Strathclyde wins Young & Senior Researcher awards at European transport conference

Container ship from above.

A Professor in Naval Architecture and a PhD researcher have been honoured separately for their cutting-edge maritime safety research.

Hollie Black, who is pursuing a PhD at the department of Naval Architecture & Ocean Marine Engineering (NAOME), won the Young Researcher Award 2024 in the ‘Waterborne’ category in the Transport Research Arena (TRA) Vision Awards. Emeritus Professor Dracos Vassalos, also from NAOME, was given an Honorary TRA Award for his lifelong contribution to advancing maritime safety.

TRA is the largest European research and technology conference on transport and mobility and more than 4,000 delegates attended this April’s conference in Dublin. Along with the conference, TRA Visions awards successful researchers through an EU-wide competition.

Transformed standards

Professor Vassalos pioneered the concept of "Design for Safety" in the maritime sector, championing a shift towards goal-based legislation that has transformed safety standards globally.

Professor Dracos Vassolos

He has published more than 700 technical publications and books and supervised more than 75 PhD students, helping to shape the next generation of maritime safety experts. He also established the first Centre of Excellence on Maritime Safety Research within a university. The Maritime Safety Research Centre, is an industry-academia inter-disciplinary partnership at Strathclyde, and the only one in the world of its kind.

Beyond academia, his impact extends to other sectors, notably influencing safety and environmental practices in the rail industry.

The judges noted:

His work serves as a beacon for interdisciplinary collaboration, highlighting the interconnectedness of safety across different modes of transportation.

“Through his leadership, research, and advocacy, Professor Vassalos has elevated the discourse on maritime safety, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to shape industry standards and practices worldwide."

For the Young Researchers Award, each of the transport boards evaluated the work of researchers and shortlists them down to 10. The shortlisted projects were then used to determine the top three ideas per mode of transport.

Maritime safety

Hollie is conducting her PhD research at the Maritime Human Factors Centre and her PhD project ‘AI-Driven Identification of Human Factors in Maritime Incidents,’ focuses on using Artificial Intelligence techniques to enhance safety in maritime and offshore wind environments by analysing human factors contributing to incidents.

PhD researcher Hollie Black with her award

She said: “I am deeply honoured to have received this award. This recognition underscores the importance of innovative research in enhancing safety within the maritime industry. Through leveraging AI to analyse human factors leading to incidents, I aim to help contribute to a safer maritime environment.”

Her PhD supervisor at Strathclyde, Dr Rafet Emek Kurt, said: “Hollie’s research is not only innovative but also incredibly important, as it showcases a critical application in enhancing safety learning from maritime accidents and near misses.”

Research environment

NAOME Head of Department, Professor Evangelos Boulougouris, said: “The Department is thrilled and honoured for the recognition received in TRA2024 by two distinguished members who represent our department's long-standing tradition and promising future in the maritime and ocean research field.

“This achievement reflects the quality, commitment, and efforts of the awardees, who were supported by the collaborative, inclusive, diverse, and highly impactful research environment provided by our department and the University.”