27 May 2022. Brought to you by Bethany Stansby.

Thomas Thorn

What is your current programme of study?

PhD Materials Science 

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

Maths, Physics, Chemistry 

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

I try to question the world around me, to ask why things behave as they do. Because materials are a tangible part of our daily lives, a career in MSE fits my way of thinking.  

I also want to work in an area that helps benefit wider society. Although less direct than medicine, I like the thought that the same materials research now could be utilised in the future for healthcare devices as well as structural health monitoring in aircraft; both improving the quality of life of everyone in our ever increasingly engineered world.  

What is your research about?  

My project looks at adding useful functions to carbon fibre composites, like those on sports cars and modern aircraft. Can we use the properties of the materials to sense internal damages and heal themselves?  

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

The coolest part of materials science is that you often test your materials until failure, which means a lot of breaking things with heavy machinery! 

What do you see yourself doing in the future?  

I see myself continuing to work on improving the properties of fibre reinforced composite materials, either in industry or academia. 

What is your favourite material (and why)?  

Wood! I think no other material is as versatile, its properties are vastly different from tree to tree and how they are grown. Ancient practices such as ‘pollarding’ and ‘coppicing’ show how our ancestors influenced the properties of materials to suit their needs, just as modern materials scientists do today. It is also a naturally beautiful material, whether as art, sculpture or crafted into fine wears and objects.  

What advice would you give your 16 year old self? 

 I would tell myself that it’s fine to be a jack of all trades in science and that materials science is an ideal pathway for people who enjoy all branches of science and practical work.