Undergraduate Teaching 2019-20

Lent 2019 Teaching Office Newsletter

Lent 2019 Teaching Office Newsletter

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Table of contents

Happy New Year and welcome to the Teaching Office newsletter!  Read on for mini-profiles of new staff & student reps, plus details of upcoming events & initiatives.

Upcoming events

SSJC exam study skills session

The SSJC (Staff Student Joint Committee) will run a  session on exam skills on Wednesday 13 March 2019 from 2.00-4.00pm in lecture room 3.  The session is particularly targeted at first-years.

Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy Discussion Events

Help shape the way Cambridge supports students’ mental health and wellbeing
If you can share some ideas on how to stay healthy, or want to have your say on what really gets students down, we really need to hear from you.

To support all our students to make the most of their time at University, we want you to tell us which issues are most important to students’ wellbeing - from paying bills, workload and friendship issues, to loneliness and imposter syndrome. 

Are there things people wish they knew before you came to Cambridge? How do you talk to a friend who’s feeling blue? Who would you turn to if you needed help?

Join one of our four discussion events and help shape the way Cambridge supports students' mental health and wellbeing (all students welcome).

Events are being held at:

·         St John’s College - Friday 25 January at 14:00h – 16:00h

·         Clinical School, Biomedical Campus  - Monday 28 January at 17:00h – 19:00h

·         University Centre – Wednesday 30 January at 14:00h – 16:00h

·         Newnham College- Thursday 31 January at 17:00h – 20:00h

·         Hauser Forum, West Cambridge – Friday 1 February at 12:00h – 14:00h

Part I Review

We plan to launch a Review of Part I this term and are very keen for all members of the Department to be able to contribute their ideas and comment on proposals.  To that end we plan to hold termly open forums, the first of which will take place from 13.00-14.00 on Wednesday 30 January 2019 in LR6. 

All students and staff are welcome to attend. Please indicate whether you are planning to come via https://tinyurl.com/PartIOpenForum  by 21 January so that we can gauge whether the room capacity will be sufficient.

Change in Cambridge is a lengthy process, so any major changes to Part I will not come into effect until Michaelmas 2022 at the earliest.  In the meantime routine course development will continue as normal.

Update on course surveys

Many thanks to all those who commented on the pilot of mobile-friendly surveys last term.  We've made the following changes for Lent Term in response to your feedback:

  • you can now give separate feedback for each lecturer on a given module;
  • we've streamlined the Part II module surveys so they're even quicker to complete;
  • we'll customise the templates at the lecturers' request, with the exception of a small number of core questions;
  • the surveys will go live during week 1 (links will be published on the modules' Moodle sites).

You should be given 5 minutes of lab/lecture time to complete the surveys.  Please do fill them in - we rely on your feedback to give us the detailed information that we need to improve individual modules, indentify good practice for sharing across the Department and flag issues that might benefit from wider consideration.

New staff at the Department of Engineering - Lent 2019

Prof Richard Prager (rwp12)

Richard, although not new to the University or the department, has recently become the Head of Cambridge University Department of Engineering.  He is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Queens' College Cambridge and of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. He is also one of the leaders of the Medical Imaging Group and from 2014-2018 was Head of Cambridge University School of Technology.

His research focuses on the development of better non-invasive diagnostic medical imaging systems based on ultrasound.

He founded the Medical Imaging Group in Cambridge Engineering Department in 1992.  Significant projects have included new fast and accurate calibration systems for tracked 3D ultrasound, the development of a high definition tracked 3D ultrasound system, innovative work on image-based freehand 3D ultrasound without an external tracking device, real-time 3D ultrasound deconvolution for image enhancement and three-dimensional elastography.  He also led a project to develop a hybrid scanner that combines the benefits of both tracked and mechanically-swept 3D ultrasound.


Dr Robert Foster (rmf41)

Rob has a BA in Philosophy from the University of Wales, Cardiff, and an MEng in Civil & Architectural Engineering from the University of Bath. He spent two years in practice as a structural engineer in London before coming to Cambridge to carry out a PhD in the Department of Engineering. Following his PhD, Rob spent time as a post-doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge and as Senior Lecturer in Structures in the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Research Interests:

Rob's research addresses ways in which structural engineering understanding can help us design healthier and more sustainable cities. He is interested in the relationship between local and global behaviour in structural systems, with a particular emphasis on the implications for design with heterogeneous materials. His work explores ways in which better structural assessment, reconfiguration and retrofit can help us make better use of our enormous inventory of existing concrete structures; the use of timber and other plant based materials for lightweighting and vertical extension of existing buildings; and the design of more sustainable tall buildings.

Somenath Bakshi is a new University Lecturer in Synthetic Biology. He is a single molecule biophysicist by training. He did his PhD in University of Wisconsin Madison under Professor James Weisshaar – developing super-resolution imaging technologies to study central cellular processes in microbes. After finishing his PhD, he moved to Harvard University for his postdoc with Professor Johan Paulsson. During his postdoc Somenath developed high-throughput timelapse imaging technologies of single microbes in controlled complex growth-conditions. He has also developed a novel self-erasable fluorescence barcoding system, which enables harnessing the throughput for boosting multiplexing capabilities, without any need for cloning and sequencing. Historically, a major challenge to rationally design synthetic circuits is the lack of robust and effective ways to evaluate them. The methods mentioned above facilitate this process enormously. Though much of his work has focused on methods and approaches to synthetic biology, he remains interested in quantifying the dynamics and control of natural circuits. In fact much of the work from his postdoc focused on real biological circuits, studying circuits involved in stress-response regulation and their impact on persistence of microbes towards antibiotics.


SSJC and Faculty Board student representatives


Edwin Bahrami Balani    (eb677)

IIA SSJC Rep & UG Faculty Board Rep

Edwin is a third year student at Magdalene. Here are a few words from Edwin:

My goal is to be an approachable representative, as much for third-years as for engineering students in general. I’ve been in such a community-focused position as a JCR officer in my college community for the past two years, and I would love to do the same for my subject community too.

In essence, I don’t mind — nay, I want — to be bumping into peers in the DPO/Engineers’ Café/bike racks/etc., to have a chat about ‘things’, whatever they might be! I’m a firm believer in (cliché alert:) being the change that one wants to see; I aim to turn those chats I have with people into tangible improvements.

Finnian Baseley (fb455)

UG Faculty Board Rep

Hi, I’m Finn. I’m a third year aerospace and information engineer. In my spare time I’m an RAF reservist and enjoy skiing and flying. My work on the faculty board will mainly be about representing student’s views at the top level of the department but I would also like to focus on modernisation of the course, the welfare of students and the value to students of any activity. 

Jonathan Carter  (jfc43)


I'm Jonathan, a third year engineer at St John's studying a varying mix of information, dynamics, electronics and even neuroscience. Currently I'm working on an exciting Hackbridge project on autonomous marine steering and am keen to raise awareness of the many projects and opportunities outside of tripos available to engineers. I'm also keen to help improve the Part I lab experience, particularly in providing more accessible, digestible information to students on what lies in store for the term ahead and pushing to modernise outdated labs.

Michaela Chan  (mkyc2)


I'm Micheala, a fourth-year civil engineer at Trinity Hall. This is my fourth year on the SSJC and as a college rep. I'm here to make sure all your voices are heard so please do come to me with any issues or feedback that you have! I'm here especially to represent the interests of fourth-years so do get in touch with any issues or queries. If you're not quite sure about what's going on in the department, or you think something could be improved, let me know!

Malar Chellasivalingam (mc2076)

PG Faculty Board Rep

I am a PhD student with Prof. Ashwin A. Seshia in the Department of Engineering and I belong to Queens’ college. My research focuses on designing MEMS sensors that could serve as efficient air-pollution monitors.

“Shoot for the Moon; Even if you miss, you will land among the stars”, is my motto. With that in mind, I aspire to contribute to solving air pollution through the MEMS sensors that we design.

It is with no doubt that all graduate research students in Cambridge have such ambitious goals. To achieve this, appropriate guidance and support from the high-level expertise (Professors/Supervisors) in the Department is necessary.

Based on students’ views and opinions, I would like to communicate with the Faculty and ensure that each one of us will be provided with the guidance and support that we require as PhD students, which in turn, will make us expand our wings and realize that sky’s the limit.