08 August 2023. Brought to you by Tess Knowles.

Tess Knowles

What is your current job / programme of study?

I’m a 1st year PhD student at the University of Manchester


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

I did maths, further maths, physics and chemistry at A level.


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

I’ve always known I wanted to do something around science or engineering and I enjoyed the subjects I did at A level.  Materials seemed like an ideal choice because I could keep the aspects of physics, chemistry and maths that I enjoyed most.


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?)

I’ve really enjoyed still having the ability to choose areas to go into more depth.  A worry I had with doing a degree was that I would feel like I was being pushed into a specific area but there’s still loads of choice for me, even in 4th year.  I also love the extra things you can get involved with within the department, whether that’s helping your peers within your course or going out into the world to talk to the public about your passions.


What is your research about?

I have just begun my PhD in nano-ceramic composite coatings for light alloys.  The basis for the ceramic coating is plasma electrolytic oxidation (PEO), which is a surface treatment that results in a thick, dense oxide layer on a metal.  This layer helps with improving wear resistance and corrosion resistance so it can be a very helpful treatment as these can cause lots of problems in industry. I am working on ways of further functionalising these coatings using nanomaterials.

(read more about Tess’ research here)


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

Taking part in fairs, festivals and other materials events has been a very cool part of my time in materials so far.  It’s been awesome to find out what questions and interests people have when it comes to this area and you get to meet some amazing people within the field as well.


What do you see yourself doing in the future?

Down the line, I think it would be interesting to apply my knowledge to industry, particularly aerospace and automotive applications.


What is your favourite material (and why)?

I‘m really interested in nickel superalloys because of their high-temperature applications. I also really liked planes growing up so it’s nice to know more of the cool science behind them as an adult.


What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

I would say that you don’t have to have the highest academic achievement to be successful.  I have gained so many more opportunities from applying to and signing up for things that I didn’t think I was completely qualified for.  I have always found it easier to learn by actually doing something so I’ve been able to get better at things by throwing myself into all the opportunities I can. It’s also great to be able to express your interests and qualities outside of just grades and academic achievement.