08 August 2023. Brought to you by Chris Hamlett.

Ethan Hurford

What is your current job / programme of study?

Senior Teaching Technician in the School of Metallurgy and Materials at the University of Birmingham

What A-Levels (or equivalent) did you do?

Maths, physics, biology, AS further maths, AS chemistry

Why did you choose a career in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)?

I applied to do physics at Birmingham but was offered nuclear engineering. At an offer holder visit day I had a long talk with Alessandro (now the head of the School of Metallurgy and Materials at Birmingham) and it opened my eyes to the subject of materials science which I instantly enjoyed and now work in.

What did you enjoy most about your MSE course? (If you didn’t do a MSE course which course, did you do and what led to you MSE?)

MEng Nuclear Engineering – I enjoyed learning about the materials used in nuclear reactors and the challenges that the industry faces in the push for nuclear fusion materials.

What is your research about?

As a technician I help with undergraduate teaching sessions and PhD and project students using the materials preparation labs. I’m also the technician for the aerospace labs, where we have wind tunnels for testing of wing designs and flight simulators to test aeroplane systems designs.

What is the coolest thing you have done in your career so far?

Working on the design and setup of the aerospace labs flight simulators. At the moment we have a static aeroplane simulator and a moving aeroplane simulator. Soon we will have a new moving helicopter/single-seater aircraft simulator to allow the aerospace engineering students to complete more projects with these in the future.

What do you see yourself doing in the future?

I want to stay at Birmingham and start part time study to work towards another master’s degree or a PhD, while continuing to work within the labs.

What is your favourite material (and why)?

I am interested in a lot of different materials but if I had to pick one it would be aluminium. When I was younger my dad and grandad both worked in an aluminium casting foundry. I always enjoyed seeing the different castings they made. They made all sorts of different castings from fencing sword handles and weights for power lines to parts for motorway barriers. So being able to go to university and study materials and gain an understanding for the mechanisms behind and techniques used these processes has been a lot of fun.

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

At 16 I had no idea that material science was a whole field of research. I would definitely tell myself to look into it, because now it’s something I really enjoy. Materials science is used in so many different industries since it determines what materials you can use for different applications whether that’s in: automotive, aerospace, energy… etc.