DIRDI Speaks at the Durham Union

On Wednesday the 16th of February 2022, Head of DIRDI, Daniel Dobrowolski and Director-General, Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter OBE were delighted to be joined by Professor Jacqui Ramagge, Executive Dean of Durham’s Faculty of Science, for a panel discussion at the Durham Union Society.

The Durham Union Society is the University’s oldest student society, dating back to 1842 and having hosted such figures as The Rt Hon Boris Johnson, Lady Theresa May, and Baron Robert Winston.

Addressing the Chamber, Daniel humorously reflected on his own time as an undergraduate at Durham University, and situated DIRDI within the history of science and technology stretching back to ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians and Babylonians.

Within this history, Daniel highlighted that “the story of every science…is one of interdisciplinary reinforcement, where advancements in one field serendipitously influence advancements in another.”

For this reason, DIRDI, funded primarily through commercial means, and working in partnership with both industry and Durham University, is a research institute that emphasises the freedom to discover above all else. At DIRDI, fellows are not constrained by the particular criteria of research grants, nor are they obligated to produce research whose tailored purpose is to appeal to a particular journal at the expense of the integrity and quality of the research itself, although of course, publication in scientific journals is not discouraged, rather actively supported.

DIRDI aims to produce genuine discovery within the mathematical and physical sciences, exploring both an abstract, fundamental theoretical understanding of nature and the universe of the sort that great revolutionary thinkers such as Sir Isaac Newton undertook, but also the inventive, innovative aspect of applied R&D in the Edinsonian spirit of developing and commercialising new impactful technologies that create new wealth and new prosperity for the world around us.

At DIRDI, the profits of the rapid commercialisation of promising R&D lines directly fund blue-skies, theoretical and experimental research, with the faith that this research may drive world-changing, prosperity-generating innovation enabling DIRDI’s unconstrained funding. To this end, DIRDI primarily recruits physicists, mathematicians, engineers, and computer scientists, to explore ideas generally related, but not limited to, 3 areas of interest:

  1. Acoustics – How sound propagates, whether that be sound within the range of human hearing, ultrasound, or infrasound, whether it be sound that is propagating in solids, liquids, gases, or plasmas, or sound that can be used to create bathymetric images of the sea floor, identify tiny cracks in a solid material, or be monitored to categorise individual voices within a concert hall.
  2. Electromagnetism – All frequencies of light from radio waves to X-rays and gamma rays. The science of electromagnetism enables and enhances so many of the technologies we use today and shall use tomorrow. From radio waves and microphones that we use to communicate on our mobile phones, to the light that travels through the fibre-optic cables that enable our internet, and the lasers that enable advanced manufacturing, LIDAR, and laser cooling, there are a multitudinous array of applications for light in the technologies of the future.
  3. Information engineering – The 21st Century science that interprets all data that we can collect and transmit with light and with sound. Whether though signal processing techniques, differential calculus, linear algebra, machine learning, or artificial intelligence, when we make observations and communicate in the world today, we process that data in many different ways to turn information into useful knowledge. Through these tools, and many more besides, we may build the knowledge with which our society functions and prospers. More and more technologies today can be perfected by those with an interest in information engineering.

In the years to come DIRDI aspires to grow and nurture its members throughout their academic and commercial careers, identifying and supporting the “Newtons” and Nobel Prize winners of the future, and delivering a critical mass of new research and scholarship.

A copy of Daniel’s full speech is available here.