Two University of Strathclyde researchers have gained funding for projects with partners in South Korea, through grants from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE). 

Dr Fiona Murphy, of Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, and Professor Pieter de Wilde, of the University’s Department of Architecture, have been awarded the funding to work with partners at Pohang University of Science and Technology and Seoul National University.  

They are among 17 researchers at Scottish universities to receive grants from RSE’s SAPHIRE (Scotland Asia Partnerships Higher Education Research) Fund. Nearly £150,000 has been awarded for research with partners in nations including Australia, India, Japan, Pakistan and Singapore.  

“SAPHIRE has awarded funding to projects focused on environmental issues and climate change, with the key themes of: clean energy and environment, including animal welfare; digital, physics, space and advanced manufacturing; health, and sustainable cities and urbanisation.”  

Dr Murphy’s grant will enable her to make a knowledge exchange visit to the laboratory of Dr Sungjune Jung at Pohang, to investigate the bioprinting of sophisticated lung models, which would reduce reliance on in vivo models for toxicity testing.  

She said: “My research focuses on identifying human health hazards posed by inhalation of particles in the air, in particular nanomaterials. These are a novel new class of particles, which are one-thousandth the width of human hair, with exciting applications in a wide variety of industries such as electronics, textiles, construction and medical devices.  

“The increased use of nanomaterials has, however, raised concerns over unintentional consequences for human and environmental health. Therefore, the potential toxicity of new nanomaterials needs to be assessed.  

“Dr Sungjune Jung has generated a robust and reliable model of the lung structure using state-of-the-art bioprinting approaches. However, the applicability of this model for the hazard assessment of inhalable particles and nanomaterials has not yet been tested.  

“This project aims to tackle a currently unmet need in toxicology and promote new ethical and sustainable methods for the hazard assessment of novel materials, which will be successfully achieved through continued collaboration between researchers at each institute.” 

Professor De Wilde will work on his project with Professor Cheol-Soo Park of Seoul National University. Both researchers explore the use of computer simulation for the design and operation of energy-efficient, zero-caron buildings and cities.  

Professor De Wilde said: “Building occupant behaviour is known to be an important factor that drives building energy use and associated carbon emissions. It is generally known that some buildings allow only minimal behavioural intervention, such as on/off control of lights. 

“Other buildings offer a much higher degree of intervention, for instance through temperature set-point and ventilation fan speed control, the opening and closing of windows and blind operation.  

“However, to date these constraints have not been captured explicitly and correlated with observed occupant behaviour and building performance. In this project, we aim to explore the question of whether we can quantify the degree of freedom that buildings, through their technical systems and operational constraints, allow their occupants to modify their behaviour. 

“Our study, which explores buildings in Scotland and South Korea, should allow us to scan across a wide range of buildings. The Scottish set will capture a building tradition that often relies on hydronic heating and natural ventilation, while the South Korean set tends more towards electric systems and air conditioning.” 

Scottish International Development Minister Neil Gray said: “The SAPHIRE scheme is funded by the Scottish Government to enhance educational collaboration between some of Scotland and Asia’s most prestigious universities and projects like these will support our goals in the transition to net zero and building a healthier, wealthier, fairer Scotland.”     

Professor Charles WJ Withers, RSE’s Research Awards Convener, said: “This is the largest cohort of researchers that has been supported through the SAPHIRE Fund: a scheme which encourages international collaboration to address crucial environmental issues.  

“On behalf of the RSE, I offer my congratulations to these leading researchers and their international colleagues and look forward to following the outcomes of their exciting work.”