The University of Malta’s leadership in recent years has been fairly open about the need to fund more research and publish new papers. Back in June of 2016, newly appointed Rector Professor Alfred Vella had said that shifting from “an admitting model to a recruiting model” would allow the institute to generate revenue that it could then re-funnel into research.
The majority of research is currently funded through EU grants, and the University ranks as the 1103rd globally, and 465th in Europe. However, despite operating on often tight budgets and limited resources, several departments and institutes at the University of Malta manage to perform cutting edge cool science.
1. Seismic Monitoring and Research Group
Members of the Physics Department currently operate a seismograph housed in a disused tunnel in Birzebbugia. The Wied Dalam site has been transmitting data in real time over the internet since 2003, and the group maintains a lively Facebook page, frequently posting seismographs after earthquakes in the region.
A smaller seismic station of theirs in Xlendi even recorded the Azure Window’s collapse on March 8th.
2. Institute of Aerospace Technologies
Founded in 2014, the IAT is mostly comprised of engineers with a passion for aviation. Their varied projects in the past have included trying to develop technologies and procedures allowing aircraft to fly more fuel effecient and less polluting trajectories within Maltese airspace, and a new human machine interface concept, where pilots could interact and control their aircraft through a tablet like device.
Currently, they are working on low cost sense and avoid technologies for unmanned aerial vehicles that would allow them to detect and avoid each other, preventing midair collisions between two uncontrolled aircraft.
3. Department of Cognitive Science
A newly inaugurated part of the Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences (MaKS), the department of Cognitive Science studies the workings of the human mind in a multidisciplinary fashion, combining psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, computer science and philosophy.
Students spend most of their time in the department’s state of the art laboratory, equipped with technologies like eye-tracking and EEG, which are deployed in a whole host of experiments.
4. Institute of Digital Games
Studying game design, analysis and technology, the institute of Digital Games takes an eclectic approach, with some students developing games to tackle philosophical questions, while others seek to understand games using literary and narrative theories borrowed from courses on literature.
Currently accepting both Masters and PHD students, the institute was ranked in the top 25 postgrad Game Design programs by the Princeton review.
5. Physical Oceanography Research Group
Another offshoot of the department of Physics, this research group has in the past deployed drifters in the Malta-Sicily channel, primarily in an effort to understand the local current circulation in the area. This research, combined with high frequency radar, allows the group to accurately measure the magnitude and direction of currents. Besides having a practical application for things like search and rescue, the team have also made their research available to the public through their Kaptan App, a web-based version of which can be found here.
6. Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy
ISSA is a collaboration of members from the University’s Science, Engineering and ICT faculties who currently work on the cutting edge of physics. Their most visible manifestation on campus is a 5.3m parabolic dish currently located down from quad that comprises a radio telescope.
The telescope allows students to study celestial objects through the radio waves these bodies emit. For more detailed specs on the hardware, be sure to visit Think Magazine’s write up on this from a few months back.