February 21, 2007, by Teaching at Nottingham

Linking research and teaching

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Ed: “Normally we are lecturing in courses where we do research, on the whole we do. In engineering particularly we have a real problem in recruiting engineers to do PhDs and getting a good one is even harder.

“So it’s part of my philosophy, that wherever possible we talk about research in the lectures, because we are not telling them to become a PhD student, but if I have a meeting the following day or that afternoon with a company and we are talking about research, and it relates to what we are doing then I will tell them about this meeting and what we are hoping for, and then the next time we have a lecture they might ask how did you get on?

“And you are generally promoting the idea to students who may or may not decide that research is a possibility.

“There is nothing worse than students saying in their 4th year that they are going for interviews with companies, and they have never thought about research, and they have never had it presented to them. It’s a mistake which really is easy to address.”

Ed: “What this is is an infra red camera, that is focusing in on one of the stacks from a power station. If you look you can actually see that there is a temperature gradient from the top of the stack based on the gas temperature, which is coming out at about 120°.

“Depending on the day, and this was a summer day, the external temperature was fairly high, so you can see the plume, the effective stack height is fairly similar to the actual height of the stack. The plume buoyancy is not that great, it might also be that they have not got much gas going through it at the time. But you can see that there is a temperature gradient.”

Inaudible radio conversation in the background.

“I think you can now guess where I got the video from! And also where as well. The reason this is interesting is because I got that video from someone, because it had been mentioned at a meeting, a power company said they were very interested in looking at stack emissions

“And in America they actually have someone who goes every day and they look at the stack emission and they give it a grading of 1 to 10 or so, based on its blackness. Is it a really dirty plume?

“And they are only interested in that from a public perception point of view because if they have a power station that is making this big black cloud going into the sky, then it’s not seen as very healthy. So they have someone who has a calibrated eye and they just go measure.

“Now I had the idea that you could actually use image analysis to do the same thing. You just have a camera in a field with a computer and it monitors it all day long and it measures all the data. The big question is how do you find the plume? Which is some level of greyness, going into the sky which is potentially grey as well.

“It’s almost impossible to find it, so the cunning idea that I had was to use temperature, so you would have an infra red camera to find the plume, you superimpose the image. I’ll just show you how you do it. You superimpose the image onto the actual image and you subtract the two, so you actually find the plume and then you can do all your greyscale analysis using computers.

“So in America they would have this, they would have to monitor it and use it and all that data would go to the government. In this country that legislation doesn’t exist yet, but as you see the idea works. This is how a lot of research can get done, by having a good idea and then hoping someone will fund it, or not in my particular case.

Martin: “We do that a lot here, all the lecturing staff at Sutton Bonington are researchers, and we bring research material into our lectures as a matter of course, and I am constantly updating my lectures with things I have heard at conferences, things that I have read in papers, interesting tit-bits I’ll include them.

“That’s on the one side, on the other side all the students here are going to do a lengthy research project for themselves so it’s quite right that we should introduce them to the fact that the things we are studying are not know for certain.

“All the science we deal with here is at the edge and the things we tell them are only right for now, later on it might be changed, something else might be found, there are lots of areas we don’t know about and it’s perfectly OK to bring those into lectures.

“It provides an air of uncertainty into the lecture, which I think can be constructive because it enables you to develop a questioning mode to teaching.”

Ed Lester (Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering)
Martin Luck (School of Biosciences)

Ed is teaching Engineering students on a module about environmental protection (H8BENP Environmental Protection, Level B). Martin is teaching second year Biosciences students about reproductive physiology at Sutton Bonington.
This video was originally published as part of PESL’s Teaching at Nottingham collection.

Posted in Curriculum designResearch-informed teaching