2014 Whitworth Visionary

Congratulations to Dr Ben Hughes from the School of Civil Engineering for being selected by the IMechE's Whitworth Awards Panel to be the 2014 Whitworth Visionary.

Whitworth Scholarships are awarded to those who possess talent, leadership skills, motivation and a desire to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them.

Sir Joseph Whitworth founded the scholarship in 1868 to provide a link between science and industry, this work continues today with annual undergraduate awards of £18,000 and postgraduate awards of £22,500 for outstanding engineers studying at a UK institution. The original requirements as specified by Sir Joseph of high levels of practical skills and academic achievement remain. Thirteen presidents of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers have been Whitworth Scholars.

Dr Hughes said “It’s nice to be recognised but it’s very much a team effort, we are trying to provide practical solutions by innovating known technologies to eliminate or reduce their energy demand, which requires a multi-disciplinary approach so without their support the work wouldn’t be possible. The Whitworth Society has supported me from the start of my research and continues to do so, I hope this encourages our students across the faculty to take advantage of the support on offer.”

Dr Hughes served a full 4 year apprenticeship with Shell UK from 1994-1998, remaining as a shift maintenance engineer whilst studying part time. After achieving 1st Class honours in Mechanical Engineering, Dr Hughes undertook a PhD in Natural Ventilation in Buildings, at Sheffield Hallam University, supported by a Whitworth Senior Scholarship and an EPSRC CASE studentship. He then moved to Heriot Watt University, Dubai campus, where he set up an energy research group looking at reducing the air conditioning load in the Middle East.

Over the last 5 years Dr Hughes has built a leading building physics research group attracting over £2.5 million in external funding, produced 40 publications, 6 UK patents and has 2 commercial licence agreements for his Intellectual Property. He has recently launched a university spin-out company “Free Running Buildings” with the IP Group to capitalize on the innovative research his team are developing.

Currently he is working with Qatar University to develop cooling strategies for the new stadiums and infrastructure to support the FIFA 2022 World Cup, and is conducting field trials of his novel zero energy building cooling system in Abu Dhabi in support of the Zayed Future Energy Prize.

His team consists of 2 post-doctoral fellows, 14 PhD students and has now transferred to the ETII to further build this area of research. Dr Hughes is an Associate Professor at the University of Leeds, a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the IMechE. In 2014 Dr Hughes will serve as vice-president of the Whitworth Society for award holders and elected Whitworth Scholars.