Loose Ends

Following the end of our Cambridge University experience we had lectures on Wednesday and Thursday this week.  That leaves us Friday and the weekend to write up the two lab reports from Cambridge, one for metrology and the other lasers.


I started Wednesday by returning the hire car that I have had for the last 12 days.  I was a little concerned as I hadn’t taken the waiver out and so had to pay the first £1000 for any damage.  No problem encountered this time, I dropped it off around 9am and my friend Jimmy picked me up at 9.15am and took me over to Bromham in Bedfordshire to pick up my new used car.  No problems encountered there either as my flexible friend did its duty.  I had already changed my insurance from a car worth £650 3rd party to a car worth £6500 full comprehensive which cost £25 extra.  No more 3rd party for me.  I couldn’t get any tax for the new car without the log book so Shane helped me at the garage.  Not bad, £30 for the year, I just got back £150 from what was left of my old car.  That’s about the only thing I have won on.

I had missed most of the morning lectures but they weren’t very appropriate anyway so I headed off to the library at Cranfield and Jimmy headed home.  Thanks Jimmy!

I coudn’t find “for Dummies”

At last our Blackboard has been loaded with some lectures.  These are for next week’s, Precision Engineering lectures.  There are 14 of them, all with 30-40 pages each.  I like to print mine off so that I can write appropriate notes on them as we go.  I am also taking notes directly onto my laptop this year because I had tremendous difficulty reading them last time.  I didn’t have enough print credit so printed what I could and emailed Renaud, my course director to let him know that I was the only one without print credits.  He emailed administration, they emailed IT and I went into IT where they updated my card.  This time, as it’s a research degree we have a print account that is paid by the University.  Another change from my MSc is that my library book allowance has gone up from 6 books at a time to 30 books.  I was like a kid at Christmas and had a trip around the library and filled my car up with books.

Georgina Parsons

Our first lecture in the afternoon was library instruction. How very appropriate.  This year Sarah Watson is our librarian.  It’s always worthwhile getting to know your librarian as they can be a tremendous help and save you hours.  We started with an overview from Georgina Parsons.

Georgina is the Research Data Manager and looks after all our research data.  All research data that is produced must be accessible for the following 10 years.

The rest of the lecture was by Sarah Watson but I was unable to find a picture of her but she is an information specialist.  She told us some really great things about the facilities we have and search tips etc.  I could have done with this lecture before I started my last research thesis.  I also found out that there is a second library at Cranfield that is accessible to us all.  It’s the Management library, so a little boring to me but still worth a mosey round if I ever get time.

On Thursday we started with an overview of Precision Engineering by Dr Saurav Goel

Saurav Goel

Dr Saurav Goel is a Lecturer (fast track) and an early career investigator in the School of Transport, Aerospace and Manufacturing at Cranfield University. He started his academic journey in 2013 as a Lecturer at Queen’s University of Belfast upon graduating from Heriot-Watt University (HWU), UK in the same year.

It was very interesting, I seemed to be learning new things all the time.  It was a great overview of what we will be doing in greater depths.  For example, write pitch is getting smaller all the time; –

CD write pitch 1.6um – DVD 0.74 um – Blu-Ray 405nm

Precision engineering also follows Moors law.  Ultra-precision machining is doing for light what integrated circuits did for electronics.

euspenWe then had a presentation from euspen that was also very interesting and they are located in the same building as us, Building 90.

Dishi Phillips
Dishi Phillips
David Billington

It seems that for students there is no down side to joining as its free.  We were handed out packs and membership joining forms.  Well, everyone but me as they ran out.  I had to have a quick trip to Building 90 to pick up mine later.  I think we will all join because at the very least we will get some nice, relevant magazines delivered each month.  And there is a fully funded conference next year in Venice.  In 2020, if I’m still there the conference is at CERN so something to look forward to.


In the afternoon we had question time with our Administration staff, Maeve and Emma but I couldn’t find a picture of Maeve.

We could all ask silly questions and in return we got silly answers.  No, it was very useful as we are all a little under-informed about the course finer details, such as pass rates, grading and holidays etc.


Finally, as well as replying to new job inquiries to ask them to take me off their database, I have been updating a few people that I don’t see, regarding my next 4 years.  This is a reply email from Paul at Minstrell Recruitment, a very professional agent if you are looking for work in automation; –

Hi Phil.

Of course I remember you…..how could I forget.

We refer to you as the one Ocado let get way. Their loss.

I’m really pleased that you have fallen on your feet and enjoying life.

The fact that you have taken the time to mail me say’s everything about you Phil.

A great bloke with a great attitude.


I wish you all the success in the world with the PhD and I will be more than happy to help you in the future although it sounds like you won’t need much help.


All the best Phil


Paul Leyshon

Senior Engineering Automation Recruitment Consultant

Well that’s about finished this week off, I now have 3 days to try and get two lab reports written up before we start new lectures all next week which also has assignments.


Cambridge Week 2

Again, we set of about 7am and again we hit traffic miles from Cambridge.  It was even worse this week so we didn’t get there until 9am, just time for a cup of tea and for everyone to copy my data stick of data and pictures from last week.

Tea in the canteen before we start
Katjana Lange

We started the day by trying to catch up with what we missed last week.  We eventually got through it all but it was already lunchtime.  Now only the afternoon to complete the entire days’ work.  Lilly helped us again with our catch-up work in the morning and Daniel for a while in the afternoon.

Daniel brought Katjana in to talk to us as her PhD is largely

Actual laser cut

about laser ablation which we are working on.  Very enlightening – Kat’s short talk enabled us to better understand what we were supposed to be doing and to get on efficiently.  Today’s work was about measuring the laser cuts we had done last week so we could establish various properties about the laser power and focus etc.



Catch up with Lilly

It was a very long day, especially as I had awoken at 4am and got up at 4.30.  We left IfM at Cambridge University around 6.45 and I arrived home at 20.10.  I had had to fill the car with petrol on the way home as tomorrow I need to take the hire car back and drive to Bedford to pick up my new car before driving to Cranfield University to continue lectures there.

My new car

Cambridge University

Probably the best Science University in the World?

We decided to set off early as I know that traffic into Cambridge can be challenging.  I picked up Mohamed from Newport Pagnell first at 7am and went onto picking up Rita from her shared house in Cranfield.  Rita’s real name is, “Junguo Zhao”, but has chosen an English name because none of us can pronounce it.  Ren (Ren Guicun) decided to travel to Cambridge on Wednesday evening, to give himself a little tourist time.  Although the traffic was very heavy, we still arrived early at around 8.45am and parked on double yellow lines at IfM (Institute for Manufacturing) as nothing else was available.  We wrote a note which was left in the window giving my mobile number etc. and had a quick walk around the campus to take some photo’s.


There are some very modern and colourful buildings along the road fronts with the old buildings behind.


The Cavendish Laboratories are just down the road; this is Rita and Mohammad walking towards them.  When we got to the end of the building we bumped into Ran so our quorum was complete.

Rita and Mohammad walking towards Cavendish Labs.

There were some notable street names, like J.J. Thompson Avenue and Charles Babbage Road etc.  Of Course, The Cavendish Laboratories is where Crick and Watson worked when they discovered the form and shape of DNA (National Association for Dyslexics).  There were too many famous scientists to mention but a couple, James Clerk Maxwell and Ernest Rutherford.  There were also 29 Nobel Laureates from these laboratories.


Dan Gortat

We still arrived early and in time for a cup of tea and we were off for our first proper lectures.  I was also allocated a parking space so moved my car.  Today we have two laboratories about measurement (metrology) and we started by being introduced to two microscopes by Daniel, a Cambridge PhD student.  I met Daniel on our day out as I sat on the same table for dinner.  Daniel is at the end of his PhD and seems to be getting some stick from his peers as he is yet to start writing his thesis.

Ran at one of the microscopes

I used to own a microscope when I was young as I pleaded with my parents to buy me one for a combined Christmas and Birthday one year.  They have changed so much since those days mainly because the lighting is so much better and we now have CCTV cameras so the image can be shown on a screen and manipulated by computers.  We didn’t even have calculators when I had mine.  The sample can be illuminated from the front with lights shining around the viewing lens or from behind like I had.  There is also an option to have the light at an angle to show cast shadows.

DSCF3081The post processing option opens a whole new world, for example, you can view samples in 3D by focusing on the top of the sample, then refocusing progressively lower saving each image.  The processor knows the focal heights and can stitch the images together enabling you to view the sample from any angle.

We over ran the morning session and therefore our canteen was closed so we had to walk to the West Café, just down the road towards the Cavendish.


Lilly Delimarta

We were under pressure from the start in the afternoon when we were introduced to interferometry by Lilly a Cambridge PhD student.  I met Lilly on our day out at Cambridge because I sat next to Kryste, her thesis supervisor.

An interferometer microscope is for examining and measuring surfaces.  It works by splitting the focal beam, sending one beam directly to the viewing lens and the other via an adjustable mirror.  The mirror can be adjusted until interference bands can be viewed caused by diffraction.  As all setting are known, measurements can be calculated and interesting images and histograms created.

We were only about half way through our samples when we encountered a problem where the interferometer microscope seemed to view and measure the interference pattern rather than the sample.  Lilly couldn’t resolve the problem and brought in an expert, Andy Payne who I also met on our day.  Anyway, try as they might our problem remained unsolved when it was late and we all had to go home.

Andy Payne

Andrew received his MPhys in Physics from the University of Kent in 2012 where his master’s year research was in Fourier domain optical coherence tomography. Subsequently Andrew joined the Centre for Doctoral Training in Photonic Systems Development and received his MRes from the University of Cambridge after conducting research into the coherence properties of liquid crystal lasers at Cambridge and the registration of 3D laser scanned point clouds at UCL.

We were booked into a Premier Inn only a mile or two away so we headed off and checked in.

DSCF3097To save money, Mohammad and myself were sharing in a “quad” room”, so we unpacked and tidied ourselves up and headed off to the restaurant attached.  Rita decided she wasn’t ready to eat and fancied a walk into the centre to have a look around.  By the time we had eaten it was 20.30 and we had no response from Rita when we knocked so went to our room to catch up on emails etc.  I emailed my computer written notes to the others.  I also took my new camera and will share the pictures once I remember a USB stick.

DSCF3098Our first night in Cambridge happened to be Harvest Moon so I took a picture of the

Harvest Moon

Moon but it was drowned out by the street lamp.  Harvest Moon is the full moon that takes place closest to the Autumn equinox.  It used to be used to indicate when the crops should be gathered in to prepare for the winter months.  The full moon meant that work could go on later because of the extra light before we had street lights.


We all met for breakfast around 7.30 and could have as much as we liked from any menu.

DSCF3101We did our best and headed off to the University.  Today we were introduced to lasers by Dr Martin Sparks.

Dr Martin Sparks

Martin is part of the Cambridge core team and is a senior research assistant.

Again, we all struggled, Martin talked and went through procedures at a tremendous pace and we all struggled to keep up while trying to take pictures and notes in unfamiliar topics.  As something had happened to the alignment of the equipment, we had to readjust the mirrors and equipment to get back in alignment again.  I am pleased that we had to go through this process because the alignment experience was a real help to understand the process.  Starting from the laser source we had to work our way through the system following the beam route adjusting as we went.  This meant that we had to wear special goggles, have the covers open and laser on while making these adjustments.

DSCF3112The main purpose of this Lab was to lead us into understanding the importance of documenting everything, thinking about things before acting and, “leaving no stone unturned”.  In research it is so important to document everything so that your work can be criticised and repeated to verify if necessary.  If anything is left out it leaves doubts over the validity of your work.  A good example of this was the research done into room temperature cold fusion.

DSCF3113This day was extremely stressful to us all as Martin left us to work so much out for ourselves.  At first, problems seemed insurmountable but gradually, maybe with hints, we got there in the end.  The harder things are to solve, the more fulfilling when they eventually are.

Laser Goggles

In the afternoon, we had a sample that we could blast with the laser, doing experiments, varying power and other things so that these could all be examined using the microscope and interferometer next week.  We used G programming language to control the laser cutting process.  Two programs were given to us that we had to run, changing various variable, power etc. until the images of the cuts appeared optimum.  Again, we had two cameras focused on the workpiece that we initially set up.  One optical and one CCTV and both could be viewed on our computer screen.  The second program took moved the laser in a snake shape up the workpiece incrementally cutting deeper in variable steps.


Once we had attenuated the power sufficiently that the image appeared optimal, we had to modify the program to cut in all four directions to enable us to compare the results of directional change next week when we measure these cuts.  My previous MSc experience came in handy here and I was quickly able to write a new section of code that would achieve this.  Again, we had to change variables and power etc. to optimise the laser cuts making it easier for us to measure next week.  The dots are where the cut height is changed and the red is the extra program cuts that we added starting at the deepest cut, incrementally raising so that adjacent cuts are the same height for comparison.

This time we finished ahead of time, but instead of heading home we decided to talk Lilly into helping us go through our missed interferometer lab.  She kindly agreed but we only had time to get through the third sample before she had to head off home.  We can go through our final sample before we start our lab next week.

I think I can speak for the others when I say that we all found this experience very stressful but once we were finished, quite a relief but fulfilling.  I feel so much better about this experience this morning following a great sleep.  For the past week, my sleep patterns have not been so good because of my excitement and anticipation of this course.  I now feel grounded and ready to go.  Before I can start though, I really do need to find and buy a car this weekend.  Also, it’s the Japanese Grand Prix.  Lewis just broke the, “total number of poles” record again which means that he has now won pole position at all the GP’s on this year’s calendar.  See you next Tuesday Cambridge!

End of Introduction Week

Day 2  9.00 Dr Sue Impey

SueDr Susan Impey joined Cranfield from the chemical industry. She was awarded an MSc in Materials Science and a PhD in Metallurgical Engineering for work in aluminium alloy oxidation and recycling. Since this time, Dr Impey has conducted research for the Materials Department into oxidation and corrosion aspects of liquid metals for the casting industry, high temperature coatings for the aerospace industry, and ferroelectric ceramics and thin films for the microelectronics manufacturing industry.

Since 1995, Dr Impey has been responsible for the management of analytical equipment for surface and materials characterisation at Cranfield University and all resources including staff. She provided support to the University and a service to industry in materials characterisation and failure analysis using analytical methods. Her research interests also include the use and development of analytical techniques using surface analysis and electron microscopy.

Appointed to the lecturing staff in 2003, and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2009, she undertakes teaching and academic activities. Dr Impey was appointed as Course Director for the MSc Advanced Materials in 2003 and additionally Course Director for the MSc Microsystems and Nanotechnology in 2008. She is currently Programme Director for the Manufacturing Technology and Materials MSc courses, developing and supporting five MSc programmes in Aerospace Materials (from 2014/15), Advanced Materials, Applied Nanotechnology (formerly Microsystems and Nanotechnology), Welding Engineering and Manufacturing Technology and Management (from 2012/13).

Dr Impey is the head of the academic year for manufacturing.

Everything didn’t exactly go according to plan in this session.  Sue was caught up in traffic and came in a little late but had left some questionnaires for us to fill in.  For some reason, our group size was much larger than Sue was expecting and there were nowhere near enough questionnaires so Dr David Ayre, who was helping in Sue’s absence, copied some more.  Most people had a copy of the first sheet but not the second sheet so we didn’t fill them out in the end.  Sue arrived and wanted to change rooms so it would be easier to get in our “Buddy Groups”, but we knew from the previous day that there were not enough tables and chairs in the room she wanted to move to.  There followed a huge reshuffle while everyone moved into their buddy groups, the whole thing started badly and got worse as we progressed.  We were only talking about learning styles anyway, I just can’t wait until we start the lectures proper and get down to science.

It’s difficult to understand why nobody seems to know how many to expect at these introductory lectures as someone must have a list that were emailed in the first place.  There were 72 of us attending this lecture but that’s the second time now where our group has not appeared on the sign in sheet.


11.10 Dr Jeff Rao

Dr Jeff Rao

After completing my PhD from Surrey University, I was awarded a fellowship by The Royal Society and worked at the Superconductivity Research Laboratory in Tokyo. After completing my tenure, I joined Balzers in Japan as a process engineering supporting companies manufacturing LCDs. I returned to the UK as a senior process engineer, working on assignments in both Ireland and The Netherlands. I joined Cranfield in 2002 and undertook an MBA at the Cranfield School of Management in 2007.



Life Cycle of Materials

We started by looking at the construction of mobile phones and the main materials that they consist of.  Each buddy groups took an element each, Gold, Tungsten, Silicon etc. and had to quickly research the following categories relating to their element.  Ours was gold.








Our group split into singles or pairs and took a topic each.  Mohammad and myself had politics, my favourite subject.  At the end of the short session, we had to make a 6-minute presentation of our findings.  I hate this sort of thing as I am useless at it.  It turned out that we had to present first, and of course, Politics was the first topic.

At lunch time, I printed the confirmation for our hotel in Cambridge out through the central system that enables you to go to any printer around the University. Sign in with your card and collect your prints.  Here we go again, my student card was not recognised.  I have two but neither of them work.  My old one, that I know works and has plenty of credit left was shredded when I was given my first card so I will have to have another trip to the IT department and wait in the long queues.  I also took Mohammad to the Comet Café to get a cheap cup of tea and so he could order a sandwich for Wednesday.


14.05 Dr David Ayre – Intro to Edupack

Dr David Ayre

Dr Ayre has 10 years experience of working in industry as a chemist in the nuclear power generation industry, where he worked on operating and commissioning AGR Power Stations.


Current activities

Dr Ayre is a Lecturer in Composites and Polymers in the Enhanced Composites and Structures Centre at Cranfield University. He is the course director for the Advanced Materials MSc and has research interests in polymer and composite toughening, composite manufacturing cost modelling, joining of composite structures, failure of polymeric coatings and recycling of polymeric materials.

Other research interests include mechanical, thermal and visual characterisation of materials.

David, who helped fill the gap for our first lecture took us for a brief session to explain the basics of how to use a piece of software that we can all download to our PC’s called Edupack.  It aids material selection.  You enter all the properties that are important to you and the software keeps narrowing down the database until you are left with only the ones that are suitable for your requirement.  The more I learned about this package, the more I liked it and this lecture, for me, was by far the best so far.  It’s a shame that we still don’t have Black Board loaded so I could show you some of the screen shots from the package as it allows you to display all sorts of graphs etc.  If any of the categories are clicked, for example, Youngs Modulus, it displays everything you ever wanted to know about it.  You can also get a preview of typical values for materials if you have no idea of what values to pick.


15.15 Conkers

Dr Impey
Dr Jolly

In this session, we were introduced to the British art of “Conkers”.  We were then asked for 4 volunteers that had never played conkers before to come to the front for contests.  Mohammad was paired against an Oriental lad but it took them both a while to get going.  However, it wasn’t long before Mohammad got the hang of it and became the first champion.

The moment of victory for Mohammad

We were asked to conduct some research into trying to predict which conkers would be champions.  We conducted this research in teams of 2 or 3.  Mohammad and I were teamed and started by making conker categories, like large and small

Research literature

Categorise conkers –

large, small etc.  Size of middle – large, small, age since taken from tree etc.  We thought that some analysis would be necessary to collect data so as to use statistics to determine which categories scored the highest.  It’s always a good idea when doing anything like this to start by doing some online research to see what work has been done in this area in the past.  This was a fun exercise and we all seemed to enjoy it.

It was also mentioned that it is a good idea to reduce the categories if possible to reduce the number of experiments necessary.  This can be done by using only extremes rather than a range.  You can also use partial factorial experimentation and statistics to reduce the number of experiments etc.

Oh yes, this activity was taken very seriously and also a bit of fun that gave us all a gently introduction to research.

Remember, anybody can generate results – think carefully about what you are doing before you start.


Day 3 Wednesday

Today we had a choice, the normal introductory stuff or something useful, how to choose and find a journal. For Mohammad and myself, it was a no-brainer.

Dr Ahmed Al-Ashaab

Dr Ahamed Al-Ashaab

Prior to joining Cranfield University, Dr Ahmed Al-Ashaab was Senior Lecturer at Wolverhampton University and Associate Professor at ITESM Campus Monterrey-Mexico. He has been an active researcher in the areas of collaborative product development, concurrent engineering, knowledge-based engineering and lean product development. His research projects have a strong focus on industrial applications. The research carrier started after he obtained his PhD from Loughborough University in 1994. He then worked at ITESM Campus Monterrey in Mexico from 1994 to 2000 where 50% of his time was spent working with Mexican Industry (mainly automotive and home appliances sectors) in applied research. He has been active in introducing and implementing NPI/D methodologies based on concurrent engineering. He joined Wolverhampton University in September 2000 where he was the manufacturing engineering pathway manager. He was involved in several knowledge transfer projects with SME companies in the area of product development and manufacturing cost reduction. Dr Al-Ashaab has taught in Mexico, Colombia, France and UK.

Choosing the right journal for your research: Impact factor and rank approach

Need 2 journal papers by end of PhD.  Not books as papers are peer reviewed.  Two types of open access journal which are quicker but you pay.  Golden OA published in 1-month others could be 1 or 2 years.  Dr Al-Ashaab currently has 24 PhD students.  Supriana is one of them who gave us a presentation on using Web of Science to find journals that are the most suitable for the field that you are working in.  You can read the ones that Cranfield subscribe to or submit to any.

Supriana Suwanda

Log into the Cranfield website and go to library resources.   Chose eResorces – T-Z – Go to “Web of Science” Citation

Once a journal selected you can view it by going to Ulrichs to see if the university subscribes to this journal.  If they do you can download the journal.

We practiced for the rest of the morning, then ran around sorting out our printer access, expenses and travel arrangements for tomorrows trip to Cambridge University.  Each lunch time and early morning we are in the IT department getting things gradually sorted out.  Although I can print now I have been given no credit yet and am relying on what I have left from the last course.  Mohammad was told that he doesn’t have to pay for prints as he is a research student.  Well I am on the same course as Mohammad and a research student – I have this blog to prove it.  Where is my print account?

We probably would have had time to go back this afternoon for the presentations but fortunately we have so much else to do to prepare for our trip to the best University in the world tomorrow.  I’m so excited I cant sleep.  I was awake at 2am this morning but dozed until about 5am when I got up.

Mohammad remembered to pay for his sandwich but unfortunately forgot to collect and eat it.  I don’t suppose it will still be there next Wednesday which is the next time we have lectures at Cranfield.  I wouldn’t have forgot!  But that’s probably why I’m fat and hes thin.

Poster in IT Department

Remember as a full time student, you can download plenty of software for free or at least vastly reduced prices.  Often, there is only limited time at the beginning of the course when the offer is on.

Mohammad was kind enough to lend me an overnight bag on our way home.

Introduction Week 1  Day 1 

Monday 9am Dr Muhammad Khan

MKUpon receiving his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from NEDUET Karachi in 2002, he joined Technology Promotion Internationals (Head Quarter: Maryland USA) for more than 3 years in the capacity of a Research Engineer. In these years, he was involved in fault diagnosis of defense applications mainly funded by General Dynamics including US Marines Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR). In 2006, he went to The University of Manchester for his master’s leading to doctoral studies and completed his PhD in 2008 with more than 12 publications in the area of fatigue of gear assemblies. Later, he joined University of Hertfordshire as a post-doctoral research associate in 2009 for two years. Where he worked on a UK MOD project related to aerospace transmission fatigue diagnosis partnered with the University of Manchester, University of Warwick and QinetiQ. He briefly taught Mechanical Engineering at Universiti Teknologi Petronas (Malaysia) as a lecturer in 2011 and the same year he then joined National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Pakistan as an Assistant Professor. At NUST, he established a Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) center and being the Head of Postgraduate Programme started a new Master’s in the area of Computational Mechanics.

Dr Khan started the week by talking about team building.  I noticed that he has the same initials as Milton Keynes.  Working in a team increases efficiency and has a synergistic effect.  Double a population and everyone is 15% better off.  This % can be very much higher when all working together as a team and collectively achieve things that are impossible on your own.

GroupWe all split into Teams, which was handy as we could meet the others that couldn’t make the Day Out.  Our team has eight members, Katherine, Mohammad, Ben, Guicun, Xiuyuan, Bilal and myself.  Dileep turned up a little late but at least he now has his visa and could join the group.  He will have to self-fund for the first year and seek financial aid for his PhD.  We discovered from chatting that Ben is a part time student and we are still one short, there is a girl that is yet to join us but will be travelling to Cambridge with us on Thursday.

Team projects usually follow the following order, Order; Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning.

MJMonday 11.15 Professor Mark Jolly

  • Bachelor of Metallurgy (B.Met) from Sheffield University
  • PhD in Metallurgy at Cambridge University CASE Award with International Tin Research Institute (Rapidly Solidified Tin Alloys)
  • 4 years at AE Developments (Tier 1, Automotive components supplier)
  • 2 years in Battelle Research Centre, Geneva Switzerland (Squeeze Cast Fibre Reinforced Metal Matrix Composites 19 clients including, Alcan, Billiton, Isuzu, Fiat, Bohn, Comalco, Baekart, Alusuisse, Zollner and Morgan Ceramics)
  • 2 years at Foseco International Limited, Birmingham (Manager of Light Alloys Technical Development)
  • 5 years at Foseco (FS) Ltd., Tamworth (UK operating company, product group manager for sand products, coatings and technical software)

In 1995, Mark moved to the University of Birmingham to set up and manage the Castings Centre, an add-on to the IRC in Materials for High Performance Applications, and focused on technology and knowledge transfer of research into the global foundry sector. In 1999, he created the Process Modelling Group.

Mark was PI on an EPSRC (EP/G060096/1/2, finished 31st August 2013) project “Saving Energy in the Foundry Sector” (supported by Aeromet, Grainger  & Worrall, NTec, Federal Mogul, TCS & the Cast Metal Federation  (CMF)) and PI for a KTP (KTP008637) in the glass industry focused on redesigning process equipment for lower CO2 and water footprints. He co-authored and was the University of Birmingham lead on a €1.7M FP7 Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) initiative in improving manufacturing in the bio-medical sector targeted at reducing energy and materials with Depuy Johnson & Johnson as the major partner. Since 1999 Jolly has been PI for 8 EPSRC funded grants and CI on 3. He has been PI on 4 KTPs. With his industrial experience and research interest he has strong links with the metal manufacturing sector. In 2008 he won the Institute of Cast Metals Engineers (ICME) Oliver Stubbs Gold Medal for Knowledge Transfer in the Cast Metals Industry and in 2010 the University of Birmingham Josiah Mason Award for Business Advancement. He was awarded an ICME Diploma in 2013 for best paper in the IFTJ, “Energy saving in the foundry industry by using the CRIMSON single shot up-casting process”.

Professor Jolly first spoke about presentation techniques which was very entertaining.  Following a short break, he spoke about what is expected in our first thesis for the Mres. Already lunch time!

Like everyone else, I seem to be getting far more emails than I would like or need.  One was Craftto say that my ID card was ready to pick up and the other to tell me who to see regarding payment of the funding.  Well, I was already issued with an ID card when I registered on Wednesday so was intrigued to find out why I had another one.  Lunch time was my first opportunity to visit these two buildings.  I started by visiting the library to pick up a site map so I could work out where these building were.  To my surprise, the library alarm went off when I entered the library.  My bag was searched and it was discovered that the book that I took out successfully on Wednesday was now the culprit.

Its quite an interesting book which is well worth the read if you are becoming a research student.

The problem must have been caused by the confusion of my two ID cards so one of the librarian helped me re-book out the book again – which was now showing that it was back on the shelf; gave me a map and I was on my way again.

CardsSomehow, I have become a part time student and also a full time student.  So in two days, I now have two ID cards.  I told the others that at this rate I should be able to play cards soon.  A quick look at the map and off to the finance offices where I filled out a form so that I will be able to receive my finance payments.  Seems to me like something that should have happened automatically during registration?  Anyway, I barely had time for something to eat and had to rush off for the afternoon lectures.

Monday 14.15 Dr Nicola White

nwNicola has extensive experience of working closely with academia and industry. Prior to her current academic post, Nicola was employed by GlaxoSmithKline R&D, initially as a technical specialist progressing to international programme leader within discovery research. Throughout her time at GSK and Cranfield, a key area of interest has been the development and application of tools supporting personalised medicine. At Cranfield, Nicola has gained first-hand experience of working with professional partners in the development, management and delivery of applied research projects as well as bespoke executive education. Within these activities, sponsors have included leading global pharmaceutical and medical device companies as well as charities and the NHS.

Dr White spoke about social responsibility and ethics.  It turns out that Microsoft are at the top of the ethics list.


RenaudWe then had some free time until Dr Renaud Jourdain could meet us at 17.00 to talk about the course mechanics.  Dr Jourdain has 33 publications to his name – quite an achievement but from what we have learned about him so far, he never seems to stop.  I seem to get many emails a day from Renaud which can be sent any time of the day.

Contrary to what we were told during the day, our team will not be undertaking a group project and so our individual projects or thesis research work will begin in January 2018.  We must pass all eight modules that we are assessed on by assignment with a minimum pass rate of 50%.

It seemed a long day as I was up and running at 5am and we didn’t get away until just before 20.00.  I can’t wait until we start proper material that is relevant to our course.

Total Wipe-out

Just when I thought I was managing to get everything together ready to start the new research on Monday I got a backward step.  I was coming back from Melton Mowbray on Thursday on the M1 between J17 and J16 southbound where the roadworks has been for the last 6 years and a truck pulled out onto me an wiped out my car.  I had been to Melton to take my mum to see her consultant (good news, she doesn’t need tests again until March 2019).

IMG_6841As I have 12 points on my license I have been driving to the speed limit.  I found a truck going at 50mph and stuck behind him.  He pulled into the middle lane to overtake a slower truck so I followed him.  As everyone is going roughly the same speed we were in the middle lane for some time and my truck had just started to go past the back of the slower one.  Another truck was undertaking us in the slow lane and pulled out when he got to the slow truck.  I didn’t see it coming as his front end was level with the back of my car so when he pulled out he swung me around.  My car was sideways at the front of his for a moment but I thought something had locked up on my car.  I tried to correct, and managed to an extent as my front swung to the right and I turned back to correct it when he hit me again.  This time, I was a passenger


being pushed sideways along the M1 at around 50mph.  He started to veer towards the roadworks pushing me in front of him until the cones started to hit my side of the car and bounce over my bonnet.  Once he had slowed enough, I could correct again and pull into the roadworks lane.  He also pulled into the roadworks lane behind me.  The car that had been behind me, saw what was happening and pulled into the fast lane and slowed so he missed the actual incident.  He then drove in front of me and came to see if I was alright.  I was fine and got out the car and went to talk to him.


He explained what had happened and we both went to talk to the driver, who turned out to be a Dutch lad (Damien).  He was in total shock and shaking – he even started to cry in the end so I told him not to worry as accidents happen.  He obviously didn’t do it on purpose so I wasn’t cross.  Chris, the independent witness phoned the police but there was a camera that must have recorded the entire incident and the pickup came before the Police.

As the truck was almost undamaged, he was sent on his way,IMG_6839 although the pickup man, Pete thought that he shouldn’t be driving.  My car was dragged onto the pickup and we set off north along the finished coned off roadworks lane.  It seemed ages before Pete found an entry point to the main carriageway and then only a short distance before we got off the M1, went around the roundabout and headed back South on the M1.  The going was stop – start and very slow from the aftermath of everyone slowing to watch my accident.

IMG_6832The compound was just off Junction 18 towards Crick and I was dumped there while a lady got me a cup of tea.  I was told that I only had 24 hours to get the car removed or I would be charged £150 to be towed to another storage area and then so much a day.  I phoned my recovery company, Green Flag but they refused to come because it was an accident rather than a breakdown.  I phoned my insurance and they refused to come as I only had 3rd Party, Fire and Theft.  I stupidly thought that the 3rd Party bit meant that they paid for the other party if it was my fault or they handled the claim if it was his fault.  So, there I was, stuck in the middle of nowhere with a scrap car and a new problem of arranging its removal and getting myself home and transport for my new project.

Jim & Shirley in youth

My very good friend Jim and his wife Shirley helped me out yet again, coming to my rescue and take me home.  Jim was my boss when I first worked for Mertech Switchboards.  That was his first promotion of many which eventually has led to him becoming the Managing Director and owner of the company now.  Remember, if you ever need a Switchboard, Mertech is the place to go.

The following morning, my wife Claire took me to pick up a hire car that should fill the gap while things were sorted out and get me to Cranfield and Cambridge Universities.  It should have been my last day at Ball Corporation (Rexam) but I obviously didn’t make it.  I did however pop in to apologise and


hand over to Jose, my boss.  Also, it’s the end of the month so I needed to get my invoice in.  I had also arranged for a scrap car dealer to meet me at the car so that I could hand over the V5 logbook and he could hand back £100.  Not the best of deals, as I have just had the car serviced and a new


MOT.  I even had the timing belt replaced which was another £350.  The diesel that I had just put in was worth around £75.  Anyway, it seemed the best deal that I had on the table because, although the car is reliable it was first registered in 2002 and not worth the recovery costs etc.

Well, that’s about it, a little excitement that I could have done without

Hire car

but it’s all part of life’s rich and exciting challenges.  However bad it seems, I always try to take something out of the situation.  Sometimes it’s more difficult than others; the main thing here is that it could have been so much worse and of course it makes this blog slightly more interesting.


Registration Day

Vincent Building for Registration

We were off to a flying start.  In fact so fast we lost a week.  We had been given 3 dates, the Day Out, Registration and the start date of the course which is 2nd October – week 1.

Of course, starting a 4-year research project so soon, we felt it important to get all our other jobs around the house etc. finished before this date so I had this week full up except for today, Registration Day.  By last Thursday we started to receive timetables for an induction week which was in week zero, this week.  Anyway, because we had little warning, only one (Katherine) of our four made the entire week.  Myself and Mohammad could only make today (27th September) as we were there to register anyway.

Following registration, which seemed to go smoothly until I got to the finance office.  The lady told me that I had £9000 funding to pay for the course but I had received a £4500 bursary.  This meant that I had more funding than the course cost so I offered to solve their problem.  Just as she realised that she was looking at my previous course at Cranfield 3 years ago.

The Vincent building is normally used for registration.  It has been recently joined to the Whittle building which often causes confusion.

Our Induction lectures were held in the Stafford Cripps building.

Stafford Cripps Building
Dr Steve Hobbs

We had a morning lecture with Dr Stephen Hobbs about starting a research project.

Steve’s got a 1st class degree at Cambridge University in experimental physics and mathematics before switching to ecological physics at Cranfield.  Steve has worked on research projects in the US and Europe studying insect migration, land-surface / atmosphere interactions, and remote sensing.  He has extensive practical experience including electronics, signal processing, field experiments and satellite payloads.

Qualifications include membership of professional societies in physics, meteorology and remote sensing.

Steve has been involved in teaching space engineering subjects at postgraduate level for over 20 years, with experience running the MSc in Astronautical and Space Engineering as well as doctoral research student supervision. He is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Steve has had many established clients including the Royal Society and some space agencies.

Steve has written over 30 papers which are listed on the Cranfield website.

Building 45

At lunch time, I dashed to building 45 to get a letter to send the Council to register to reduce Council Tax.  Full time students are entitled to reduced rates.  As I am living on my own now, I hope to achieve a zero rate.  Even the postman uses the building numbers to deliver post.

Professor Jane Rickson

In the afternoon we had Professor Jane Rickson who talked about the various stages of conducting research.

Jane started at Kings College, London in Geography before taking an MSc at Silsoe College in Agricultural Engineering and her PhD at Cranfield in the use of geotextiles for soil erosion control.  Jane is a Chartered Environmentalist.

She has many clients including, Alcoa of Australia, BBSRC, British Council, Defra etc.

Jane also has well over 30 papers listed on the Cranfield website.

It seemed like a very successful and enjoyable day and we are all ready to start our first year of Research on Monday.  And remember, research is, “The search for Universal Truth”!