Miss Aimee Goodall of the YMC spoke to Dr Chris Watson, Materials & Process Modelling Engineer at Rolls-Royce plc.
Tell me about your background.
My career in Materials Science and Engineering actually started with an interest in the materials used within the sports industry. In June 2008, I graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a BSc Honours in Sport Technologies. Following this, in August 2008, I was awarded a grant from the EPSRC to study Advanced Materials at Cranfield University. Here, I studied for a Masters of Research in Innovative Manufacturing closely following the MSc Advanced Materials course. After graduating from Cranfield University in September 2010, I joined the University of Birmingham as a prospective Engineering Doctorate researched working on the 'Modelling of High Integrity Steel Forgings for Ultra Super-Critical Steam Turbine Applications in the Power Generation Industry'. After graduating from Birmingham in 2015, I started work as a Materials & Process Modelling Engineer at Rolls-Royce Aerospace in Derby.
What have you been working on lately?
I am currently working on coupled CFD-FE and materials modelling for predicting residual stresses and distortion in carburised gear steels during heat treatment. The work supports the launch of the new Rolls-Royce UltraFan engine which is designed with a high bypass ration and geared fan architecture.
What advice would you give to an engineer/scientist in the early stage of their career?
Remain curious. If you are a problem solver at heart, than I'd recommend a career in engineering. The challenges involved in high performance engineering, such as in the aerospace industry, help keep the work interesting and exciting. This usually aligns well with a sense of self-satisfaction and pride.
What are the biggest changes you've seen in academia/industry over the past 10 years, and where do you see the biggest growth area for new recruits?
The empirical approach to problem solving was all well and good a few years ago, however the recent infiltration of accessible high performance computing power can help teach us to optimise our processes and thus help drive innovation. In materials science and engineering we can now use computational modelling to predict the local microstructural-mechanical property relationship through the manufacturing chain and feed these data into lifing and component performance calculations to further improve efficiency. It is my firm belief that this approach will continue to expand into the field of autonomous data mining and real-time analytics therefore requiring in-depth knowledge of script writing and the latest coding languages.
Who in science and engineering do you admire?
A few years ago I listened to a recording of the BBC Radio 4 Reith Lecture by Lord Alec Broers entitled 'The Triumph of Technology'. It was this highly inspirational talk that gave me the motivation to make a difference in the field of science and engineering. I have the utmost respect for both Lord Broers and Professor Dame Anne Dowling whom together help inspire the latest generation of young scientists and engineers in the UK.