The Royal Academy of Engineering names two Heriot-Watt academics for fellowships

REng fellowships

Dr Federico Belli and Dr Rachael Tobin from the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences are two of sixteen promising global research talents that have been selected from a competitive application process to be the 20th cohort awarded Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowships.

They were chosen for their work in Hollow-fibre optical parametric light sources (HOPS): a new generation of lasers and Quantum optical detection techniques for high-resolution depth imaging through obscurants.

Light is a powerful and precise tool to mould or inspect different materials or tissues. Dr Belli’s research will deliver a new generation of smart light sources based on hollow-fibres with enhanced control, fast tunability and high spectral power across the whole ultraviolet. This will impact semiconductor metrology, molecular spectroscopy, medical and free-electron lasers research.

Commenting on this achievement, Dr Belli, said: “Fantastic! I am truly excited to receive this Fellowship. Now, I can focus to deliver my research plan and engage more thoroughly with Heriot-Watt community as well as with my industrial and academic collaborators.”

Dr Tobin said of her achievement: “The Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship gives me a true opportunity for independent research. Heriot-Watt University is a fantastic place to do this as the research community is very vibrant in photonics and quantum technology."

Dr Tobin’s research will investigate the use of state-of-the-art single-photon detection techniques for three-dimensional imaging in challenging environments, such as through high levels of atmospheric obscurants and in extremely low-light conditions. This technology can be used in a variety of applications including security, defence and automotive LiDAR.

Research Fellowships are the Academy’s flagship scheme that support outstanding early-career researchers to become future research leaders in engineering. The fellowships are designed to advance excellence in engineering by providing £0.5 million of funding for five years to allow awardees the freedom to concentrate on basic research in any field of engineering.

The Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowships support early-career researchers to establish successful research careers and become future research leaders in their fields. The scheme provides funding for five years to allow awardees the freedom to concentrate on basic research in any field of engineering and establish a track record in the field. Funding for the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowships is provided by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Professor Philip Nelson CBE FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowships Steering Group, says: “The Academy owes a huge debt of gratitude to the many Fellows who provide a considerable amount of time and in-kind help with the selection, mentoring and networking of awardees. By providing long-term support in this way, they are helping the next generation of leaders establish their independence and global reputation and contribute towards building a sustainable society and inclusive economy that works for everyone.”

Over the past 20 years, over £106 million in funding has been provided to over 217 researchers and the scheme is currently supporting 87 Research Fellowships in 31 universities across the UK, over 30 per cent of which are held by women.

In addition to funding, awardees have also received mentoring from more than 180 Academy Fellows, who provide valuable advice and industry links.

As this is the 20th Anniversary, the Academy has created a short video specifically for the occasion.

Full list of awarded fellowships here 


Susan Kerr

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