The beauty of the scheme was the freedom I was given in defining the project title.
- Project name:
- Octopus Carbon Nanotube-Based Electrodes: Growth and Characterisation
- Company name:
- National Physical Laboratory
After completing an undergraduate course in Physics at the University of Surrey, with a three-month summer research assistant placement, I completed an MSc course in Nanotechnology and Nanoelectronic Devices and received a 1st class degree. I am currently undertaking an EngD in Micro- and NanoMaterials and Technologies based at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
The EngD programme is appealing as it permits a 4-year close collaboration between university and industry. While completing my doctorate based at NPL, I have gained work experience, making me immediately more appealing for a future job at NPL and/or other companies. I am fortunate to receive funding from the EPSRC and to have this opportunity to work at the National Physical Laboratory with its excellent reputation.
My current project explores the capacitance associated with different carbon-based nanostructures on supercapacitor electrodes. The project involves the growth and morphological characterisation of common and novel types of carbon nanotubes as well as testing their performance as supercapacitor electrode enhancers via electrochemical techniques such as cyclic voltammetry and AC impedance.
The beauty of the project was the freedom I was given in defining the project title. This meant spending the first six months exploring different technologies where carbon nanotube structures could be employed to improve them. The project also appealed to me as I already had some experience in handling and embedding carbon nanostructures for improving detectors and transistors.
At Surrey you will be made to feel very welcome, it’s very much a family environment.
- Project name:
- Advanced Hybrid Structures for Aerospace/Defence Applications
- Company name:
- BAe Systems
I graduated from Hertfordshire University in 2008 with a first class honours degree in ‘Automotive Engineering with Motorsport’ (BEng). I had completed a sandwich year working as a Design Engineer for McLaren Automotive, and also a final year project so was pleased to accept the opportunity to return there after finishing my degree.
I was employed as a Design Engineer initially but progressed into more of a Junior Project Engineer role, which added elements of managing the design process and supplier liaison. I primarily worked on designing suspension and cooling system components for the MP4-12C road car. Following the completion of this work I decided to join the EngD programme with the University of Surrey and BAE SYSTEMS in January 2010.
When I finished my original degree, I was keen to go into industry. I enjoyed working there and seeing all the work I put in go towards something tangible and useful. However, at the end of the MP4-12C design phase, I was hungry to continue my professional development and continue my learning.
As soon as I heard about the EngD programme I knew it was for me. I would be able to continue my development, with access to excellent courses and learning support, as well as fulfilling my desire to be a part of the industry, developing real products and solutions. The EngD is unique in that it resolves this dilemma of experience versus higher education. Candidates can expect to gain real industry experience whilst also having unparalleled investment in higher learning and professional development.
High performance composite materials have been around for some time. They are used extensively in aerospace, defence, motorsport and now even mainstream sectors such as the automotive industry. They are usually favoured for having low weight compared to metals with similar stiffness and strength properties. However, metals can provide other benefits such as greater plasticity, less sensitivity to hot wet environments, and lower cost. Most high performance applications will therefore require a combination of materials, and these materials need to be joined.
Composites are generally very notch-sensitive so traditional joining methods such as drilling and bolting often yield poor results. Adhesive bonding (gluing) may be acceptable, however, failure is usually sudden/catastrophic compared to slow/progressive, as is often the case with mechanical fixings. Adhesives can also be highly sensitive to the environment - excessive heat and moisture can be very damaging. Herein lies the problem, advanced joining methods need to be developed for hybrid structures.
My project is part of the solution, focusing on structures where composites and metals are used in concert. Areas of interest include lightweight land vehicles, vehicle armour systems, airframe, and marine applications. The research is intended to produce novel and developed joint concepts that offer significantly greater performance than traditional joining methods, and to combine metals and composites in new applications where it was not previously possible.
First and foremost my EngD project aims to develop solutions to a real and widespread problem. Committing four years of my life was a big decision so it had to be for something that I believed would be useful. Studying this problem now will hopefully place me well in the coming years as composite-metal hybrid structures become more common. Secondly, it is an area that interests me.
I had a limited knowledge of composites at the time of applying but was keen to know more about them and how they could be integrated into more areas of engineering design. Another benefit was that the project had a good industry sponsor. BAE Systems have an excellent reputation for developing state of the art technology, and a range of internal customers that operate across land, sea and air platforms.
It’s great to have strong links with the University and work out in industry. You operate as part of a team solving business driven problems whilst also being able to draw on the knowledge of the University staff. The nature of the EngD means that you get some variety from being able to work across a range of sub-projects as opposed to one very narrow avenue of investigation. It is, of course, important that these projects are relevant to your thesis title.
My experience of the three way relationship between academic supervisors, industry supervisors and me has been excellent. My industrial supervisor is able to mentor my work fairly regularly, and we aim to meet bi-monthly to discuss the work as a group with my academic supervisors.
The EngD at Surrey is a well funded programme, offering industry experience with higher learning. It enables me to make a difference in industry whilst continually raising my game in the academic sense. I like to keep my options open but I imagine the EngD will lead me toward some form of technical management role, a little sooner than would have previously been possible. It may well open new doors I am not yet aware of - you can build contacts quite quickly in this environment.
I found the research facilities at Surrey to be very impressive. A good friend of mine was already on the course and gave high praise to the support and opportunities made available to the EngD Research Engineers, so I was quite confident I would be looked after. I have since spoken to Research Engineers from other Universities and firmly believe Surrey is the best place to complete an EngD.
What else is good about the EngD at Surrey? Well, buffet lunches are provided on short courses and they’re usually quite nice. In all seriousness, if you join an EngD at Surrey you will be made to feel very welcome, it’s very much a family environment.
The most important thing that attracted me was a combination of materials science and electronics.
- Project name:
- Novel Nano-scale Electronic Devices for Metrology
- Company name:
- National Physical Laboratory, UK
My undergraduate degree, Bachelor of Technology in Electronics and Communications, from the University of Kerala, India was completed in 2008. I then undertook a one-year MSc in Nanotechnology and Nanoelectronic devices from University of Surrey.
I am currently working on the development of a Quantised Low-T Magnetic Force Microscopy (MFM). Over the past few decades the importance of nano-magnetism has increased considerably due to its immense potential in spintronics, magnetic storage, sensors etc. It has become very important to understand and characterise the magnetic properties of materials at nano-scale and hence MFM is a very important tool for its study.
Looking back at my academic career, I had no experience out in industry. The passion for science and research was always there in me, that I wanted to obtain a PhD (Doctorate) degree to succeed in my research career. At the same time, without working in Industry, I didn’t know the work culture and the expectation at industry level.
That’s when I heard about the Engineering Doctorate scheme where we get maximum industrial exposure combined with academic courses. Other than technical skills and knowledge, EngD course comes with business modules, which will be very helpful in my career.
Coming from an electronics background, the most important thing that attracted me was that this project was a combination of materials science and electronics.
Working as a Research Engineer in industry has helped me to understand the commercial aspect of the project. Completing project tasks and coordinating with both industrial and University professors to carry out the project successfully helped me to work as part of a team.
Being a graduate from Surrey I was aware of the world-class research facilities and its strong relation with the industry. Highly qualified professors and researchers will help me in building a successful research career in the field of nanotechnology.
On successful completion of my EngD, I will have gained an in-depth knowledge and developed skill sets, which will enable me to work in an industry. The business modules, which are unique to the EngD schemes, add to my management skills.
With a valuable experience from the industry, I will enable me to move to the next level in the research field as a scientist.
Supervisors play an important role in my current project by guiding me and providing valuable inputs, feedback and suggestions to improve my work. Interaction with my supervisors helps me to prioritise my goals and objectives to successfully complete the project.
Over the last year, my relationship with both my academic and industrial supervisors has helped to enhance both my personal and professional skills.
One important advantage of EngD is that it is very flexible. It gives us an option of working on a particular topic for four years (like the traditional PhD) or work on different mini projects to produce a portfolio. Being a young researcher, this gives me a broader perspective of science.
The EngD students are referred to as Research Engineers rather than students. Deliver a project on behalf of the company gives me an opportunity to prove my ability both to the University and industry.
To succeed, personal effort, creativity, independency and self-motivation is required.
- Project name:
- Carbon nanotubes electrodes for PEM fuel cells
- Company name:
- National Physical Laboratory
Following my schooling in Athens, Greece, I moved to the UK where I completed my BEng in Aerospace Engineering and Astronautics at Kingston University, London. I decided to specialise in materials for the aerospace and defence sector. This led me to undertake an MRes in Nanomaterials at Imperial College London.
The following year I decided to further my studies in the field of ionising radiation where I received an MSc in Radiation and Environmental Protection at the University of Surrey. I stayed at Surrey and joined the Engineering Doctorate (EngD) programme in Micro and Nano Materials Technologies and I am currently based at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Teddington.
With regard to my research project, there is an urgent global need to explore efficient, cheaper and cleaner sources of energy. An attractive alternative is the fuel cell -a device that produces electrical power very efficiently by converting hydrogen into water. A core part of this device is the platinum catalyst, which is supported on high surface area activated carbon. The main aim of this study is to investigate the feasibility of using carbon nanotubes as alternative catalyst support material. This project builds on the existing nanomaterials expertise at the University of Surrey and the fuel cell expertise at NPL.
My decision to undertake an EngD was purely made on the quality of education that I could receive in order to further my career and achieve my ultimate goals. In particular the opportunity to optimally combine professional environment and academic research is unique to this programme. Due to the nature of the work undertaken at NPL the link between industry and university is very strong and many of the permanent staff have some formal collaboration with academia. With regard to this, I feel no different than the staff at NPL.
The additional courses and training I receive include development of interpersonal skills, business awareness and scientific training. These are highly beneficial and count as sound credentials for any individual competing in today’s marketplace. In addition, the EngD stipend is also very competitive compared with any other educational Doctoral scheme.
It would be easy to just say that my four years on the programme will simply be a great addition to my CV. However, the experience of the EngD environment and the personal relationships I can build while out in industry, could lead to a significant growth of my personal network.
Currently in my 3rd year of the EngD, I can comfortably say that to succeed in completing the programme personal effort as well as creativity, independency and self-motivation will be required. Above all, make sure that you really enjoy what you are doing.