First Year PhD student researching materials modelling of oxidation in nickel-based alloys.
What A-Levels (or equivalent) did you do?
Maths, Physics, Chemistry, AS Further Maths
Why did you choose a career in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)?
Although materials science was not a huge part of the curriculum during my A-Level studies, the completion of an EPQ allowed me to research into nuclear fusion, and the current materials challenges the science community were facing. This inspired me and the nuclear engineering course at Birmingham seemed like a perfect fit, with a large focus on materials science in extreme environments.
What did you enjoy most about your MSE course?
I enjoyed my final year project the most on my MEng Nuclear Engineering course, with the flexibility to do my own independent research project in a lab. This involved testing and characterising materials in various ways, such as with large electron microscopes, as well as doing research on the topic I was studying outside of the lab.
What is your research about?
I am currently trying to model the diffusion of metal and oxygen through an oxide layer, although I am working with nickel, it is like trying to model the growth of rust on iron! My work will eventually lead to more complex techniques to model oxide growth on nickel alloys that contain several elements.
What is the coolest thing you have done in your career so far?
The coolest thing I have done would be coating a set of nickel alloys with molybdenum using a sputter coater – these are typically used to coat non-conductive samples with gold! Once coated, they had a beautiful, layered pattern which corresponded to the thickness of the molybdenum layer, which after a heat treatment formed some rather funky oxides on the surface.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I would like to stay at Birmingham after my PhD and continue my research career, and maybe become a lecturer if the opportunity presents itself. I would also like to travel around East Asia and visit China in particular, if this could be done in combination with my research work, that would be perfect.
What is your favourite material (and why)?
It must be nickel (although I am incredibly biased with it being the focus of my research). Thanks to its high melting point and corrosion resistance, it has a wide variety of applications, from jet engine blades to alkaline fuel cells and historically, as coins – such as the nickel (5 cent coin) in the US.
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
I would say to enjoy school as it is now, to start thinking about which subject you enjoy the most and do some research outside of school hours. The whole science landscape seems to change every few years, no one expected everyone to currently be so focused on AI 6 years ago! Grasp every opportunity, and you will end up where you are meant to be, life will work itself out.