HoS Update 14/07/2016

Dear Colleagues,

As the academic year (and my first as HoS) draws to a close, I just wanted to thank you all for the tremendous efforts and contributions over the past year, as well as share some news and highlights.
Graduation this week sees a celebration of student achievements, and I think we can all take a well deserved pat on the back on yet another cohort of graduates successfully departing with an excellent crop of degrees.

The next few weeks and months will see a range of changes and new arrivals.

New Staff

Professor David Knowles FREng will be joining us on 5th September, as Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Director (Engineering) of the South West Nuclear Hub.
David will be affiliated to the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and will be here on a part-time basis (0.7FTE), sharing the balance of his time with his current position as Technical Director – Energy at Atkins Ltd.
David brings a wealth of experience, both industrial and academic, with a strong background in the behaviour and structural integrity of high performance plant.

Professor Kate Robson-Brown, currently Professor of Biological Anthropology in the School of Arts, will be joining Mechanical Engineering on a part-time basis (0.4FTE) from August 2016.
Kate’s interests include osteoarchaeology, human functional morphology, evolutionary biomechanics and the relationship between the microarchitecture of bone, pathology, and biomechanical loading in life.

And just a reminder;

Dr Valeska Ting will be joining us in August 2016 as Reader in Smart Nanomaterials

Dr Aydin Nassehi will also be joining in September 2016 as Reader in Manufacturing Systems

Dr Tom Hill will be starting as a Lecturer in Dynamics from January 2017.

Clare Hickey has recently joined the professional services team as the Executive Assistant for Civil and PA to Sally Heslop.

I know that you will make ALL our new colleagues most welcome, as they become acquainted with the School and Faculty.

Further recruitment exercises are currently underway for a Chair in Structural Engineering/Head of Department for Civil Engineering, and a Lecturer in Structural Integrity to join the team in Mechanical Engineering, so expect more news as we continue to grow our academic team.

Over the summer, the professional services team will be recruiting two Undergraduate Administrators and also to the Senior Executive Assistant post to shortly be vacated by Julia Edwards. We can also look forward to appointing to the newly established role of Student Experience Manager who will be tasked with ensuring we make the best use of resources and facilities to support an engaged and happy student body.

New Roles

As previously advertised, a number of new roles and changes have taken place, as part of the School’s continued progress and development:

I am pleased to announce that Julian Booker will become our first School Education Director, and join the Senior Management Team.

After several years service, John MacDonald will be stepping down as PGR Director of Studies to be replaced by Theo Tryfonas.
Many thanks to John for his excellent and valued contribution.

Mike Tierney will be stepping down as Deputy PGR Director of Studies (MechEng) to be replaced by Michael Patterson
Many thanks also to Mike for his much valued contribution

The retirement of Mike Barton will see Steve Bullock take on the Faculty Widening Participation Officer role.

And as part of our efforts to address the future pipeline of applicants, we will be creating a dedicated School Outreach Team, led by Joel Ross.

Another exciting development will see Paul Weaver take on a shared role between Bristol and the University of Limerick, as part of a large initiative to create a composites research centre in Ireland.
It is hoped that this will allow a mutually beneficial partnership to grow between the two institutions.

Finally, we have a few of colleagues reducing their commitments or retiring;

Colin Taylor will be moving to 0.6FTE and focusing entirely on the opportunities offered by UKCRIC, and Patrick Godfrey has taken a well earned rest and reduced his commitment to one day per month.

After 8 years of service, Julia Edwards, Senior Executive Assistant and stalwart of the School over this time, will be retiring at the beginning of August.
Please join me in wishing Julia the very best for her retirement over tea and cakes in the SCR at 10am on Tuesday 2nd August.


The annual promotions process has now concluded, and I am sure you will join with me in warmly congratulating colleagues who have been successful in this round:
• Julian Booker on his promotion to Professor of Mechanical Design Dngineering
• Mike Yearworth on his promotion to Professor of Engineering Systems
• Theo Tryfonas on his promotion to Reader in Smart Cities
• Tasos Sextos on his promotion to Reader in Earthquake Engineering

Sadly, this also coincides with Mike Yearworth departing for pastures new as he takes up a Chair in Management Science at Exeter. Our best wishes go with him.

School Strategy and Performance

The draft School strategy has now been circulated, and I look forward to the School discussing this in late summer.
As we have recently seen, the environment in which we operate can change rapidly, and having a clear indication of what, who, where, when, why and how is ever more important.
As I stated previously, the plan is to have a dedicated School Meeting on this document, with a view to having it finalised before the start of the teaching year, and I am happy to hear any individual thoughts/ideas/comments before then.

As you may have heard, the University is under some pressure to arrest the decline in our position in certain league tables, especially those predicated on education rather than research.
I thought it worth highlighting the fact that within the School we are actually performing VERY WELL in this respect, and urge you to take a quick look at the Complete University Guide 2017 (www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/rankings/) to see the evidence.
Whilst not advocating complacency, we should be proud of the fact that we do a great job and we are open to and enthusiastic about continual improvement.

To finish, a few more routine notices;

There will be a further 25 lecture theatres equipped with Mediasite lecture capture technology over the Summer, in time for AY2016/17.
It is expected that around 80% of lectures will then be recordable.
Please be reminded that ANY opt-out of Mediasite recordings will NOT automatically be carried over to AY16/17.
Any such opt out requests will be the exception and must be approved by Head of Department/Head of School.

Staff Survey (Nov 2015): Rest assured that your inputs have been carefully scrutinised and an appropriate Action Plan put into place.
More updates on this as we proceed into the new AY, but hopefully you should begin to see tangible changes as per the many comments and suggestions.

An important date for the diary, we will be enjoying a School visit by the new VC, Hugh Brady, 09:30-11:30 Tuesday 7th February 2017.
There will be a chance to ask questions and hear more about the strategy implementation.

So we look ahead with excitement as the Departments, School and Faculty continue to demonstrate their successes across the many facets of our activities.
The next 12 months will see the QB New Wing come to fruition and the exciting prospects that that will open for new ideas on teaching and research.

It’s now time to recharge the batteries, take a bit of a breather, and prepare ourselves for the coming year.

Very best wishes,


New Appointments to the School 09/05/2016

Dear Colleagues,

It is with great pleasure that I would like to announce three new colleagues who will be joining the School as academic staff in Mechanical Engineering in the near future.

Dr Valeska Ting will be joining us from Bath, where she is currently a Prize Research Fellowship in Smart Nanomaterials in the Department of Chemical Engineering.
Valeska is interested in exploring the possibility of enhancing the storage capacity of existing nanoporous hydrogen storage materials,
creating materials for selective storage and sequestration of gases such as carbon dioxide and
investigating novel drug delivery methods through development of active nanoscale systems.
Valeska will be starting in August 2016.

Dr Aydin Nassehi will also be joining us from Bath, where he is currently a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering.
Aydin’s research interests are focused on computer modelling and analysis of manufacturing systems.
The main emphasis of his work is on developing a comprehensive framework for combining the current applications of modelling and
analysis of manufacturing systems, namely, integration, simulation and optimisation.
Aydin will be joining us in September 2016.

Dr Tom Hill is currently a postdoctoral research associate here in the Department of Mechanical Engineering,
and will become a Lecturer in Dynamics from January 2017.
Tom has interests in non-linear dynamics, in particular new methods of identification and analysis.

Also, many congratulations to existing colleagues;
Dr Pia Sartor, Dr Alexander Velichko, Dr Ben Woods, Dr Dario DiMaio and Dr Djamel Rezgui, who were all recipients of new appointments in the recent recruitment exercise.

I trust that you will make our new colleagues most welcome, as collegiality across the School is one of our key strengths.

Further recruitment exercises are currently underway for Chairs in Mechanical and Civil Engineering, so expect more news as we continue to grow our team.

Very best wishes,


HoS Update 28/09/15

Dear QSE Colleagues,

In the tradition of the previous HoS, I thought it useful to regularly circulate a short ‘Update’ on points of information, plans and ideas as we embark on a new era in QSE.

The new Senior Management Team is now fully in place, following the arrival of Elizabeth Gardner as the new School Manager. My thanks to Helen Curtis, the interim School Manager, who has now returned to her role in the Central Planning Team and a warm welcome to Elizabeth.

As you would expect from a ‘shiny, new team’, we have a number of ideas and plans that we wish to raise, discuss and implement over the next few academic cycles.

QSE Strategy

A key element needed by the School is a clear direction and focus. The creation of a strategic plan, built from the ground up, will be the focus of my efforts over the next few weeks. I have asked each HoD to begin formulating a Departmental Plan which will form the basis of a School Strategy. This will be a consultative process which I hope to complete by the Christmas vacation.

The five aspects which are to be addressed within this strategy are:

  • Research
  • Education
  • Staff & Recruitment
  • Space & Equipment
  • Student Support & Engagement

In the meantime, let me say a few things about some of these areas;


The existing research group structure is currently under review by Mike Fraser, Faculty Research Director, and I urge you to have your say and give feedback on research within the Faculty via the online survey.

  • https://docs.google.com/a/bristol.ac.uk/forms/d/12qjJ22igUvlNXgwbqIgOlezLvhObFbYqUJZMu5WnmDQ/viewform


  • https://www.bris.ac.uk/engineering/research/local/

The closing date for the survey is 30 October 2015.

Clearly, the outputs of this will have a major input into our QSE strategy


I am keen to start a wider debate on the future size, shape and form of the programmes we offer. As you are no doubt well aware, the world of engineering education is ever subject to change and we must ensure that what we do is competitive as well as being fit for purpose to maintain our leading position.

I intend to establish an Education Forum open to all, within which we can discuss ideas, programme design, share good practice, common approaches in delivery/feedback, sharing of resources/labs/assessments etc. and generally enthuse, encourage and support all the great things we do. More on this will be forthcoming soon.

As a precursor to this, I have initiated a project to pilot a school-wide TEL environment, dynamic laboratory exercise/support activity (analogous to the ChemLabs idea, www.chemlabs.bris.ac.uk) to explore how we might enhance the UG laboratory experience, with an initial focus on structures and fluids.

I am keen we begin to address the ongoing challenge of student feedback by seeking consistency and uniformity in our management of and feedback on coursework. Thus, I am requesting that we move towards electronic submission for coursework as the default. I am convinced that this will significantly improve efficiency and quality of our feedback, (as well as reduce the administrative burden) but accept that this may require an initial learning curve for many!

On a similar note, it will be interesting to monitor how the Mediasite lecture recording initiative impacts on our teaching. Please note that exemptions from participating in this scheme have now been delegated to your respective HoD.

Lastly, a reminder that the University is subject to a QAA audit in Feb 2016. This is the finale of QAA in its current guise, so it is incumbent on us all to make this go well. Please make every effort to ensure we are adhering to our usual high standards of practice.

Staffing, Citizenship and Support

Engagement with and participation in all the various research, teaching and administration activities is vital to our ongoing success. With this in mind, keeping HoD’s informed of your movements is essential, as is ensuring your commitments during term time are fulfilled. The message must be to all our students that they are our priority.

As you are not doubt well aware, the Departments are the nominal ‘home’ of the majority of academic staff but we have to face the fact that there is a pressing need to explore how we share and work more across the School. Ultimately, this will enrich both the student and staff experience, as well as reducing duplication of effort.

The HoD’s are currently pulling together a staff workload model to help balance workload and identify areas needing further resource or support. This will be a management tool only, to ensure we have a fair and sustainable approach to our teaching, research and administration duties. These models will be shared and discussed with you as they evolve.

Acknowledging that we are all under ever more pressure, I believe it is important that the community and social aspects of the School are reinforced. Thus, we plan to run a series of wellbeing and social activities to foster collegiality in the School (pizza already delivered!). Many of you have already noted the improvements we are making to the Senior Common Room, the regular ‘Orange Wednesday’ shared lunch times and weekly ‘Wellbeing’ walks. There are plans underway for more opportunities to meet together and at the same time enhance our working environment. Again, more news on this very soon!


Finally, the pressures on space (office, lab, teaching) continue to build. Rest assured, measures to address this problem will be undertaken with the best of intentions but will inevitably mean taking some radical decisions about our current usage. On the plus side, the planning and preparation for the New Wing Extension are gathering pace and the dedicated website should be your first point of contact for more information – (https://www.bris.ac.uk/engineering/currentstudents/eng-growth/)

Many of the above ideas, plans and issues will be revisited in the near term. For now, let me wish you all the very best for this academic year and I look forward to working alongside you over the next few years.

Finally, the strength of the team here in QSE is what makes us successful, so please join with me in congratulating Professor Michael Wisnom on being elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.



Best wishes,