Nottingham University

Finished my first week at Nottingham University with very mixed feelings.  I have had a solid week reading about my task ahead and feel excited and looking forward to starting the design process.  Normally, at the start of a PhD you would expect to do a literature review for at least 3 months but my research is again, a little different to normal.  I am basically integrating 3 or 4 optical metrology techniques into a single device so the first part will involve the design of this device in a prototype machine so that teething problems can be ironed out and the control integrated.  On the down side, it has been very tiring with early starts to beat the traffic.  Nottingham is unbelievably busy during rush hour and I have found that I need to arrive by 7 am to miss the majority of it.  When I stay at my Mums it means leaving by around 6.15 am and so getting up at 5.45 am which is not too bad.  However, when travelling from MK it means setting off by 5.30 am and so getting up around 5 am latest.  I am usually awake by that time anyway, but the pressure is on when you have to be on the road.  It also took me the entire week to get online with an email address.  It’s starting to look like the administration at Nottingham is comparable to Cranfield.  I finally got my email sorted about 3 pm on Friday and had emails dated from the beginning of September.  One of them was regarding my funding which I should have been sent to my existing email before I started so that it could have been sorted out prior to starting.  The offer I have received is very much lower than expected and I hope that it can be resolved before too long.  Of course, my expenses are much higher than Cranfield because of the distance from home.  Also, they charge £10 a day parking where its free at Cranfield.  I really hope that these problems can be solved so that I can get stuck into the research and design properly.

It’s a beautiful campus and there are two of them, ours is the Jubilee campus but the other one is University park campus which is even more beautiful as it sounds.  I will try to get some pictures of the park campus another time.  My machine is called an optical-micro Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM).  It will use 3 modern all optical techniques to measure small parts, less than 100 mm cubed and combine the results to hopefully obtain greater accuracy.

FVMThe first part uses Focus Variation to measure the surfaces of the part.  Consider a flat surface, which is to be measured or examined.  A camera focuses below the surface, takes a picture then moves up a touch and takes another picture.  Many pictures are taken, starting below the focus point moving up through the focus point to focus above the surface.  Each pixel photo series can then be analysed to find the greatest contrast compared to adjacent pixels.  The picture with the greatest contrast is the surface so the distance to this pixel is now known.  Other qualities are noted such as colour and brightness etc.  Once each pixel has been analysed, a complete digital representation of the surface has been made which can be manipulated however required.  Basically, this is a colour image microscope that can ImageCSImeasure any part of the subject accurately.

The second instrument is called a coherence scanning interferometer which also measures accurately the surfaces of the part.  These are generally used for highly reflective machined parts.  This will also create areal topography maps with a typical repeatability of 1 nm.

The third instrument method is called stereo photogrammetry which uses multiple cameras to create 3D models and images of parts.  This method is mainly used by satellites to model cities etc. but it can also be usedSteroAngles to model smaller parts.  At Cranfield we used this method to measure the surface shape of solar collectors by placing uniquely identified targets around the collecting mirror. Pictures are taken from many angles and positions and software recognises the uniquely identified targets and so knows where on the surface to picture is.  These pictures can automatically be analysed to build up a 3D model of the surfaces.  At Nottingham, instead of targets, a random laser speckle pattern is projected onto the part surfaces and the pictures are analysed automatically.  Seems to me like one hell of a piece of software to achieve this, but it’s not my responsibility to write it, only integrate these three instruments and design the control between them all.

When making very accurate measurements in the nanoscale the slightest thing effects the results and accuracy of measurements.  Differences in temperature between different parts of the machine causes thermal expansion which moves things around.  External vibrations can get transmitted through the machine and cause movement when pictures are being taken or measurements made.  Normally, such a machine would be mechanically separated from the environment using anti-vibration mounts and very stiff and heavy components inside the machine.  Again, a different tact is being used on this machine and the mechanical separation will be via 3D printed lattice structures.  This is also relatively new research work and Nottingham has a large additive manufacturing facility and can produce plastic and sintered metal structures that could not be produced in any other way.

My desk 18 is the one at the back left.  There is a table behind me so you can stand and work sometimes which I have already used to read on.  Just outside research office C19 are a few comfy casual discussion areas so you do not disrupt others when you have a get together.  Behind the comfy area is an eating area behind the glass wall.  The entire building is only a year old.  The feature image and the first one in the text is my building (Advanced Manufacturing).  I could become very comfortable here.

Prof-Richard-Leach Professor Richard Leach who runs this facility has a metrology background and worked at NPL for 25 years.  As soon as he had his gold watch, he left to become a research Fellow at Nottingham and set up this facility 3 years ago.  I have just become his 40th research student.  He set up the additive manufacturing facility where parts could be made that are very difficult to measure conventionally so he started the all optical metrology department to compliment it.  To me optical measurement seems like the future and old fashioned measurements where the parts are touched, the past.  Richard is incredibly well thought of in these fields throughout the world and is “The Man of the Moment”.  I am proud to have Richard as my main supervisor, but another guy called Dr Wahyudin Syam, will be my other supervisor.  Wahyudin is responsible for the focus variation research and also the lattice structure research used on my machine.  I am personally intrigued byWahyudin-Syam the potential of the lattice structures and can see them being used in many places in the near future.  Wahyudin is originally Indonesian but did his PhD in Italy.  He has a 1 year old daughter and he and his wife plan to take her home next April to see their parents.  He is a really nice chap and has helped me so much this week fighting our way through the administration and personally accompanying me every step of the way.  Exciting times ahead, I can’t stop reading about everything, so I can get started as soon as possible.  Let’s hope the funding part doesn’t screw things up.


Japan Update

Just a few words to finish off the Japanese holiday before the start of my PhD.  Make sure that you read your holiday paperwork before you travel.  Even better, before you buy your tickets.  I thought that my return flights were cheap at £550.  I thought it might be because it was with Air China and I had to travel via China.  Also the hours of travel weren’t great and my connection back not to good either.  On the up side, I could leave the same day as my visa with only 90 minutes connection.


I wrote the Japan blog on my last morning (Monday), then walked into town to look for lunch.  I was going to get a McDonalds or something for ease but as I walked past the very first restaurant that we ate in when we first arrived in Atsugi.  It’s a little like a transport café but plenty of foreigners and families go there.  I was drawn there and turned back.  I sat down and was handed an English menu which we didn’t get the first time.  Steve and I quite like Korean food as it’s a little spicier than Japanese food and we had Kimchi Jjigae when we were in Tokyo.  On the menu was, “Crispy pork with spicy Kimchi rice bowl.  The picture showed no rice but rice came with it, as did miso soup and pickle.  I ordered 3 extra Gyoza with dips and had my favorite meal of the holiday.  Typical of me to find the best place on the last day.

Anyway, Steve arrived around 4.30 pm, the earliest all week.  I had already packed and showered so we chatted and I told him of the meal.  He was hungry so we went back there with my bags.  Steve had what I had while I just had Gyoza.  We went on to the station and Steve said goodbye at about 6pm (10 am English time).  In Japan all the rail lines are owned by different companies and don’t mix so well.  We were on one line that goes to Tokyo (Shinjuku) where I have to change onto the JR (Japanese Rail) line to get to Narita airport.  Therefore I couldn’t buy a ticket all the way to the airport.  Shinjuku is a massive rail station with lots of different rail lines and you can only buy tickets for the line you want near the line itself from self-service machines.  The first step is to find and follow signs to your line.  By the way, the information places are a great help so if you’re not sure what to do, talk to them.  Anyway I found the line but couldn’t find how much it cost to the airport so queued up at the ticket office.  Good job I did as the last train to the airport was leaving in 10 minutes from across the busy road.  I ran across the road (well walked fastish) and got there on time.  I also had an allocated seat so I found where my car stopped and waited there.  Most stations have platform doors these days and most signs are also in English, at least in the big stations.

Once I was in my seat and on my way I had 80 minutes to kill so read my flight details etc.  I was horrified to discover that my flight was not until 9 am on Tuesday morning and I would arrive around 8 pm Monday.  I looked again at the automatic message that was in my calendar and it definitely said 1 pm Tuesday.  Of course, they put everything in English time in your calendar and its 8 hours behind Japanese time.  I found a locker to put my big case and asked at an information place if there were hotels.  They gave me a list but didn’t know prices.  I WA’ed Steve and he recognised the second one which he had stopped at and sent me a link.  It was around £50 a night for students so I booked online and picked up my case from the locker.  The free shuttle arrived and I dropped my bags and headed to the bar.

Anyway, the shuttle left at 6.30 am back to the airport and I set off.  We had a 5.30 hour flight to China which was turbulence all the way so they couldn’t serve food or drinks and I was famished and thirsty.  I had forgot my water in the fridge at hotel and couldn’t but anything in China as I didn’t have local money.  I walked around looking for an ATM without finding one then went to a shop and showed them a £10 note.  The girl looked at it sideways and sowed it to her mates and they laughed.  She asked where from but didn’t understand what I said.  I left and found a free water machine but they only had the choice of hot or warm water.  I tried the warm but it was around 60 degrees C.  The perfect breeding ground for bacteria.  Also, we had to collect our bags and immediately check them back in again.  This meant considerable lugging around and stress and there was no air-conditioning at the airport.  We finally got on the plane and I asked for some water.  I drank the small cup they gave me and couldn’t get my headphones in the socket so had to ring the girl again.  I’m already getting a bad name for myself because people were still boarding and I was giving her stick from the start.  She came and showed me the socket and I asked her to try.  She couldn’t do it either so she said she would move me when everyone was aboard.  Once everyone was on she showed me to my new seat and just as I was settling in a girl came back stating that it was hers.  I apologised and went in hunt of the stewardess again.

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I found her and took her back where she showed me another seat and I could finally settle down to watch the films.  By now everyone knew me as the trouble maker.  Finally our food and drink arrived but it never really satisfied, especially my thirst.  I asked several more times for water or arrange for a change, only confirming my status with them.  It’s a long journey home and I read my arrival details and Purple car parking details for getting the shuttle.  I was horrified to learn that I would not arrive in Gatwick until 8 pm at night (Tuesday).  Trouble was, I had left my car at Heathrow where I flew from.  Shit, what would I do?  Good job I took the late arrival insurance.

Airport Hotels Narita Japan

When we arrived I got my bag and found a National Express office and they sold me a ticket to Heathrow for £27 but it left in 4 minutes.  I hurried outside and found the bus just in time.  Once back at Heathrow I had to find Purple parking but there was nothing in the paperwork to say how to get the shuttle.  I tried the phone number but the office shut at 9 pm.  I asked a guy outside and he said that Purple parking was on the fourth floor.  I got there and showed them my paperwork but they had no record of me.  I explained that I flew out of terminal 2 but had arrived back at terminal 5 (where the bus dropped me).  A second guy recognised that I needed the shuttle rather than meet and greet and they told me to go back to floor zero but didn’t know where to catch the bus from.  I got back down to floor zero and found a sign which said that I needed bus stop 30.  I arrived there to read the sign and it said to ring a number.  The same number that I had already rang.  They gave a mobile alternative for out of hours but nobody answered that either.  A Greek guy stopped at the stop and I talked to him.  He had used them before and said he never had to wait long for a bus and it shouldn’t matter that I was at a different terminal.  He was right and we got back where I picked my car up and drove home.  Claire had left me milk, crumpets and bacon and eggs in the fridge with bread.  I made myself crumpets and tea and finally got to bed around 1.30 am Wednesday.  Of course, by this time it’s already 9.30 am to my body clock and I only managed 3 to 4 hours sleep.

The best thing about Japan is the people; they are unique in the world and the nicest I have ever met, especially at Gina’s.  Rock on Guys!  Try to come back in March.

The Uni of Nottingham Inn Park_ The Technology Entrepreneurship Centre
University of Nottingham Innovation Center for Forward Thinking

Just about recovered now and already back to UK time.  Not quite ready for Monday morning when I should sign up for my PhD at Nottingham University.  I have no idea, where to go, at what time, where to park or what to bring.  How did I get on this degree?  Here we go again!


It was a relief to finish the viva and to find out that we all passed with minor corrections.  I said my goodbyes and headed to Heathrow.  I had a few hours wait but sat in the bar which is a great way to pass the time.  Both flights went really well and were on time.  There was just enough time to change planes in China without rushing so perfect.  The food on both planes was fine and I watched films most of the way.

Once I arrived in Tokyo I collected my bags and followed the signs for the trains then asked at an information stand.  Bought my train tickets and away I went.  Of course, it was rush hour and unbelievably busy.  I had to stand on all trains the entire journey which was very uncomfortable after long flights and no sleep with heavy bags and no idea if I was going the right way.  I eventually got to the station that I was meeting Steve so took the station free wifi and WhatsApped him.  We got a taxi back, dropped bags and went for a beer.

The reason that I flew after the viva rather than the Friday was so I could spend 2 weekends touring with Steve and then work on my corrections while he went to work in the week.  It worked well and I did all my corrections other than the Autocad ones because my new computer still doesn’t work so I brought my old one which doesn’t have it.

The first weekend, we were staying in Atawara but moved to Atsugi on the Sunday.  Our new hotel was even better than the first and they even had, wash and blow dry toilets.  I have to get one of those at home.  Steve has a hire car but he had little choice in what he got which was called a Toyota tank.  They seem to choose names that wouldn’t work in England.  There are others called, cube and box.  Also, some cars have a yellow number plate.  These are cars that have less than 600 cc engines and do more than 120 miles to the gallon.  Don’t get stuck behind one.  The traffic is a real problem in Japan because there are so many people live here and they all have plenty of money so have cars.  You spend most of your life sitting at a red light or moving between them.  When joggers come past you its impossible to catch them up.  That’s probably why there are so many motorbikes here.  Especially Harley Davidson’s.

Both Saturdays I was here, we went to Tokyo and had Korean for lunch (Kimchi Jiggi).  The first one we found a temple and walked along the river, while the second the Imperial Palace.  There are massive spaces around the palace considering the density everywhere else.  Sometimes walking along the street in a queue with one going the opposite way like conveyor belts.  If you need to cross one of these, good luck.  They have 7 eleven chains which are everywhere so handy.  We buy most of our beer there and the potato croquet’s, when they have them as they are delicious.  They even have little cars to help with deliveries for old people.  That’s why Steve likes them so much.

The first Sunday, we packed and drove to our new place but couldn’t check in until 2pm so walked around the shops in town.  The largest department store is called Mylord with about 7 floors and buildings on either side of the road with a walkway between them.  We ate local food in a small restaurant and checked in.  We chilled in the room with beers until the evening when we met up with Justin from America who designed the facility that Steve works on.  It’s a full size rolling road wind tunnel for Toyota and is expected to take 18 months until completion.  They have Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and Honda which are probably the four largest companies here.  The second Sunday we had a drove to Mount Fugi and parked at the base camp.  Ben, Steve’s oldest son and his friend Tristian climbed to the summit last year.  It takes about 8 hours and gets quite cold at the top.  We were lucky as its been cloudy and raining all day until we reached the camp when the clouds disappeared and the sun came out for our pictures.  Base camp is 2400 meters and the summit about 3800 meters so the air will be getting a little thin at the top.  On our way home from Fugi we headed for Hakone open-air museum which I fancied from the internet.  Because of the terrible traffic, we arrived 2 minutes after the doors closed.  In fact we arrived while people were buying tickets but by the time we had parked it was closed.  Shame, we still had to pay the 500 yen parking ticket.  They have all sorts of things around a trail such as the Picasso museum and many other artifacts.  Maybe next time.

IMG_9568The 45 km journey home took about 3 hours but all around Hakone there are brown sign places and its full of tourists.  Also it’s a bank holiday in Japan on Monday so everyone goes somewhere on the Sunday.  The main event for me in Japan was how nice the people are.  Especially in Gina bar.  It was the first bar that Steve took me to in Atsugi and he knew Tomoki at the bar and the barmaid.  Everyone was so friendly from the beginning so we ended up there every single night after, even when we went for the Tokyo trip.  The first night we were there they had a band practicing so we all had such fun.  They practiced again the following Friday so one of the barmaids said she would cook traditional food for the three of us then.  It also happened to be the last night I would see Tomoki because he was away for the bank holiday.  That’s why it was party night and it felt like my last night then.  Although it’s a drinking bar (with food), its so friendly and people come with their families regularly.  The singer in the band brought his wife and daughter Hannah on the Friday as it was her 10th Birthday.  It seemed that everyone that came in wanted to come to talk to the crazy English people so we got to know almost everyone.  Even IMG_9569Ken, a local, bought Steve and I, expensive bottles of Saki for presents on my last night.  The other barmaid also cooked us traditional food on Sunday which really was my last night.  Everyone wanted to buy us a drink but we did manage to buy a complete round for everyone.  Mind you, the Master wouldn’t let us pay at the end of the night, saying he had lost our bill.  This little Gina’s bar is probably the best local bar I have ever been in and trust me I have tried a few.  I have never met such a crowd of lovely, fabulous people as these in my life.  I will be back!

Thanks Steve, you have been a great host and I have enjoyed every second.  Its been great to catch up with old and create new memories.  Even if you cant answer my stupid questions.  I’m only joking!

Away Day 2

Its hard to believe we have done a year since the last away day.  Anyway, we had another great day again this year.  All the exercises were different to the year before.  We had a slight problem with the grouping.  The Cranfield group was group 3 but Dileep was put in a different group where they had 7 members.  We had 5 and all other groups had 6.  Seemed like an easy problem to solve, but it wasn’t.


Our first exercise was a 4×4 off-road trip.  Great registration.  We each took a turn driving around the course with everyone else in the back.  It was fine driving in the front but a little bouncy in the back without seat-belts.


The bow and arrow game was great fun but exhausting.  You get 2 points if you hit someone on the opposite team and they are out.  If they catch the arrow, they get 2 points and you are out.  If you knock one of the targets out in the middle you get 5 points.  You only start with one arrow each then you have to recover arrows from wherever you can which means going in the open.  Obviously getting the targets gives you the most points but its more fun hitting each other.  As I got hit the most – I probably had the most fun.  I’m a bigger target than the others so the opposition cut their losses.  But at least I got a short break.  The arrows weren’t sharp but had a big rubber golf ball thing on the end.  It still hurt when it hit you up the bum.  Reminded me of some hospital treatment I once had.


The bucket game was good fun.  We all had to wander around an enclosure and find buckets and take them one at a time to stack up in a pyramid.  You were blindfold and one of your team (Katherine) guided you with her voice with the correct colour bucket to the correct place to make the pyramid.  We seemed to win most of the tasks except the one where we had to make a shape on the ground with sticks.  Sounds crap – it was, that’s why there are no pictures.


In the last function, we had to assemble a go-cart from the parts.  Once assembled, we raced them between teams.  They had to be pushed and there was no steering or brakes.  They had a couple of ropes at the back so you could manually brake when you got to the end before turning around and racing back.  I was turnarounder at the end so I didn’t have to run.  I did run the first time but couldn’t keep up.  Turnarounder was a very important job because you had to get the cart dead straight or you would run out of your line.  This is what the team with Dileep as driver did and ran across our lane.  Course they had 2 more pushers than us and we ended up crashing into them.  Poor Dileep ended up with a broken finger, but he didn’t cry.

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Hes not too hot at selfies.  Not with that hand anyway.


Once our day was over, we came to the main event.  The evening at the pub.  They drove us from Oxford to Cambridge where we had a BBQ at a very nice pub with pretty settings.  Shame it rained most of the evening but we were undercover with free drinks so we didn’t mind.  Another excellent day thanks to the EPSRC.  I hope I can get next year because I wont be seeing the Cambridge team or the Cranfield team so much as I have just accepted a PhD at Nottingham University.  More about this later but I’m all set to start another new life back in the area where I was brought up.  It should leave me with plenty of opportunities to catch up with old friends and look after my Mum.  I’m in Japan on holiday at the moment and start at Nottingham upon my return so I imagine the next blog should be about Japan.  See you later, just off for Saki and Sushi.

Thesis Hand-in

What a relief.  Worked flat out for the last month and really hard before that.  The last week I had planned 4 syntheses which would all hopefully be my best ones.  Two days before the end, it was announced that our lab aircon had failed and it was getting up to 40 °C in there and 2 toxic waste bottles had exploded overnight.  I should never have left my best synthesis until the end – just in case.  Anyway. I had managed 40 separate syntheses in 4 months.  Not bad considering it takes two days each and we were on 4 weeks conferences and tours etc.  Also, almost all the equipment broke down at one point or another causing delays.

Building 70 where my lab was

Finishing at the end of August left me a month to write up my thesis.  I had already written as much as I could but obviously not started the results or analysis until I had finished the results.  The ultra-violet curing process hadn’t worked – whatever I did, so I talked my supervisor into buying a new bulb for £280.  It arrived just as I finished the synthesis, so I replaced it and tested it the first Monday in September.  I had planned on curing around 20 samples for analysis in one day and measuring them for resistance deterioration during the final month while I was writing up.  It only takes 2 minutes to cure with UV but 7 hours using the tubular oven.  I tried my best nanowire inks without any success – it’s a complete mystery why it doesn’t work?  Anyway, the only alternative I had left was to come in to Cranfield every day for 2 weeks doing a curing a day which would give me 10 samples and two weeks to check for resistance deterioration while I was supposed to be writing my thesis for the 31st August deadline.

During Synthesis Sampling

I lost 2 lab days due to problems in the lab in building 32 so I only had 8 samples but luckily, I had chosen wisely my first 4 and tested them on the light transmission equipment so I could put them in the oven and check daily for resistance deterioration for 3 weeks.  I did get change to write my thesis as I was working because there were some gaps where I wasn’t doing anything except waiting.  Also, I managed to negotiate myself a desk in building 32 so it wasn’t so far to walk each time I checked the lab.  All this left me visiting my caravan for 3 days and nights once I had finished lab works with a few hours’ sleep here and there.  I don’t know why, maybe the light, but I work better at the caravan than anywhere else.  Lots of light, quiet (although I have the tv on all the time) and no distractions at all.  I just nip out and get a takeaway once a day and split it over two meals.  Make constant cups of tea, ginger tea and lemon squash.

Light Transmission through Glass and NW’s

The other major disaster I had was that Windows 10 did an automatic update and took out Word, which still doesn’t work.  I had my computer in the IT department for 4 days without success; in fact, they broke my Mendelay link so that my references became text and Mendelay had no files within it.  I got my old computer out and had to lug them both around constantly.  My new one to do everything but write my thesis which I did on my old one.  I somehow limped over the line and I am quite pleased with the outcome.  Let’s hope the examiners are as well!

Bottles of nanowires

Once I had almost finished except for polishing – I sent a copy to my daughter Georgina who had offered to proof read for grammar etc.  Big job – over 23,000 words but it came back on Thursday 30th when I needed to hand in because I had a funeral on the final hand-in day.  She had said that it was really good, and she had hardly found anything.  What – it took me about 4 hours just to update it, so it must have taken her much longer – thank you darling; you have made it so much easier for everyone else that ever reads it.  I had 4 bound copies made and now I have to prepare for my viva on 13th September where I will defend my thesis.

Nanowires through Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

My friend Steve from Loughborough is working in Japan again for a year, so I said I would come and see him between hand-in and starting my PhD on 1st October.  Can’t go until my viva and ended up flying out the same day as my viva.  Steve has to work Monday to Friday but will take the weekend off when I am there, so as it takes a day to get there I had to leave on Thursday after viva.  This will give me two weekends with Steve and a week on my own while he works.  I was hoping to write a paper on my research during this week so that more people will read about my work.

IMG_9311I successfully defended my thesis on 13th September, even though they gave me a hard time.  Pass with minor corrections.  They might have been minor but there was a lot of them.  Now I could celebrate by driving to the airport and have a few beers in the bar whilst waiting for my flight to China then Japan.  See you later!


Edinburgh LPM 2018 Conference

Things started badly at Luton Airport.  Dropped bag off and headed through security as England were already 1-0 up.  Just as I used my phone to open the gate, the fire alarm went off and they wouldn’t allow us through.  Instead we were all herded outside in the blazing hot sunshine for over an hour.  By the time we got back through with the massive crowds there was only 5 minutes of the game left and a score of 6-1 to England and I didn’t see any of the goals.  I also missed the first French Grand Prix in 10 years.  Anyway, the pilot managed to make up lost time and arrive on time; how do they do that?

We got a cab from the airport to Hariot Watt University which has lovely grounds.  They have a loch, indoor rugby pitch and lots of grass.  Although there probably 6 or 7 restaurants around campus, the only one open on Sunday evening was the Marriot Courtyard Hotel as the undergraduate students were on holiday.  I tried the haggis, neeps and taties but the ones I have had in England on New Year were better.  Hariot Watt University is 7 miles from Edinburgh centre but they have busses from main reception every 20 minutes or less and its only £1.70.  We managed to get into Edinburgh early one evening to climb Carlton Hill and take some pictures of the monuments and views.  We all met up to eat at the Dorit to eat while watching the football on our phones.

The conference was really good but must have been a nightmare to organise as there were so many presentations.  There were four rooms with four different presentations running concurrently so we had to decide ahead of time which to attend and dash around between them.  By the second or third day we slowed down and mainly stayed in one room where they had desks and we could work on our final reviews while watching the presentation.  We even tended to stay there for lunch just nipping out to grab a plateful. My paperwork for my review has to be sent in next Wednesday so we have little choice but to work on them while we are here.  Back at Cranfield we recently had an upset when it looked like we had to hand our thesis in at the end of July instead of August.  It has turned out alright in the end and we are basically able to choose a date anywhere between end of July and the end of August.  There is still so much work to do between now and then though so I won’t be going out much until I have finished everything.  When I wrote my thesis for my last Masters, I basically locked myself away at my caravan and worked day and night, whenever I woke up.  Its amazing how much you can achieve when you are in solitary confinement, especially in the caravan as there is so much light coming in.

Being at the conference all the time, the only other thing we did was to get the bus to a local buffet restaurant called Beijing Banquet which was absolutely excellent.  In fact, it was too good and we all overate massively.  I woke for a pee around 1 am but couldn’t go back to bed as the food inside felt like it was right up to my throat.  I sat in the chair from 1 am until 4 am when I finally got a little more sleep.  Felt knackered all the next day so its not worth overeating however good it tastes.  The final evening on Wednesday we had all been invited to another banquet which was held in the Royal Museum of Scotland.   We had a really nice time there and all managed to sit on a giant round table together.  There were many different types of artefacts there including a stuffed Dolly the sheep.  They also had Tim Peaks spacesuit and the spaceship that got him to the space centre.

There was a slight cock up on our return journey because, although we were booked hold luggage on the way out, we were not on our return.  It worked out perfect timewise because as soon as the presentations were over we headed back to the airport.  A great week was had by all and it was our final adventure, Cranfield and Cambridge University students all together.  Next year this conference will be held in Hiroshima, Japan.  However, we still have the Day out for next year in September; we can all still go on that together.

Venice euspen Conference

The weather forecast was electric storms for the duration but each day it was sunny spells and hot and the forecast had changed to be electric storms starting the following day.  It didn’t start until our last day on Friday.  We were glad of the aircon in the venue for the euspen conference in the end.  Our first challenge was that the conference was being held in a building near the ports which is a 15 minute walk from the main bus station and Venice.  The accommodation (Jolly Campers) we were allocated was not actually in Venice and was therefore not covered by the 3 day pass we were bought for transport.  Jolly Campers did provide a shuttle bus that dropped us near the port but it only started at 9 am and last but 9 pm which was not suitable for us mostly as the lectures started at 8.30 am and finished around 5 pm but we also had dinners and other functions so could rarely catch the last bus.  Also, you had to buy tickets in advance.



We started our week with a welcome drinks session that was in Venice but unfortunately, we arrived too late for the workshops we had chosen in the afternoon.  The welcome session was great and helped everyone adjust and start to network a little.  To find the event, Saurav our course director, used google maps while taking pictures of the journey with his selfie stick.  Once the event had closed we all scooted off to find a suitable venue for us all to eat in a restaurant.  Many people that know me will know that I’m famous for saying, “There are no restaurants in Venice”.  I say this from previous visits because most are really tiny cafés with many seats outside.  The only real restaurants are the ones in hotels.  I can categorically state that I was wrong, there are very many really good restaurants in Venice and we found one with an internal courtyard to accommodate all 15 of us.  Four Mres from Cambridge, eight from Cranfield, our two lecturers, Saurav, Claudiu and lastly Adam, who did his Mres at Cambridge and transferred to Cranfield for his PhD.  Adam is a great guy known by most at Cranfield for his hard work, knowledge and helpfulness.  He is finishing his PhD this year but may still be around next year on another project.  You can find the full team of Mres students here,  We were spread over two round tables that paid their bills independently.  We enjoyed our meal but were a little surprised when the bill came.  Although we hadn’t requested, bread sticks and bread rolls came out and we hardly ate any of it.  This turns out to be standard all over Venice, they always add a cover charge per person including, bread, place settings and napkins etc.  They sometimes also include a service charge.  Unfortunately, many of our table had left, paying for what they had first which of course didn’t include their share of this charge.  As we had to pay for the bread rolls, Katherine being a vegan, struggles sometimes to find suitable food, took these rolls in her handbag on top of the receipt.  It was hilarious when the waiter asked for the receipt to check it, to watch Katherine taking the bread rolls out of her bag in front of the waiter to get the receipt.  This alone, made it worth the charge!


Being our first return journey at night with no transport tickets, we did well negotiating a bus journey and 45 minute walk to eventually find “Jollies”.  We even managed to get the last drink in the bar to replace fluids.  The following morning, I was down for breakfast around 7.30 which was a sparse buffet breakfast but adequate and free.  As long as we have hot and cold drinks and a small snack we are happy.  It was a very long day Tuesday at the conference but also really enjoyable and informative.  There were also people we had already met on the CDT program from other events.  euspen gave everyone a small rucksack on registration that had various goodies inside, including a program that listed all the presentations with times and a few lines about each paper presented at the conference.  Prof Richard Leach, from Nottingham University, whom I had been for an interview with for my PhD presented five papers at this event alone.  Now I understand how he has managed to be involved with over 250 papers prior to this event.  He is a legend and certainly “the man of the moment”.  Euspen also included a usb stick that included all these papers.  What a great start.


Breaks, followed presentations, that followed breaks until it looked like we would have time to walk to the bus station to convert our travel card barcode onto a real card and maybe even take a couple of pictures of Venice.  However, there were some awards that we felt it would be rude if we didn’t attend followed by short talks from all the exhibitors at the event.  To get the most from talking to the exhibitors, it seemed we should listen to these also.  Two of our group walked to convert the travel cards taking our barcodes with them so at least we could use them from now.  We had already missed almost the entire first day of the transport but we had them anyway.  Once these talks were finished euspen had laid on a student networking dinner that didn’t finish until 10 pm.  This was very nice but we felt that we should at least have seen Venice.  Once we realised there would be no time we arranged to take the following afternoon off because we had not been invited to the formal dinner that evening anyway.  Following the hour long lunch was one of two, 2 hour poster sessions where we could read the posters and ask questions about the owners projects.  There were two from Cranfield resenting posters, Rita (an Mres) and Adam just finishing his PhD.  We explained to them what our intensions were but they had to be by the posters for both events and they agreed to meet us following this session.  We could all then attend the important final poster session where the votes were counted and prizes awarded.


We had a wonderful time around Venice, starting by getting the boat to Murano where they have made glass since at least the 1400’s.  In fact this is where Galileo bought his glass that he made the first telescope with in Venice.  I had missed it on all of my previous visits but finally made it there.  The glass is very expensive but beautiful and probably the best that money can buy.  However, these days it’s likely that most of it is first imported from China.  We visited the Murano glass Museum which was expensive but enjoyable.  Not sure why the museums in Venice are so expensive; it’s a shame as I fear many people do not go in because of costs.  We walked to the nearest ferry port and returned to Venice main island – next stop St Marks Square where we were to meet Rita and Adam following the poster thing.


On previous visits, the square has been so packed I have not enjoyed it there but this day it was reasonably clear with people feeding the pigeons.  People think that pigeons are fat but they are not, they just have very large breast muscles that allows them to be the only bird that can manage a vertical take-off.  Dileep turned out to be bird man and every time he put his arms out they seemed to land on him.  Dileep only likes the girl pigeons landing on him.  He is from one of my favourite places in the world, India and so is self-funding.  He works incredibly hard without complaint, doing everything we do plus manages a 40 hour week working in a local petrol station.  He also never misses an opportunity to pitch for funds towards his PhD.  Remember the course fees for international students is two to three times as much as for home students.  He cannot get funding from home without first returning to India for two years before he will qualify.  Anyway, we met the other missing students and split up because the Cambridge guys had been invited to the formal dinner and had to head back.  There were a few missing because Venice flu seemed to hit our group from day one and some were in the rough early stages in bed.  The remaining Cranfield students agreed to walk to the Rialto bridge which is probably second on the list to St Marks Square.  We were starving and settled for the Rialto Restaurant right next to the bridge.  Man, now we were living, I had a huge 1 litre jug of beer and the food was very good and not as expensive as most places.  Its so expensive in Venice as its almost all tourists and they don’t have to impress because new tourists will be along all the time.  Once finished we started the long walk back to the bus station followed by a 15 minute walk back to Jollies.  They had a pool party on that night that finished at 11.30 pm.  Sounds good but we are living in caravan rooms that are semi detached and can hear every noise outside.  Once the band had finished they seem to play music until 1.30 am most nights and my neighbour always rose at 6 am.  This shakes the caravan around so much you can’t possibly sleep so it was late nights and early mornings every day.  Still this meant that I was always one of the first down for breakfast.


Thursday was another long day but the main event was the poster competition and were pleased when that finally came around.  We asked Rita many difficult questions which she was very able to answer and of course we all voted for her.  Adam was magnanimous in encouraging everyone to vote for her even though he was entered himself.  I asked Adam for his poster number so I could vote him second but he wouldn’t let me as any votes for second and third are effectively voting against your first place.  PWAO2154The announcements; third place was awarded, then second and finally first place out of around 250 posters.  Rita’s real name was announced (Junguo zhao) and her face was a picture – she was so shocked but the roar that went up was incredible, everyone was going mad. Yahoo, well done Rita!  Her parents are going to be so proud and well-done Adam for his part in this victory and honour.  This is the event that Saurav won when he did his Mres, not all that long ago and now he has over 40 papers published.  The event finished around 5 pm so we all left for dinner following Tommy from Cambridge who had eaten at an impressive place a short walk away previously.  Unfortunately, it was already full by the time we arrived there so we headed off, eventually finding a larger restaurant in a square with enough spaces to accommodate us all.  They pushed lots of tables together so it all felt quite medieval.


On Friday we had a choice of three industrial tours but again the logistics didn’t really work as we were so far out.  Fortunately, Jollies had an eight seater minibus that we booked.  They only had one so we had to do two trips.  As it started raining at 5 am our first group had to stand in the rain until the others arrived.  Different minibuses arrived for tours one and three but a full sized bus turned up for our most popular number two.  Number two was an excellent tour around a university.  They split us into 3 groups and each was let around five departments.  It all worked so smoothly and run by intelligent people.  As usual Dillep took the opportunity of asking for PhD funding.  The university had some great equipment and were working mainly on trouble shooting for industry, solving any problems that arose by trying to understand the problems.  Understanding is the only true way forward – there is no point just being lucky to find a solution.  If you truly understand something, you can design whatever application you like from it, if you were lucky you only have one solution.


Bra Bar

The afternoon was free and again we wandered around Venice, but this time without the aid of google maps so we kept finding dead ends.  We headed towards their Natural History Museum but they wanted 24 euros each.  We found two other museums but again, as students they were too expensive.  We eventually found ourselves at the Rialto bridge again and crossed back onto the normal side where we ate at the restaurant last time there.  This time we used google maps to find the famous bra bar that my friend Evonne had told me about in a Facebook comment.  It was literally two minutes from the bridge.IMG_8469  We had a drink there but prices were quite high – even for Venice.  Following this drink we set off to find the others who had eaten at the restaurant we couldn’t get in previously.  They had already left but amazingly we bumped into most of them walking by a market.  Strange how these coincidences happen, with all the people in Venice how we should meet this way.  We all went for a seat in the shade in a local park following Tommie’s expert guidance once again.  By now the rain had stopped and the sun was back in force.


We were not all on the same flight home for our return, the Cambridge gang were flying back from a different airport to Stanstead while we were at Marco Polo to Gatwick.  Today they has a staff strike at the airport that ended at 5 pm and our flight was at 9.50 pm.  However, we spent most of our time queueing because of the backlash.  Again, when we arrived at Gatwick we must have taken a couple of hours to meet at baggage claim.  We finally set off finding the minibus for our return but the M25 have overnight roadworks and is down to one lane at 40 mph.  We got to the M1 to find it was closed between the M25 and Milton Keynes so had to drive around the houses to get back to Cranfield.  By the time I got home it was just past 3 am and I seemed to be developing a sore throat.  The dreaded Venice flu, so I took a lemsip before going to bed.  Awoken by a phone call at 8.30 am, I still felt tired but two more lemsips seemed to keep the cold at bay.  What a fantastic trip which was also educational and interesting and we all managed to get several contacts for our PhD projects which I will talk about in a future blog once I have accepted my best choice offer.  Only two weeks away from our next conference in Edinburgh.  Where am I going to find the time to finish my Mres thesis properly?