Fellowship boosts Sussex scientist’s brainpower research

Professor Thomas Nowotny

A Sussex scientist has received a prestigious fellowship for his world-class research in creating artificial brain networks.

Professor Thomas Nowotny is one of seven outstanding engineering researchers in the UK who have each received an RAEng/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The fellowships, which cover the salary costs of a replacement academic who will take over the recipient’s teaching and admin duties for the duration of the award, enable mid-career academics to focus on their research and further develop their careers. They are part of the RAEng’s programme to support world-class engineering research that is directly useful to industry or has high-growth potential.

Professor Nowotny uses computer models and simulation for predicting and understanding the behaviour of natural, physiological or artificial systems.

The size and accuracy of these models is mainly limited by the computational speed of the machines used, but Professor Nowotny is developing a way of increasing computational speed to allow larger and more complex simulations to be run. He is exploiting a combination of graphical processing units (GPUs), known to be 10 to 1,000 times faster than a single core of a processor in a contemporary PC, with artificial neural networks that can be used for forecasting and data mining.

Possible applications include more precise flood risk models and the simulation of neural networks as they occur in the brain for use in neuroscience research.

Professor Nowotny says: "The fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering offers me a unique opportunity to concentrate on my research for a full year and achieve progress in the fast-moving and exciting area of GPU supercomputing that otherwise would not have been possible."

Earlier this year Professor Nowotny and colleagues in Informatics were invited to join the Human Brain Project, a €1 billion European Union research initiative aimed at developing the tools needed to understand the human brain and its diseases.

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 5 June 2014