About us

Here are the members of the Discover Materials Working Group – check out their profiles to find out why they love Materials Science and Engineering.

Who we are

Mark Coleman

Swansea University

I am the admissions tutor and first year coordinator for the Materials Department at Swansea University. I also coordinate and run our recruitment activities as well as public engagement and outreach events. My research focuses on using expensive and powerful electron microscopes to investigate the internal structures of many materials from metals and jet engine alloys to volcanic ash, meteorites and even barnacles from Swansea Beach. I started my Materials career not really knowing what I wanted to be ‘when I grew up’, and so I chose Materials Science and Engineering because I liked the diversity of the course and the fact that it underpins many other Engineering disciplines. I enjoy linking the complex structures of many materials with their properties and am always amazed at how making a small change at the microscopic level can have a massive influence on how that material behaves. I now spend my days working closely with industry to tailor their manufacturing processes to optimize their material structures to get the best out of their products.

Alessandro Mottura

University of Birmingham

I try to improve alloys used for advanced applications such as jet engines and bio implants, using computer simulations to understand how atoms interact in these materials, and trying to predict how changes in composition my change the behaviour of the materials I work with. I love how Materials Science and Engineering truly applies to everything, and how all of our technology relies on our ability to exploit the amazing properties of materials.

Chris Hamlett

University of Birmingham and Henry Royce Institute

Chris coordinates the activities of the Discover Materials group and has carried out research into waterproof surfaces and how bubbles can be used to put out fires! He loves Materials Science and Engineering as it brings together lots of different areas of science and is applicable to everyday life because, let’s face it, everything is made of something and that something is a material!

Becky Waldram

Swansea University

Becky currently works for a project called SUSTAIN, based at Swansea University looking into the decarbonisation of the steel industry. She found out about Materials Science and Engineering by accident on a University Open Day and has never looked back. Becky’s favourite part of Materials Science and Engineering is breaking and testing materials as well as using microscopes to see the incredible details on the surface of materials which are not visible with the naked eye.

Kathryn Downey

The University of Manchester

Kathryn Downey is the Outreach Officer at the University of Manchester's Department of Materials. Her role involves coordinating and supporting outreach and engagement activities alongside the Department’s researchers, students and staff. She works with local communities to showcase the exciting research that is taking place in Materials' Science and Engineering. She is interested in increasing young people’s appreciation of science and how, through impactful engagement, we can widen participation in STEM.

Han Zhang

Queen Mary University of London

Han’s research motivation comes from the needs for the next generation of sustainable high performance composites with integrated multifunctionalities for future lightweight structural applications. Han is always curious about how to achieve a better world by making better materials, how to reach desired properties by optimised materials selection, modification and processing.

Stella Pedrazzini

Imperial College London

I primarily research how metals break, particularly as a result of corrosion and how we can prevent it. I got into materials very randomly: I knew I liked chemistry and physics, but then a friend of my mother’s came to dinner and introduced me to materials science just before my UCAS applications.

Yi Liu

Loughborough University

My research expertise is in multifunctional polymer composites. The multifunctionalities can benefit in variety of applications, such as healthcare monitoring, motion sensing, thermoresponsive resistive heating and athlete performance tracking. The development of new and improved materials is at the heart of a huge range of technologies, from the objects we use every day, such as food packaging, to novel batteries and fuel cells to power electric vehicles, through to more advanced materials for biomedical applications, such as implants.

Ahu Gümrah Dumanli-Parry

The University of Manchester

I am bp-ICAM Kathleen Lonsdale Research Fellow and lead the Bio-inspired Functional Materials (BioFuM) research group as a part of the Sustainable Material Innovation Hub and Department of Materials at the University of Manchester. In my group, we study and mimic multifunctional natural materials such as butterfly wings, beetle and prawn shells or lotus leaves. We also use Nature’s strategies in our selection of materials; we work on bottom up approaches to build complex matter, use environmentally friendly processes and work with the most abundant non-hazardous array of materials to develop our future’s devices. Our research is a big multidisciplinary field that aims to understand the biological world around us which reflects how connective materials science is. I find it extremely fascinating that the lessons we learn from the master engineer “Nature” allow us to solve everyday materials science and engineering problems.

Fiona Hatton

Loughborough University

I teach aspects of Materials Science that relate mostly to polymers, their properties and how we can process them into new things! A big problem with polymers now is the amount of plastic waste and the effects on the environment and so my research is on creating new sustainable polymers from renewable resources. I loved Chemistry and Biology at School and as I didn’t know about Materials Science at the time, I studied for a degree in Chemistry. I realised at University that I enjoyed research and stayed on to do a PhD in Polymer Chemistry. Since then, my research has led me into Materials Science and Engineering rather than other STEM areas.

Eleonora D’Elia

Imperial College London

I study what we call Smart Materials! These are materials capable of interacting with external stimuli (such as light, heat, pressure, humidity) and change their properties due to these interactions. Examples are materials that can self-heal and pressure-sensitive materials, a bit like the human body! Who would have thought that materials could be smart? I got into Materials Science because it is AWESOME! It is a discipline that brings together Physics, Chemistry and Engineering in a practical world with endless applications.

Nick Jones

University of Cambridge

My research is focussed on developing the metallic alloys of the future. I design materials for inside jet engines, the aircraft they power and for heading into space. As part of this work I use high power X-rays to study alloys that can change shape on their own – metallic magic! I first came across materials science as part of A Level physics and rapidly became hooked. I found that it filled a niche between science and engineering. Everything is made of something but why has a certain material been selected and how can we make it better?. To answer those questions you have to appreciate the engineering aspects of the application and understand the fundamental science that governs a material’s behaviour.

Chris Holland

University of Sheffield

I look at how nature creates materials, from spider silk to snail slime, becuase they have been optimised for millions of years to be sustainable, high performance and offer solutions to society's most pressing challenges, from plastics to medical devices. I was originally trained as a Biologist and came to Materials Science later on in my studies. I like the hands-on nature of the experiments and the fact I am not limited by any scientific discipline, they are all just tools to me. I wish I had known about the topic at school as it is a great combination of all the sciences and engineering to ask the coolest questions about things that can change the world.

Helen Wilcock

Loughborough University

I am a Senior Lecturer in the department of Materials at Loughborough University, and I am a synthetic polymer chemist by training. My research is focussed on the synthesis of responsive polymers for applications from Magnetic Resonance Imaging through to degradable packaging. I am passionate about Materials science as it allows us to understand why materials have the properties that they do, and design better materials for our future.

Helena Cotterill

University of Oxford

Andy Brown

University of Leeds

Ilija Rasovic

University of Birmingham

Nicole Hondow

University of Leeds

Discover Materials Ambassadors

Discover Materials

Our fantastic ambassadors are young, enthusiastic scientists who love sharing their passion for Materials Science. Click the link below to find out more about them and why they love Materials Science

Association of Heads of University Materials Departments

Association of Heads of University Materials Departments are the Heads of the Materials Science and Engineering departments of nine UK universities who founded the Discover Materials Working Group in 2017.

Discover Materials Advisory Board

A board of seven expert volunteers with a passion for Materials Science and Engineering. The board has representation from academia, schools, exam boards, educational charities and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).

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