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School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Staff Spotlight - Dr Akram Alomainy

In this month's Staff Spotlight, we caught up with Dr Akram Alomainy who talks to us about his role as PGT Senior Tutor and his research activities including multi-scale electromagnetic solutions and antennas and microwave devices for 5G networks and, if he could, what he would like to invent and how close the industry is to achieving it.

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1. How long have you worked at Queen Mary?

I have been a faculty member of the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science since October 2007 so this now exactly 13 years. I am now a Reader in Antennas & Applied EM in the Antennas & Electromagnetics Research Group.

2. How long have you been the PGT Senior Tutor and what do you do in this Role?

I have been the PG Senior Tutor for 10 years. In my role as PG Senior Tutor, I chair the PG Staff Student Liaison Committee, Co-chair the Extenuating Circumstances Sub-board and also provide pastoral and general programme/course support to all our MSc students. This includes conducting regular open forums, focused discussion meetings and participating ion welcome weeks and special events designed to enhance engagement and provide mor interactive routes for feedback and improvements.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

To be honest, there are no two days that are the same and I do not have a conventional typical day. However, my time is divided into three main parts; organising and teaching mostly UG modules for first and second year students, conducting research and supervising my team of 9 researchers and PhDs working on various topics and areas related to antennas and bioelectromagnetic and providing professional and administrative support to the school and faculty in my role as PG Senior Tutor and being member of various panels such as the Enhance Student’s Employability Taskforce. Now with Covid-19 and everything being online, this has slightly changed, and we are trying to adapt to everchanging regulations and students’ expectation to cope with the blended learning offered to all our PG and UG cohorts.

4. What research are you currently working on and what do you hope to achieve?

My main research activities are divided into two streams. One on the use of multi-scale electromagnetic solutions for biomedical and healthcare applications ranging from wellness monitoring using wearable and textile-based solutions to nano-scale in-tissue communication for comprehensive preventive and diagnostic medical tools in areas such as dermatology and bowel diseases. For this research stream, I get to work with medical consultants and experts in their fields and also with materials scientists from Manchester and the Royal College of Art. The second stream is focused on antennas and microwave devices for 5G networks and beyond pushing the frequency to THz for extremely high data-rate and low latency links. For all my research, we are trying to push the boundaries of what exists and also fundamentally possible but at the same time provide applied research solutions that can be translated into real-time applications for industrial partners and community-based deployment.

5. What is your favourite thing about your subject?

I love how multidisciplinary it has become and how it fuses physics, maths and engineering to provide interesting and beneficial solutions in many domains. One thing I love the most is the fact that solutions for a specific problem can be scaled and applied for other domains. AN example, is the use of EM wave to communicate around he body for communication, which can also be sued for sensing and medical imaging with slight tweaks.

6. What is your greatest career/noncareer achievement?

Among them all, my favourite and most appreciated is the Isambard Kingdom Brunel Award that I received during the British Science Festival in 2011 for Outstanding Science and Engineering Communication. Communicating my research and work to wider audiences to engage larger sector of the community has been a passion of mine which was further developed with the help of my late colleague Prof Peter McOwan and also Prof Paul Curzon. Both of them told me at the start if you want to communicate your subject and research you need to communicate your passion and make infectious and then they will try to find out more about it and your institute.

7. As we are starting to go back to campus, what is your favourite place?

My new shiny office in the Engineering Building Science I did not get to enjoy it much due to the current Pandemic. Also, the area by regent canal next to the residential halls, which offers really beautiful scenery and also peaceful environment for relaxation.

8. Given a chance, who would you like to be for a day and why?

I know this might sound weird but if I have the chance I would love to be one of the architects involved in designing the Crossrail (Elizabeth Line). Lately, I have been watching and reading endless documentaries and exciting reports and I find it impressive how they are creating such a complex tunnel networks and structures in an already congested London underground world! In one instance, they dug a tunnel under Tottenham Court Road station while trains are running with a gap of 10 cm (Yep 10 CM) from the current existing tunnels! Also, because I have always been passionate about unique architectures such as the ones by the late Zaha Hadid

9. What advice would you give to an incoming PGT student?

I would advise them to make sure the get the best of all resources available to them especially online and also access to state-of-the-art research and leading laboratories not only in the UK but globally. I would encourage them to find more about how they can get involved through their projects in areas they are passionate about and also engage with their colleagues and staff since this has always led to exciting work and more enjoyable learning experience.

10. If you could invent/create one thing, what would it be -and how close is the indusrty to achieving this?

Shall I dare and say ‘Flying Cars’ or the ‘Talking Fridge’ … Only kidding! It actually would be nanobots for targeted drug delivery and better diagnosis of medical cases that can also be used through nano-scale networks in preventive solutions. I believe we are getting closer to this with the work done globally including some in our group and also the recent reports about nano-scale robots using origami principles that can navigate through mazes and obstacles.