Student Erin Saltmarsh (far right) and the DEPLOY project, photograph copyright Novespace

Walking in the air: University of Brighton researchers touch down after testing ground-breaking devices in zero gravity

Researchers have spent last week suspended in space-like conditions as they put two experiments through their paces during weightless parabolic flights.

The two projects tested, GELL-P and DEPLOY!, both have potential applications for space exploration and on earth. Rachel Forss from the School of Sport and Health Sciences and the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Devices who led the GELL-P project said of the flight: “It was amazing! A bit like swimming underwater but with less resistance and control. A unique experience; the zero g is quite pleasant, but the 1.8g on either side is what makes it tiring.”

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Staff and students representing the Gell-P and DEPLOY! projects sitting with five at the back and three people in the front

Last minute checks for research teams as countdown for weightless flights begins

Researchers practice for zero gravity flight to put ground-breaking experimental devices through their paces

The University of Brighton teams, including Aerospace Engineering MEng student Erin Saltmarsh, will have just 20 seconds at a time to run tasks in weightless conditions.

During each flight the plane will climb to an altitude of 7,500m before the aircraft goes into a 3000m high roller coaster climb and fall during which weightlessness will be experienced for about 20 seconds. This will happen 30 times in each of the three planned flights. Not surprisingly teams will be given anti-nausea jabs prior to the flights. Staff and students from the Schools of Architecture,Technology and Engineering, School of Sport and Health Sciences, Centre for Regenerative Medicines and Devices and Advanced Engineering Centre representing the Gell-P and DEPLOY! Projects gathered to go through a series of tightly choreographed tasks in preparation for the flights at the end of the month.

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poster explaining civil engineering project work

Two firsts for civil engineering graduate Luke

Congratulations to Luke Gardiner on winning the esteemed ‘Best Poster Award’ at the British Geotechnical Association Conference 2023 and graduating with a first from our Civil Engineering BEng(Hons) with integrated foundation year.

We caught up with Luke and Maria Diakoumi, Principal Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering about his project and the opportunity to get involved in research.

Luke’s dissertation and the work presented in his poster received high praise and the winning vote at the conference, an annual event attended by universities and industry. The poster focused on numerical modelling, building on earlier research on Gravity Base Structures for offshore foundations carried out by civil engineering lecturers Dr Maria Diakoumi and Dr Kevin Stone.

“This recognition is particularly significant given the tough competition from prestigious institutions such as the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Imperial College. We all felt very proud,” said Maria.

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Rachel Forss with Marco Bernagozzi

Brighton researchers take to zero gravity to improve lower limb wound treatment in space

Brighton researchers will analyse pioneering lower limb test kit in zero gravity to learn more about wound healing in space and improve diagnosis here on Earth.

Led by Rachel Forss from the School of Sport and Health Sciences and the Centre for Regenerative Medicines and Devices, the research team will conduct experiments on a parabolic flight in April 2024 from the Novespace centre in Bordeaux to assess how weightlessness impacts the circulation to the lower leg. 

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Atract project logo

University of Brighton joins AI project to save lives on the battlefield

Experts from the University of Brighton are part of a UK project to develop an innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) drone which will aim to save lives on the modern battlefield.

Project ATRACT, which stands for A Trustworthy Robotic Autonomous system to support Casualty Triage, will see the development of a flying drone that can assist and speed up triage in the critical post-trauma minutes that shape battlefield survival chances.

The project is being developed in reaction to changes to the modern battlefield that make traditional evacuation by helicopter impossible.

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Researcher to present healthcare carbon reduction plans to MPs and policymakers

University of Brighton researcher Julia Meister will showcase her ground-breaking work to MPs and Peers as a finalist in this year’s STEM For BRITAIN competition.

Julia is studying for a PhD in Computing in the University’s School of Architecture, Technology and Engineering, and is among a group of rising young scientists, engineers and mathematicians chosen as finalists in this year’s STEM For BRITAIN competition, which will take place at Westminster on 6 March.

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Sanaz Fallahkhair

Meet Dr Sanaz Fallahkhair

Dr Sanaz Fallahkhair is a Principal Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction. Sanaz’s research interests include human-centred development of new technologies that incorporate studies of user’s experiences, cognition and collaboration in designing a novel intelligent systems delivered via multiple platforms: mobile devices, interactive television, tag-based technologies, wearable technologies, and robotic interactions.

Why I wanted to get into teaching

I always been interested in understanding the universe in scientific, and artistic perspectives. It may sound controversial but to me the combination of science, art and humanity together can only triumph. Exploring a potential of novel technologies into designing something useful, usable and accessible was my aspiration when started to purse career into software engineering through my UG degree and later to PG and PhD.

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Duncan Baker-Brown

Meet Duncan Baker-Brown

Duncan is a part-time Principal Lecturer and Climate Literacy Champion based at the University of Brighton. He is a qualified Chartered RIBA Architect who has practised, researched, and taught around issues of sustainable design, the Circular Economy and closed-loop systems for over 25 years.

My career path and journey to teaching

When I was younger I wanted to be either a gamekeeper or work for Greenpeace. My mum said that she thought one day the only natural spaces in the UK would be the nature reserves, which slightly terrified me, so I was always aware of environmental issues.

I was always really good at art – my uncle was an architect and it was him that got me interested in architecture –  I worked with him at his practice in London.

After I’d studied a postgrad in London I came down to Brighton where I was given the space to do what I wanted, which in 1990 was to look at sustainable design and the way I could merge the environmental activist in me with the designer. Brighton uni has allowed me to do that for 30 years, so it’s been incredible.

In 1993 me and another student from Brighton entered the RIBA’s House of the Future competition which we won, and I was invited back to teach in Brighton in 1994. Architecture is on one level a vocational pursuit but there’s no better way than being involved in an academic environment where you are doing research as you’re having to explain your ideas in a very rigorous way. And with teaching, having students asking questions really keeps you on your toes!

How I combine my professional life with teaching

I’ve always enjoyed collaborating. My practice worked on the Greenwich Millennium Village for a few years, we were teaching and also running the Innovation Task Force for the Greenwich Peninsula envisioning what urban sustainability would look like.

In 2008 we took part in a Channel 4 TV show called the House that Kevin Built which was a live version of Grand Designs. We had to design and construct a prefabricated house made primarily out of organic carbon locking materials in only six days. It was the UK’s first A* rated low energy dwelling and it was 90% carbon locking materials. But the frustrating thing was students weren’t involved, so we had this idea to do a rebuild of it at the University of Brighton as a school project.

We changed it and with totally different material sources and the emphasis of it. The design and construction process involved professionals and students as young as fifteen – with over 360 students, plus over 750 school kids. Whatever module they were doing around design, technology, construction, professional practices, they were achieving their module credits by being involved with the design and construction of this live project, which the Guardian newspaper named the Waste House. It is a two-story teaching facility on campus which is also an ongoing research project and laboratory.

I’m really passionate about social justice and climate justice

I’ve just come back from COP27 where I was speaking, and that was the number one issue there which is why we had success with the ‘loss and damage’ funding decision for climate change impact on the Global South.

Understanding the real social and environmental impact that your decisions as a designer make, is what I’m really passionate about. When you think about where things come from – you need to find out if child/ forced labour is involved in the extraction of the copper you are going to use for example.

Advice I’d give to prospective students

You’ll be working quite hard and a lot of the way we teach at Brighton is studio orientated, so you’ll be working with a lot of people. Designing buildings is complex and hugely exciting but you need to learn to work as part of a team.

The great thing about architecture is that you could be designing a door knob or a city -the scale of projects can really be very diverse! And you can bring your own passions that might be outside the built environment into it – for me it’s been 35 years of doing lots of different jobs under the banner of architecture. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do as I liked art, design, science, nature and architecture is a big enough umbrella – you can bring lots to it.

What I love about teaching is that it’s intellectual exercise that keeps you fit – you realise how unfit you are in that world after a day or two teaching!

Duncan Baker-Brown presenting at COP27

Reduce climate impact now – sustainable construction expert reflects on COP27 experience

University of Brighton’s sustainable construction expert Duncan Baker-Brown reflects on COP27 and the pressing need to decarbonise global construction.

Duncan Baker-Brown attended the climate change conference in Egypt as co-chair of Royal Institute of British Architect’s Climate Task and Finish Group, contributing to debates on measures to decarbonise the built environment and reflecting on the urgent need for action. He highlighted the key role that architects must play, the importance of reducing whole life carbon, as well as discussing retrofitting and technology policy worldwide.

Construction creates an estimated third of overall waste and at least 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, with approximately half of the raw materials extracted from the planet each year destined for the world’s built environment. Yet COP27 was only the second of the high-profile international gatherings to discuss the built environment, following its first-time appearance on the agenda at COP26 last year in Glasgow.

On the last day of COP27, Baker-Brown witnessed the UN’s Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction launching a commitment to a ‘Buildings Breakthrough‘, with the UK joining France, Germany and 16 other countries confirming their support – with others set to join. The ‘Buildings Breakthrough’ commitment demands that “near-zero emission and resilient buildings are the new normal by 2030”, providing a joint vision and a rallying point for all countries.

Leading the way on sustainability

As a practising architect and environmental activist, Duncan’s research on sustainable construction informs his lecturing in architecture at University of Brighton, complementing the university’s broader commitment to providing practical responses to global challenges such as tackling climate change and creating sustainable and creative economies.

Researchers at the University of Brighton are playing their part in creating a greener, cleaner future with a diverse range of projects. These include agenda-setting work on the role of hydrogen engines in both the private and road freight sectors, exploring how to create the UK’s first zero-emission port, piloting the world’s first 100% hydrogen fired bricks, and driving change in sustainable fashion.

As a pioneering example of putting principles into practice, Duncan Baker-Brown also created the Brighton Waste House on the university’s City campus – the world’s first permanent building built almost entirely from so-called waste material – in the process diverting 55 tonnes of material that would have contributed to carbon emissions through landfill or incineration.

Waste House built almost entirely from waste materials

Duncan also played a key role in crafting Brighton & Hove’s Circular Economy Routemap published earlier this year, setting out an action plan behind a sustainable green growth strategy for the city to 2035. The University of Brighton is also at the heart of regional plans exploring green retrofits of thousands of local authority houses which will slash both energy bills and carbon emissions, while saving tenants millions of pounds in fuel bills.

Building on COP27 debates

At COP27, Baker-Brown took part in a panel discussion which explored the collaboration between businesses and governments that is needed to create a thriving and resilient buildings sector, capable of delivering for a net zero economy.

He said: “One of the most positive aspects of COP27 was the agreement to deliver a global fund for loss and damage, providing money to cover the existing economic, cultural and social impacts caused by climate changes to benefit some of the most vulnerable people across the world.”

However, it was not all good news. The goal of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius was described by UK COP26 President Alok Sharma as on “life support”, while UN Climate Chief Simon Stiell warned that current national plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 are not enough to stop further potentially devastating global temperature rises.

“It’s clear that we need to reduce our climate impact now. It’s undeniable that buildings are a significant source of emissions and construction design and practice has to change. Collective action is needed to embed carbon targets into regulations, and sustainability into planning and procurement processes. But we must commit to reusing materials that are currently destined for landfill, rather than continuing to plunder the planet’s raw materials”.

Duncan Baker-Brown
Photo of Jordan Whitewood in a wheelchair in a forest

Meet the Brighton activist fighting for disability justice in architecture

Architectural researcher and educator Jordan Whitewood-Neal is leading research, conversation and action for disability justice in building design. 

As Disability Awareness Month begins, University of Brighton architecture graduate Jordan Whitewood-Neal is leading a think tank at London School of Architecture, calling for the retrofit of buildings to better support disabled and ageing communities. “The architectural discipline has in the last few years finally begun to address race and gender inequities, but disability always trails behind,’ he said in a recent interview with the Royal Institute of British Architect’s RIBA Journal.

Having recently completed a master’s degree at Brighton, Jordan has been picked out by RIBA as one of its 2022 Rising Stars. “We can already see him making a difference to the way disability is talked about in projects and within the profession,” said Eleanor Young, one of the judges on the RIBA panel.

Describing himself as an activist as well as researcher, Whitewood-Neal has also co-founded the disability research collective Dis/, drawing on his own experiences as a wheelchair user. Teaming up with James Zatka-Haas and Anna Curzon Price, Dis/ grew out of an event at the London Festival of Architecture in which physically disabled and neuro-diverse creatives shared their experiences of navigating cities – stories Whitewood-Neal said usually remained “completely untold”.  

By leading research and conversation alongside driving action for disability justice in architectural education and practice, he hopes to raise the profile of disabled people within the profession. “A fundamental issue in architectural practice is a scarcity of disabled architects and designers,” he said. 

Dis/ aims to pair disabled architectural researchers with disabled people from outside the profession to talk critically about the city and the architectural needs of people with disabilities – and the struggles many needlessly face. Jordan sees this as not only spurring a consideration of disability as a critical part of the design process, but also a way to challenge the perceived homogeneity of disability – which too often looks no further than installing ramps. 

Jordan said: “After finishing my Masters in Architecture at the University of Brighton I was offered the chance to continue my studies there and expand on my ideas on the Architectural Research MRes. Since starting the course, I have presented my work at various conferences and events as well as undertaken projects including developing a design studio brief titled Retrofit as Reparation that I will be co-leading at the London School of Architecture.

“My research project on the MRes, tutored by Ben Sweeting and Tilo Amhoff, gave me an opportunity to explore novel research methods, alongside more conventional forms of archival research. This research has led to wider work campaigning for more inclusive architectural teaching, as well as founding Dis.”

Follow Jordan Whitewood-Neal on Twitter: @Jordan_WN_