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Top six postgraduate students honoured for research excellence

Press release issued: 7 November 2012

The best research dissertations produced by postgraduate students in each of Bristol University’s six faculties have been announced. The recipients, selected for the exceptional quality of their research work, have each been awarded a cash prize and a certificate of commendation in recognition of the honour.

The recipients, selected for the exceptional quality of their research work, have each been awarded a cash prize and a certificate of commendation in recognition of the honour.

One winner is selected from each faculty by members of the Research Degrees Examination Board, which oversees the exam process for research awards.

Professor Sally Heslop, Academic Director of Graduate Studies, said: “I am delighted to congratulate this year's prize winners.  We ask examiners to nominate postgraduate researchers who really stand out for the quality of their research and the way in which they have presented it, so the competition is tough and each winner has made a truly exceptional contribution to their chosen area of work.  

“All six are already gaining recognition and making an impact through presenting their results at conferences around the world, getting their research published in journals or books, or contributing to innovation in industry, business or government.

“It is a pleasure and a privilege to read the reports on the work of our top doctoral candidates, and to be reminded once again of just how good our postgraduate research students are.”

The 2011/12 Faculty Research Prize winners are:

Faculty of Arts - Dr Isabella Jackson from the Department of Historical Studies

Dr Jackson looked at how the Shanghai Municipal Council, dominated by the British, managed the heart of Shanghai during the decades of dramatic change in the first half of the 20th Century. What was a small city in East China became the country’s economic, political and cultural powerhouse. The research formed a case study in the nature of semi-colonialism as practiced in China.

Faculty of Engineering - Dr Christopher Lane from the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Working with Rolls Royce, Dr Lane developed a new system for detecting defects in turbine blades as part as his EngD. A 2D ultrasonic array system allows the blades to be inspected while they’re still installed in the jet-engine of an aeroplane, avoiding the expensive and time-consuming process of removing them from the engine for inspection. Analysis has shown that this system has fair greater capabilities than current inspection methods.

Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences - Dr Timothy Satchwell  from the Department of Biochemistry

Dr Satchwell worked on a range of projects, looking at improving our understanding of how the red blood cell membrane is built. He looked specifically at how the key membrane protein complexes are assembled. Through developing a model in vitro system, he was able to grow stem cells from blood and reproduce how the final red blood cell is developed. This opens up the future possibility of manipulating protein expression in these cells to make designer blood cells.

Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry - Dr Frances Carroll from the School of Social and Community Medicine)

Dr Carroll’s research investigated the decision-making process for couples considering antenatal screening for Downs syndrome. Respondents to the survey showed a good understanding of the risks involved, but preferences varied about the way the information was presented. The focus on couples, and the inclusion of male partners as participants, is rare and makes an important contribution to the research literature. Presenting risk information in a variety of ways, and resources that provide access to others’ experiences of making decisions about antenatal screening, emerged as vital to the process.

Faculty of Science - Dr Jennie Bright  from the Department of Earth Sciences

Dr Bright’s thesis looked at the methods used to analyse skeletal form and function by biologists and palaeontologists. Focusing on pigs as a model system, she sought to test the effect that estimation of complex biological parameters has on the results of finite element models – a technique used to understand the stresses and strains placed on bones and teeth. Her results have had important implications for how scientists use these techniques and the degree of modelling complexity required. Dr Bright’s thesis has resulted in four published papers and she has presented at a number of international conferences.

Faculty of Social Sciences and Law - Dr Elspeth Van Veeren from the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Dr Van Veeren’s thesis looked at how Guantanamo Bay detention camp was established as a ‘beacon’ of US military detention policy. She examined seven practices in depth – spacial practices, dressing practices, disciplinary practices, resistance practices, photographic practices, tourist practices and protest practices – examining how they came to embody and reinforce the conceptions of threat, danger and difference associated with the broader War on Terror. Guantanamo has been the subject of much academic debate, but this thesis managed to add something new and distinctive, and stands to make a contribution to the study of international relations and security generally.

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