Strathclyder scoops BAE Systems PhD Student of the Year Award

PhD Student and BAE award winner Callum Stark

A postgraduate researcher from the University of Strathclyde has been presented with BAE Systems’ prestigious PhD Student of the Year award for his innovative engineering concept for marine vessels.

Final year PhD student Callum Stark, 26, from the University’s Naval Architecture, Ocean & Marine Engineering (NAOME) department was selected as the overall winner for his research to create quieter marine propellers, ‘Engineering leading-edge tubercles to reduce sub-aqua noise pollution’.

Human-related underwater radiated noise (URN) has a detrimental impact on marine organisms who use the acoustic environment to perform key biological functions. As the propellers are a significant contributor to noise pollution, it is important to mitigate their effect and minimise the impact.

Humpback whales

The bio-inspired concept is based on leading-edge tubercles – the raised bumps on the pectoral fins of humpback whales, which are believed to improve its manoeuvrability.

When the concept is applied to marine propellers, it makes them quieter.

Callum, who is from the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, and who has also secured a job with BAE Systems in Barrow-in-Furness, said:

I am very happy to receive this award and to be recognised for my contribution to a key research area of interest to BAE Systems, with potential wider impacts for the sustainability of the commercial shipping sector.

“Although the PhD is largely individual research, it wouldn’t have been possible without the necessary funding through the Industrial Co-operative Awards in Science and Technology (ICASE) and Maritime Enterprise Innovation and Research (MEIR) initiatives, the support of my supervisors Dr Shi and Professor Atlar, and the research group members in ABM Hydro.

“The support from BAE Systems was also invaluable, providing technical support and sharing ideas throughout the duration of my PhD.”

Strathclyde is a strategic partner of BAE Systems, one of the world’s leading engineering and technology companies.

Every year each of the strategic university partners – Strathclyde, Cranfield, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham and Southampton, puts forward one student for the annual PhD Awards, with an overall winner chosen. The other five shortlisted students were Hannah Eccleston, University of Manchester for 'Microbially influenced corrosion'; Faye McCabe, University of Birmingham, 'Developing trust between human operators and AI systems’; Joe Tan, University of Southampton, 'Active acoustic metamaterials for high performance noise control' and James Wainwright, Cranfield University 'Human robot collaboration in Industry'.

The PhDs are all funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council. (EPSRC)

Outstanding research

Steve Harris, Head of External Partnerships at BAE Systems, said: “Like all the PhD finalists Callum has done some outstanding research and we are proud to give him the award this year.

“University research is an essential part of developing new technology, so we are grateful to the EPSRC and all those we work with to make this possible.”

Professor Stephen McArthur, Associate Principal & Executive Dean of Engineering at Strathclyde, said: “I’m delighted to hear of Callum’s award in recognition of his research into such an important engineering and environmental issue within the sector.

“BAE Systems is a valued strategic partner, and it is very pleasing to know that Callum’s research has been recognised as providing significant potential impact for them. I wish him every success with his new role in the company.”

The award was previously known as the BAE Systems ICASE Award and was expanded this year to include all BAE Systems’ student projects.

Since 2010, BAE Systems has supported more than 120 PhD students at strategic universities through the annual award.

Callum’s video and the other four finalists, can be seen here.