Belfast Telegraph

'Top-rate engineer' wins major UK award

By Heather McGarrigle

A Belfast engineer has won a UK award for his research into wireless networks.

Dr Simon Cotton, a research fellow at Queen's University, won the Royal Academy of Engineering's Sir George Macfarlane Award, which recognises excellence in early-career engineering.

Dr Cotton's work focuses on the transmission of wireless signals around the human body, between people and man-made infrastructures and also person to person.

He has developed short-range applications which aim to create "body-to-body" networks in densely populated areas, where wireless devices positioned on people could replace base stations.

The 34-year-old from Greenisland started his HND in electrical and electronic engineering in 2000. He graduated from the University of Ulster in 2004 before taking a PhD in Wireless Communications at Queen's, where he went on to become a postdoctoral research fellow. He is currently a Royal Academy of Engineering research fellow.

Dr Cotton's papers have been published in several engineering journals and he recently co-founded ACT Wireless Ltd to take his products to market.

Professor John McCanny, director of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, described Dr Cotton as "a top-rate engineer" and "an inspirational advocate".

He said: "The growth of communications continues apace and pervasive body-area networks are an intriguing future possibility."

Professor Stephen McLaughlin, dean for research at the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Dr Cotton clearly has a first-rate intellect and this is coupled with a desire to see his ideas converted into something practical and useful; key attributes for an engineer."

The award is in memory of Sir George Macfarlane (1916 - 2007), one of the founding fellows of the Academy, and recognises the potential of younger UK engineers who have demonstrated excellence in the early stage of their career - less than eight years since graduation from a first degree in engineering.

Sir George Macfarlane made major contributions to research on radar during World War II and continued in government afterwards, eventually becoming head of the Scientific Civil Service.