I’m a researcher in Aeroelasticity; that’s the science that studies the interactions of the wing mass, flexibility and aerodynamics
University of Bristol
I’m using new composite materials to design the aircraft wings of the future, to make aircraft more efficient and eco-friendly.
I like to understand how things work, learn from that and create new, better things. I was (am?) a big fan of LEGO and MECCANO, computers and science fiction. So, I guess, I thought aeronautical engineering would be a fun thing to do… and it is!
After Uni, I joined the Airbus graduate scheme. Airbus builds roughly half of all the large commercial aircraft that enter service today, including the short range A320, very large A380 and the new A350. There is a good chance you have been on one when you last flew away on holidays in the sun! I mostly analysed wing structures (the bits that make up the wing) using computer models, to check that they would not break in flight.
More and more, aircraft structure are made from composite materials, where two or more materials are combined in a smart way to create a new material that is lighter, stiffer and stronger than the component materials. In our composite materials, we typically combine carbon fibres (very strong and stiff) and plastic resin to hold the fibres together. That means, we can build better aircraft that are lighter, more efficient and less polluting.
Today, I’m a PhD researcher at the University of Bristol, looking at how we could make aircraft wings even better by using new composite materials. My area of work is called ‘Aeroelastic Tailoring’, because I’m looking at tailoring or optimising the composite structures, so that the wing has the best possible aerodynamic and structural performance. It’s quite challenging, but also a lot of fun 🙂
My Typical Day
I work at university, mostly from my PC; sometimes I attend lectures and meetings or I teach undergraduate students.
There isn’t a typical day really. Mostly I work from my desk at University, but sometimes I spend the whole day testing my theories by coding and analysing my computer models and sometimes I will just read what other researchers have been doing and try to learn from that. There are no fixed hours either; you never know when an idea hits you, sometimes it’s the middle of the night and you need to scribble it down before it’s gone again!
I also attend conferences, lectures and meetings to present my work and to chat to other researchers. Occasionally, I teach undergraduate students in laboratory sessions.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
ambitious clever honest
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I was on a Boeing 737 flight test
What did you want to be after you left school?
aeronautical or nautical engineer
Were you ever in trouble at school?
not really, although I was often late!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I would open a sausage stand outside the office to feed lots of hungry engineers