Science and Technology Facilities Council
UK teams up with Malaysian scientists to tackle global research challenges
Scientists from the UK are collaborating with Malaysian academics on new studies that include improving the aerodynamics of supersonic vehicles, looking at physics beyond the Standard Model and trying to speed up the analysis of thousands of astronomical images.
Each project is designed to develop scientific capabilities in Malaysia and the research potential of Malaysian science and help in finding new answers to some major scientific challenges.
STFC and Malaysian partners have funded the projects via the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund, a partnership between the UK Government and Malaysia, which aims to develop science and innovation to promote the economic development and welfare of Malaysia.
The aim is to deliver internationally competitive and innovative collaborative research projects between UK researchers within the STFC community and Malaysian researchers, giving the opportunity for Malaysian researchers to be involved in leading research projects, thus helping their research community build capability. This enhances the abilities of the individuals and organisations involved to undertake high quality research efficiently and effectively.
STFC will also be offering its capabilities and specialist support to the projects, working with the expertise of the Malaysian teams to bring greater scientific benefits than if the teams worked separately from each other.
STFC Executive Director for Programmes Professor Grahame Blair, said:
“It is great to be forging a new international scientific partnership with Malaysia.
“These projects will undoubtedly contribute a great deal to our mutual science programmes and at the same time allow all of the collaborators to benefit from each other’s specific expertise. I look forward to seeing the research develop.”
One such global science project is the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) that will study neutrino properties and also look for events such as nucleon decays in a bid to understand how the Universe came to be made of matter. The University of Sheffield will lead a team to use machine learning to develop a method for spotting potential nucleon decay events against a background caused by cosmic-ray muons. They will be working with simulated data, as well as the data collected by prototype experiments, such as ProtoDUNE and the Short-Baseline Near Detector. Academics and PhD students from Malaysia will be trained in the areas of particle physics, data intensive science and machine learning techniques applied to complex particle physics problems.
STFC’s Scientific Computing Department will be leading investigations into new ways to make vehicles travelling at supersonic speeds more aerodynamic to protect them from dangerous turbulence that can cause system failure. This affects supersonic vehicles, rocket nozzles and turbine blades in jet engines. The team will be studying the current techniques to mitigate this phenomenon to see if it can be improved, both experimentally using a hypersonic wind tunnel, and using simulations.
In the third funded project, Malaysian academics, with support from University of Manchester, will be looking at how to train computers to sift through the tens of thousands of images that come from modern astronomical instruments to find the pictures of interest. Although computers have the ability to look at images quicker than a person, they need to be taught what they are looking for – which is where the Malaysian academics will use their expertise in image classification and deep learning.
Finally, the Coherent Muon to Electron Transition (COMET) Experiment is being built in Japan to study physics beyond the Standard Model. Top scientists from Malaysia will work with researchers from Imperial on the preparations for the experiment, real data-taking and the physics analysis of the data.
Nearly £800,000 has been awarded to the four projects, which will run until early 2022.
About the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund
The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund is part of the Newton Fund – a global UK government programme which builds research and innovation partnerships with 17 partner countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK Government investment of £735 million up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries. For further information visit the Newton Fund website (www.newtonfund.ac.uk) and follow via Twitter: @NewtonFund
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