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17 April 2023

Five King's scientists win prestigious New Investigator Awards

The academics awarded over £2 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

News release-img
Clockwise: Dr Calum Spicer (Department of Mathematics), Dr Nicola Paoletti (Department of Informatics), Dr Hubie Chen (Informatics), Dr Timothy Neate (Informatics), Dr Fabio Pierazzi (Informatics)

Five researchers from across the Department of Informatics and the Department of Mathematics have recently been awarded highly competitive New Investigator Awards. Funded by the EPSRC, the award empowers promising early career researchers to establish a research group and develop their own research vision to further projects with the capacity for transformative change.

Each application went through a rigorous process of cross-examination from established researchers, following funding allocation and statements of support from the Faculty of Natural, Mathematical & Engineering Sciences.

Professor Chris Frost, Vice-Dean of Research in NMES, said: 

It’s fantastic to see a number of our early career researchers secure this prestigious award from the EPSRC. The New Investigator Award provides crucial early support to deliver impactful research and address key societal challenges. I would like to congratulate all our academics for their success and the research support teams that have helped secure this important funding”

Chris Frost

More information on the winners and their projects is listed below. 

Dr Fabio Pierazzi, Lecturer in Computer Science – XAdv: Robust Explanations for Malware Detection

Malware is a constant threat to computer systems, and traditional methods of malware detection relying on manually defined patterns of attack can be slow and time-consuming. Machine Learning (ML) has been touted as a remedy to this and as a way to identify new types of malware, but with little visibility of how the system works, security analysts struggle to verify the correctness of the decisions made by the software.

The £390,000 grant will provide funding for the XAdv: Robust Explanations for Malware Detection project. The undertaking brings together an inter-disciplinary team across academia and industry under Fabio to improve the reliability and robustness of malware detection systems by explaining how they arrive at their conclusions to develop fixes faster.

Dr Timothy Neate, Lecturer in Computer Science – Content Accessibility (CA11y): Highly Individualised Digital Content for Supporting Diverse Needs

Working to overcome the challenges faced by those with complex communication needs in the modern world, CA11y seeks to make digital content more accessible to those with aphasia (a condition characterised by speech and language issues, often resulting from brain damage).

The £350,000+ grant will allow an interdisciplinary team across the university, aphasia charities and BBC Research & Development to build a series of prototypical technologies to simplify existing digital media. This will eventually culminate in an open toolkit from which others may use to build upon their work.

Dr Nicola Paoletti, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science – MCPS-VeriSec: Model-based Security of Medical Cyber-Physical Systems

The project will investigate the security of medical devices like implantable cardiac devices, used to treat arrhythmia, and artificial pancreas systems for glucose regulation in diabetes, against cyber-attack. Having experienced rapid technological advancement, these systems now support automated therapy delivery and internet connectivity, meaning the areas that could be the target of an attack have also expanded.

Empowering a team of collaborators including Stony Brook University and start-up Diabetes Neuromathix, the three year, £420,000+ grant will fund the development of in silico methods (ie, based on simulation models) to study stealthy attacks that target the specific vulnerabilities of the device’s AI-based system components, and the individual victim’s specific medical condition. The ultimate goal of this framework is to improve the security certification of modern medical devices.

Dr Hubie Chen, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science – Query Evaluation

Motivated by the digital age's need for larger and larger datasets, this project aims to understand when and how database query evaluation can be performed efficiently. A database query is a method to retrieve a specific set of information from a database, and within this umbrella term are numerous types of queries. By systematically studying algorithms relating to classes of database queries and how complex they are to carry out, novel methodologies can be constructed to help analysts get to the information they need quicker and easier.

The £475,000 grant will provide funding for Hubie to lead a team based at King's  to make the process of query evaluation more efficient. By using the above newly developed techniques, it is hoped that the retrieval of data can be made faster and less expensive across industries of all stripes and empower organisations to analyse their existing data more effectively.

Dr Calum Spicer, Lecturer in Pure Mathematics – Minimal Models of Foliations

Exploring the relationship between algebraic geometry (the study of solutions to algebraic equations) and dynamical systems (the study of how populations, physical systems and all others evolve in time), this research hopes to change the study of these dynamical systems are constructed.

Awarded £408,000, this grant links King's to collaborators in Rome Tor Vergata, the University of Milan and IMPA in Brazil. By integrating novel research directions from recent study of the Minimal Model Program, this research aims to provide a simple classification of the above systems.

In this story

Fabio Pierazzi

Senior Lecturer in Computer Science (Cybersecurity)


Lecturer in Computer Science


Senior Lecturer in Computer Science


Senior Lecturer

Calum Spicer

Lecturer in Pure Mathematics