Social Life

Somehow, I have managed to retain most of my social life as much as possible.  I don’t like to work evenings if I don’t have to anyway, but I have retained my three evenings out.  I meet Jim, my best friend, at the pub I can walk to on a Tuesday, where we normally eat and talk about all things science.  I am out with the old boys on a Wednesday night where we also eat.  Dr George, who was my course tutor at the OU is one and Jim comes along occasionally.  There are usually 4 or 5 of us, including, Steve, Prof Alfi and Georges son Chris.  Alfi isn’t really a prof, he just likes to think he is.  He has never owned a tv or been married so he has the knowledge of a professor anyway.  The feature picture is a sign outside the Red House where we eat on a Wednesday.  I thought of another one, “When its foggy, look for the VW”.

I have recently resurrected a Friday, early doors night out with Dr George and his rugby crowd.  I used to stop off for a drink with them years ago but only started again since I have been single.  Claire, my ex-wife comes around, on her way home from work on a Sunday for dinner and takeaways for the week.  The only social things that have suffered so far is, seeing my Mum and Harriet.  Quite often Harriet and Billy would come around on a Thursday after work for a pancake supper.  I did get back to see my Mum again last Sunday but that’s the first time since I started this course.  Claire has been a couple of times, which has helped.

DSCF3297I haven’t seen much of Georgina either lately, but that’s because she has been working in sub-Saharan Africa for over 12 months.  This Friday, Georgina texted me to say that she had to come home early because some troubles had flared up in South Sudan and it wasn’t safe.  Normally, this would be good news, but she had a few interviews set up which are crucial for her thesis for her MSc that must be in by January 5th, 2018.  She won’t be going back again until December, so it doesn’t leave much time to rearrange and write up.  On the plus side, she couldIMG_6876 come back to Melton Mowbray with me to see her Grandma last Sunday.  Grandma was pleased to see us both and had prepared a nice soya cottage pie with vegetables because Georgina is still a vegetarian.  If it’s got lamb in, it’s called shepherd’s pie, if it’s got beef, it’s a cottage pie, maybe a vegetable one should be called a ploughman’s pie?

This is Georgina’s “field kit” for when she travels in the wilds of South Sudan without an armored car.  A stab vest, hard hat, satellite phone and what looks like a puncture repair kit.  She had to use this 2 weeks ago when she visited some of SS’s top officials.  They are rolling in it while their people are literally starving but are looking for aid to sort all their problems out.

DSCF3239We had another trip to Cambridge a couple of weeks ago for a “Kick Off Meeting” to start organizing our student led Conference.  We started by electing a Project Manager for both Universities and then I was elected Secretary and I don’t even have a short skirt.  Sorry to put that image in your mind.  Anyway, we have already set our event date for DSCF3242Thursday 24th May 2018.  I was also assigned to create a poster for the event.


I just noticed when I selected the poster to put here, that I had the date wrong.  That’s so me, the only mistake on the drawing is the title or the date.  Don’t tell anyone, I will replace it with the one on our shared Google drive and they may never know.  I’m surprised that nobody else had noticed it either as this is the third version I have done.

It was an early start in the morning and Bilal was very tired.  Dillep was tired when we got back as well but that was probably more to do with his 40 hour a week job that he has because he has no funding.DSCF3269DSCF3245






DSCF3246Another event that I managed to attend, was (Wednesday night) Steve’s wife Jan’s joint 60th Birthday.  Jim and Shirley went as well so I managed to get a lift so I could get a few downDSCF3247 me.  It was nice to find that the bar was free for most the night but when you had to pay, they hit you hard at £10 for two draft beers.  It was a great night as Jan has also just passed her business degree with The OU.  Quite an achievement, especially for a girl that has been doing it part time whilst handling a full time job at the same time.  It was also nice to see their kids, Dan and Charlotte, but I only managed to get pictures of Steve and Charlotte.

IMG_6863I even managed to catch up with Harriet and Billy, when we went to the Cosgrove Park firework display where Claire works.  It was cold but we had a lovely time eating hot dogs while drinking beer and watching the display.  They had spent over £7000 on fireworks and it was really spectacular.  I intended to put a great firework video at the end of this entry but I have to upgrade before I can.  Never mind, I will get photo’s next year.  I was also going to put some pictures of some of the sights around Cranfield University, but will have to save those for next time now.



Last Man Standing

The Bang continues; our deadline for our second assignment was today at 2pm (Friday 17th Nov 2017).  According to our WhatsApp chatter, it seems like everyone was working until the last minute again.  We have another assignment to hand in next week (Management and Innovation) and out Metrology assignment should have been in next week, but they have now given us a two-week extension.  Trouble is, we have wall to wall lectures, Monday to Friday for the next 4 weeks.


In my post before my last entry (Precision Engineering), I mentioned that our most experienced lecturer, Dr Paul Morantz had been made redundant and will be leaving us at the end of November.  Well, now


our Course Director, Dr Renaud Jourdain has been cut loose and finishes next March.  Poor Renaud, he was only promoted to Course Director this year, they wouldn’t even let him finish one year.  It’s not as if we don’t need lecturers and thesis supervisors, three were cut loose last year, now these two which I think only leaves us two left, the youngest ones.  Even though they are young, they are very bright and enthusiastic, but they do not have the experience to offer as many supervisory options as we have now.  I’m not even sure what will happen to me as I was hoping to work on the R2R machine.  Who can supervise me?

KernAnyway, it’s been so hectic that I have had no time to write a post for ages.  Our Precision Engineering assignment was to describe and criticize a KERN Evo automatic milling machine.  I had never even heard of one before I read the assignment at the end of the weeks lectures.  I don’t believe that it was even mentioned, so that’s what Research Students must put up with.  No starting information at all, all research.  It’s a wonderful machine, it’s amazing how much Engineering has changed since I started my apprenticeship.   I spent 3 months in machine shop shortly after our first your in the training school; I was placed with the operator of an automatic turret lathe.  It was state of the art at the time as it used a roll of punched tape that provided the control.  The operator put the casting in, clamped it and pressed the green button.  We then waited for 15 minutes while all the machining operations were done and he changed the casting and pressed the green button again.  It’s very difficult to keep up with it, especially as a contractor where you are moving onto different projects all the time.

The second part of the assignment described a cylindrical part that was to have 25, 80-micron diameter x 20 mm pins machined at one end.  Well, the first thing that struck me was that it was impossible!  Why would you want to?  Why not fit the pins to the cylinder rather than machine them from solid?  I couldn’t believe that it was possible anyway, so I created a solid model to see.

80 micron diameter pins                                      800 micron diameter pins

Surely, its not possible to machine this from solid?  Even if it is, it would be so delicate, what the hell could you use it for.  Trouble is, things have changed so much that I am starting to doubt myself.  Have to wait until we get our results now anyway.  We had to talk about how they would be made from Aluminium and Tungsten Carbide.  Again, tungsten Carbide is so strong and hard that it is glass brittle.  I cant see, even the 800 micron pins being able to be used for anything.  I’m hoping that they have put trick questions in, otherwise, the most experienced chap in the group is going to look pretty stupid.  Mohammad found a relevant 2017 paper written by the two lecturers that will be marking this assignment.  I cited it and wrote that it was written by “very distinguished Dr’s”.  The second time, I also mentioned that they were also handsome.  You have to hedge your bets and there is always room for a little humor.


We also had a week of lectures for Management and Innovation.


Although its not really my cup of tea, our two lecturers couldn’t have done more to make it interesting.  I don’t remember falling asleep once.  However, from day one, they split us into groups and we seemed to have to do a presentation at least once a day.  I have never known a course like it, but at least its helping to diminish my phobia about public speaking.  Our main lecturer was Dr Clive Savory who was at DeMontfort University and the Open University before he came to Cranfield.  The other one was Professor Marek Szwejczewski who has published more than 50 papers.  I couldn’t help thinking that Prof Marek looked just like a young Jasper Carrot.  His mannerisms were the same as well.  He didn’t tell any jokes, but I still called him Jasper once, but I think I got away with it.

DSCF3255.JPGAnyway, by Friday, we had to do a group project where we were to design a “City Car”.  We were to create a business model and build a prototype out of Lego.  It had to park autonomously in a multi-story car park.  It also had to park itself in one of three spaces and if they were full, parallel park.  It had to have lights, carry luggage and make a noise when it reversed.  Ours, even had a soft top that tilted up.   We only had about 3.5 hours so we had to split into different jobs and work concurrently to save time.  We didn’t stop for lunch or even a cup of DSCF3257bloody tea.  Luckily we had a “coder” to write the software, so I worked with him as the hardware engineer.  I used to love Lego.  Anyway, we were the only team that managed to complete every task and it ran autonomously almost perfectly.  We had the most luggage, it was a sports car and top end but we only came second because of the others in our team that created the business model I guess.  Anyway it was great fun; except for the damn presentations.  The base was a controller with three sensors that we had to build Lego parts onto, program, download the program and run it autonomously.  Have to go now as I’m out on the lash with Dr George and its an hour walk so more next time.

Under Pressure

We certainly started with a Bang!  The deadline for our Laser reports was yesterday (Tuesday 24th Oct) at 4 pm.  To achieve this date, we all seemed to have to work silly hours at the end.  Working long hours all weekend wasn’t enough, and I started at 4.15am on Monday before lectures.  Continuing again in the evening, following our lectures until 11pm.  I had set my alarm for 5am on Tuesday but got up earlier and started again at 3.45am.  I picked Mohammad up earlier at 7am so he could help me sort out my references and submit the reports.  I say 7am, but he didn’t wake up until 7.04 when I texted him to see if he was awake.  He had worked until 3am.  We were all wiped out for our Matlab lectures on Tuesday, as GC Ren didn’t finish his off until 4am.  He said that his submitted report contained 9000 words and that his thesis for his previous MSc only contained 8000.  Mohamad had done 8900 and I had about 9050.  Although mine had the most words, it also has the most waffle and bullshit so I expect the worst marks.  I don’t care if I manage 50% to pass.

Although it’s been long and hard, we have learnt so much in such a short space of time.  We used an ultrafast laser to machine our snake paths.  Ultrafast has a wavelength of femto seconds (10 -15s or a millionth of a billionth of a second).  Below is a micrograph of the corner of the silicon sample where we machined our snakes.


We started on around 32% power with our first cut, bottom right where it blasted the hell out of the silicon.  We reduced the power with 2 attenuators progressively towards the left. Stepping over before each cut.  The 3rd to last cut was our best but we did two more with increased mode power in case it was too feint to see well enough to measure the trench widths and depths.  We started by measuring the track widths with a microscope and got what seemed like a consistent set of results.  To get a better result we took 3 track widths for each leg of the snake and averaged them.

central 0 offset 1

When we measured again using the interferometer microscope to find the depths we discovered that you should use an interferometer every time.  You can place the cursor in an appropriate position on the sample and see cross sections of the sample surface.  As the track width reading were much wider using the interferometer, we had to repeat our results again as they are obviously more accurate.  We think that the dark lines that we measured on the microscope must be the shadowed part of the illumination which is part way down the sloping trench.


Ultra-fastAn ultrafast laser is so fast it doesn’t really have time to melt the target.  It works by concentrated hi-power photons knocking valence electrons out of the target solid structure lattice.  As these valance electrons are forming the covalent bonds within the crystal lattice, when they are removed these atoms become vaporised changing from solid to gas.  The vaporised ions and free electrons are ejected as plasma.  When there is a great enough concentration of photons to knock out electrons, the free electrons knock out other electrons in the structure and cause an avalanche of ionisation.  This is called the ablation threshold.  Oh shit, I wish I had written this in my report!

It’s quite interesting to look at the profile of the trenches, with the build-up of material either side of the trenches.  It reminds me a bit of a meteorite crater.  The shape of the trench is completely different but the sides are similar.  I guess that some the free electrons hit ions to reform a solid again locally before they have chance to get too far apart.  The extreme slopes and sharp base of the laser trench is interesting as well.  I guess that the middle is where the highest concentration of photons is and so ionises the most matter on average.  I suppose if it wasn’t such a quick pulse or stayed in the same place for more pulses, it would drill a parallel walled hole through the target.  It’s amazing how much more you learn when writing up reports than you do in the lecture or laboratory work.  The lab work and lectures are enjoyable but also necessary so you have something to research about.  You can’t do this sort of research without the facilities in the first place.

Our laser setup the beam is expanded as it can be focused smaller with the objective lens

Back to work today for the first time since I started the course.  Three new faces there, it doesn’t take long for changes to be made.  My computer still doesn’t work and nobody has done a thing about it so not everything changes fast.   It’s still nice to come back for a rest and free lunch.  Shame I can’t get on the internet though as I could have saved plenty of time for me in my own time.  My accountant told me not to pay myself anything for coming to work occasionally as it will complicate the funding with the tax man but someone told me that if you earn with a part time job when you are funded its tax free.  Sounds like I need to find out PDQ either way.  Anyway, I will now be behind with my assignment for last week’s lectures, and we have another week of lectures next week with an assignment.  We also have the same again the following week so I will probably have stacked up 3 unfinished assignments by then.  Added to the problem is that we have the odd week free to do assignments but they keep slotting in additional stuff then.  Like this Friday we all have to go over to Cambridge University again.  We are not sure what for but someone thinks it is a kick off meeting with their students to organise a student lead Conference next April.  Anyway, I guess that we will find out when we are there but maybe we could have done a little research before we went if we knew.

Still having trouble with administration, having to jump through hoops several times to get things sorted, but finally got my funding so it should be automatic each month now.  They are still inventing unimaginable and exciting ways to challenge us.  I had an email saying that my registration time had been extended by a month.  I emailed back to say that I had registered, I had a student card that lets me in everywhere, I have been paid registration fees and now funding, what did the mean and what do I need to do?  I had an email back saying that I “had only been registered for 11 months and this is a year’s course so I need to go to security to have my student card extended”.  Wow, that one must have taken some imagination.

Although we were exhausted, we quite enjoyed our Matlab for beginners 2 day course.  In fact I wish I had done it at the beginning of my last MSc as it would be so useful with all the matrix manipulation we were doing on that course.  Matlab can handle matrices with dimensions of millions by millions if necessary.  It was developed by an analyst called Cleve Moler using Fortran who found it was inadequate to manipulate matrices in the 1960’s.  The main competitors are “Python” that came from an object orientation background and “R” which came from a statistical background.

Venkat Sastry

Before joining Cranfield University in 1989, Venkat was a Lecturer at Plymouth Polytechnic having been appointed in 1987 following his work there as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow.


I was very pleased when the lecturer asked us for a group photo to put on his website, saved me taking an unofficial one.



File 24-10-2017, 10 36 11
Matlab students 2017

Precision Engineering

B40A very full week this week with very little time to work on our previous assignments from Cambridge University.  All week is 9am until 5.30pm but most lecturers ran over eating into our breaks and lunch time.  We are only scheduled 45 minutes for lunch anyway which is not normal for Universities.  Two days we couldn’t even buy sandwiches so survived on cakes and tea.  Its even difficult to buy tea as Building 40, where all the lectures are this week, is only close to the Stafford Cripps Building that has Costa Coffee which is not only expensive but, more importantly, takes forever if you have a couple of people in front of you.

Dr Paul Morantz

Paul Morantz, the top man in Ultra-precision Engineering at Cranfield University took us for the majority of our lectures this week. Cranfield University which is the only University in England that only has only post graduate students and therefore is comparatively quite small. As a result, they have as many staff as they have students.  This ratio is as good as any top cruise line and it surprises me why we don’t have a similar service.

boltzmann-acoustic-resonatorPaul started by talking about some of the prestigious projects that Cranfield have been involved with, that I wasn’t aware about.  They have made so many mirrors for the best telescopes in the world, I could hardly believe it.  When Paul took us around the ultra-precision engineering laboratories, it was a feast for the eyes, but you are not allowed to take pictures.  There is one part that Paul designed and made for the project with NPL to modernise temperature using the Bolzman acoustic resonator method,  that was beyond belief.  It is around 100 mm diameter sphere with holes, that sensors are inserted into that will change one of the 7 fundamental SI units next year.  To do this, the sphere had to be made to an accuracy of 1 nm on its internal diameter.  How is this possible?  That’s about 10 atoms accuracy over 100 mm.  Paul has held dozens of world records for accuracy over about 3 decades.  He has unbelievable knowledge and experience which became more and more evident with every lecture he gave.  We found out that Paul will be leaving Cranfield in November so won’t be able to mark our assignments for this week.  I caught him outside to ask him where he was going but was amazed to find out that he was being made redundant.  Since our interviews, he was as shocked as me, to find this out.  Whet a massive loss for the University and for us for the next 4 years. “WTF”.


We had our first lecture from Claudiu Giusca, Tuesday lunchtime about Calibration.  He was so enthusiastic about his subject as he had been working for NPL but I found it hard to hold concentration for more than 10 minutes.  We had Saurav Goal again first thing Wednesday morning talking about single point diamond turning which I found much more interesting.


Because diamonds are anisotropic, they can only be polished in a certain direction.  Also, water is a better coolant than oil based coolants with diamonds.  When diamond turning, its possible to take 1 nm cut off with each turn.  Obviously, this makes the progression time very slow.  Who would have thought that turning would beat lasers and ion beams hands down?

The Chinese guy in our group that I call Hugh because I cant pronounce his name, or even remember it.


Other than Paul Morantz, we only had Xavier Tonnellier talking about abrasive processes  and Renaud, talking about non-conventional machining processes on Thursday. I was surprised to hear that Kodak were first to produce and develop a plasma ion beam.  This is Renaud’s specialty.


The final thing on Thursday was the group presentations that we only had a few hours to prepare.  Also, they split groups up randomly, with 3 or 4 to a group.  Our presentation was about the current state of ultra-precision engineering.


They seem to be so keen on embarrassing us this year, as we had another impromptu presentation on Friday where we only had about an hour to prepare. To make things worse, we were allocated what we would be talking about when the presentations were made.  We hadn’t time to research our subject, so it was done while we watched other groups presenting.

Our group

The big German refused to help and the Chinese guy did his usual shrinking so poor Marta got up on her own.  I couldn’t leave her to do it on her own so I got up with her, even though I hate this sort of thing.  I know that they hit you hard at the front end of MSc type courses, but I’m not sure that I am really enjoying this as it much too frantic.


I spent very long hours working on the Cambridge assignments at the weekend but I am nowhere near finishing while writing this on Sunday evening, while watching the USA GP with a drink.  They must be in by Tuesday evening, and we have lectures Monday and Tuesday so I have set my alarm for 4am in the morning.  The only other time I have is after lectures Monday evening or at 4am Tuesday morning.  Happy days!  Maybe I’m getting too old for these silly games.

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… 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!