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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L015854/1
Title: EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Non-Equilibrium Systems
Principal Investigator: Sollich, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Bhaseen, Dr MJ Fraternali, Professor F Malamud, Professor BD
Lorenz, Dr C
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Financial Network Analytics (FNA) Fios Genomics Ltd Julich Research Centre
King Abdullah University of Sc and Tech Microsoft National Physical Laboratory
The Francis Crick Institute TU Berlin University Montpellier 2
University of California, Irvine University of Potsdam UPMC (Univ of Pierre & Marie Curie)
Wuhan University
Department: Mathematics
Organisation: Kings College London
Scheme: Centre for Doctoral Training
Starts: 01 May 2014 Ends: 31 October 2022 Value (£): 3,870,473
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biophysics Complexity Science
Condensed Matter Physics Non-linear Systems Mathematics
Tools for the biosciences
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Environment Financial Services
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
23 Oct 2013 EPSRC CDT 2013 Interviews Panel O Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
How do we understand whether epidemics will spread, or predict the likelihood of extreme meteorological events? How do we optimize nano-particles to make them efficient vehicles for targeted delivery of drugs in medical applications? Can we predict how a cell in a specific state will evolve in time, for example whether it will stay healthy or become diseased? How do we prevent over-heating in fast electronic devices, or understand how energy conversion in the next-generation of solar cells might work? Can insights into extreme events in the sciences be used to detect whether a network of financial institutions is close to a crash?

These research challenges all relate to non-equilibrium systems. Such systems are typically irreversible, so that if a movie of the system was played backwards it would look very different. For equilibrium systems, on the other hand, a backwards movie would appear much like the original. This lack of an "arrow of time" makes equilibrium systems relatively easy to understand, and indeed most existing methods for predicting e.g. the behaviour of materials are based on the assumption of equilibrium. For non-equilibrium systems, on the other hand, we know much less. They can "age" towards an equilibrium state that is never reached, or exhibit extreme events. The latter are often the result of cascades of collective failure, as illustrated in phenomena ranging from stock market crashes to environmental disasters.

As the examples in the first paragraph show, understanding, predicting and controlling non-equilibrium behaviour is an important challenge in many problems across the physical, mathematical, biological and environmental sciences. The starting point for the proposed interdisciplinary Centre for Doctoral Training is, therefore, that significant progress will require researchers that can exploit and strengthen such links between disciplines. They will need to be trained in how to analyse non-equilibrium systems theoretically, via mathematical models, how to study their behaviour via computer simulations, and how to extract information about them from possibly noisy or incomplete data. They will also need to be aware of the important non-equilibrium problems in different disciplines, to see connections, transfer methods and concepts from one application area to another, and develop new approaches.

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Non-Equilibrium Systems (CANES) will provide the training that such a new generation of researchers will need. In a substantial cohort of at least 10 PhD students per year it will make sure that ideas are exchanged systematically; research projects will be designed to build bridges between different disciplines employing similar methods, or to explore the connections between different approaches that are used to study non-equilibrium systems in the same area. Students will acquire transferable communication and presentation skills, and take part in outreach activities to increase the public understanding of non-equilibrium science. In `open questions sandpits', industry engagement events and dedicated careers events they will also obtain a solid understanding of the priorities of industrial partners working on non-equilibrium systems, and of attractive career paths outside of university. Overall, CANES researchers will emerge with a wide variety of skills that are highly sought after in academia and industry. CANES will also put UK research in non-equilibrium systems on the international map, helping the UK to compete against other countries like the U.S.A. where there is already a significant drive to strengthen research in this area.

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