications, which have been achieved through international research projects and the international deployment of results. He has led a series of groundbreaking research and development projects that have stretched the protocols of the internet to breaking point in order to enhance the system. Now 70, he continues to run these programmes, and still collaborates with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), European Commission and NATO.

Professor Kirstein's most recent work has been in high-performance networks, contributing to the case for the UKLight network, which will provide multiple, multi-gigabit per second wavelengths between the UK, EU and USA to support e-science collaborations.

Professor Kirstein said of his award: "I am delighted to receive this personal recognition, but more important is that the Lifetime Achievement Medal reflects the efforts of the many dozens of members of the UCL Networks Research Group, who have given it the reputation we have achieved over the last 35 years."

Sir David Davies is one of the most distinguished and influential engineers of his generation, and receives the President's Medal, which is awarded to an organisation or individual who has contributed significantly to the Academy's aims and work through 'initiative in promoting excellence in engineering.' During his tenure as a Professor of Electrical Engineering at UCL from 1973-1988, Sir David conducted highly regarded research in antenna rays, radar, signal processing and optical fibres, winning the Rank Prize for optoelectronics in 1984 and the Institution of Electrical Engineers' Faraday Medal in 1987. He was elected to the Academy in 1979 and to the Royal Society in 1984. He served as Vice-Chancellor of Loughborough University from 1988-94, as president of the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1994/95, and as president of the Royal Society of Engineering from 1996-2001. He has also served on the committees of many national bodies, including the BBC Engineering Advisory Committee and the Royal Society's Science Inquiry Committee. He was awarded a CBE in 1996 and knighted in 1994.

Alongside his academic career, Sir David has taken on a number of important public roles. Formerly Chief Scientific Advisor to the Ministry of Defence, advising government on sensitive political and defence issues, he also served as non-executive chairman of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency from 1998-2001. His most high-profile role was to write a report on the Ladbroke Grove train crash in October 1999, which killed 31 people and injured many more. His report to the Deputy Prime Minister, published in February 2000, evaluated the available safety systems and made recommendations that were later endorsed by public enquiries into the incident. He was also invited to be chairman of Railway Safety, a new company set up to promote and oversee rail safety issues.

Sir David is currently a non-executive director of the ERA Foundation, which supports activities to bridge the gap between research and commercial exploitation in electrotechnology; chairman of the Hazards Forum, which provides an interdisciplinary focus for the study of disasters and the lessons to be learned from them; and safety advisor to the Board of National Grid Plc.

He said of the award: "I was president of the Royal Academy of Engineering myself for five years, and it was a wonderful thing to have done. To receive the President's Medal is a great honour."

To find out more about Professor Kirstein or Sir David, follow the links at the top of this article.

Image 1: Professor Peter Kirstein
Image 2: Sir David Davies