Maria's diary entry - Spring 2012

Maria’s been well travelled in the last few months, attending and helping organise local events as well as travelling farther afield to France and China.

Maria Felice on the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall Since my last diary entry I have successfully completed my first year as an EngD student, or “research engineer”. I handed in my end of year report in September and in November had a transfer viva, during which I received a lot of useful feedback. The next big report and viva will be my final ones at the end of my fourth year.   

Overseas travel opportunities

I have been on two overseas trips as a research engineer. I attended an international postgraduate forum at Beihang University in Beijing in October, which was a fantastic experience that I wrote about for the IET.

As well as my specific research project work, I am also working on a related EU-funded project called PICASSO. I attended a management meeting in France in December and exchanged results and ideas with a lot of researchers who, like me, work closely with industry.

More locally

Doctorate students reading this might be familiar with the online PhD Comics. The student union at the University of Bristol was one of the few venues that screened The PhD Movie and I watched it there with my housemates in November. It was very entertaining to recognise the actors and actresses from their equivalent comic character!

I attended an IET event in October at the M-shed, which is Bristol’s new museum all about the history of the city and its people. Ray Barnett, the site manager gave a talk about delivering M-shed to the historic harbourside. I visited the M-shed again in January for the Chinese New Year celebrations and to see the Norman Parkinson fashion photography exhibition. Both were good fun and the permanent exhibits are also very well done.  

Each month I attend the Girl Geek Dinner organised by the Bristol branch and I am helping to organise these events now. We have started giving doctorate students the opportunity to present their work during our dinners.  

Presentations are in Pecha Kucha style which means their format is 20 slides x 20 seconds each. Pecha Kucha is the Japanese word for “chit chat” and the time limit keeps everyone attentive. I gave such a presentation at our January dinner and it was great practice in timing my words.

How my NDE project work is progressing

Just as a brief reminder, I am an EngD student at the University of Bristol and Rolls-Royce and my programme is managed by the RCNDE (Research Centre for Non Destructive Evaluation [new window]).

As the name implies, Non Destructive Evaluation (NDE) means inspecting engineering components without damaging them. In my research I am looking at using ultrasound to detect and size complex defects, such as stress corrosion cracks, which might develop in aerospace parts during use.  

I am working on two things at the moment. First of all, in order to design an inspection procedure, I will use computer modelling to save time and money of performing real tests with different parameters and equipment. A lot of ultrasonic modelling work has been done on simple straight defects but not much has been done for branched cracks that grow in 3D, so I am developing new models using Matlab. This is proving to be frustrating and rewarding, as all my other programming experiences have been.  

Another thing that is vital in developing a new ultrasonic inspection technique is manufacturing calibration blocks and, again, most of the ones currently being used contain simple defects. I am investigating novel techniques for introducing complex defects into calibration blocks, for example using sub surface laser engraving of glass.  

Attending less taught courses

During my first year I attended several week long taught courses. This year I only have a couple to attend.

I attended one in November that was about research methods. It was very different to what I was used to, because it dealt with the different ways individual researchers think, as opposed to more tangible topics. The coursework was also new for me because we had to keep a reflective logbook for the week. On that note, I am trying to write in my project logbook daily as I have realised that is essential to do this when working on a long-term project.