Tue, 26 May, 2020
Have you thought about coming to the UK to study for your PhD? My name is Zhiyao Li, and in this article, I want to talk you through my experience of coming from working within Chinese industry to doing a PhD at TWI with NSIRC...
I graduated from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland with a MSc degree in Mechanical Engineering. Before I came to NSIRC, I joined Chinese industry as a hydraulic engineer, because of my interest in industrial engineering development.
In China, many of my former colleagues have chosen not to pursue doctoral programs, as they thought it would be enough to have a bachelor or master degree for their career. However, in my mind, an industrial PhD degree is one of my goal in life, and is a way to broaden my field of view.
To find a PhD is easy, but finding one that fit with my interests and experience of industry, is another more complex question.
My experience as a PhD student
In 2018 I noticed a PhD studentship advertisement online. What drew my attention to it was that NSIRC, the National Structural Integrity Research Centre, provides PhD opportunities incorporated with actual industrial projects. This coincided exactly with my ambition for career development.
Later that same year, I joined the fully funded PhD program full time, with sponsorship for my research provided by TWI. And with London South Bank University (LSBU) awarding my degree.
TWI is a global leader for engineering and technology research and development, working for clients that include some of the most respected energy, oil and gas, transport and aerospace companies in the world. A structural integrity centre, TWI founded NSIRC alongside BP, Brunel University London, and Lloyd's Register Foundation.
My Industrial supervisor is Dr Jianxin Gao from TWI, who has gained abundant achievements in his research field, and has made many more contributions to industry. My academic supervisor is Professor M. Osman Tokhi of LSBU, who is a well-known professor in the field of robotics and automatic control.
Doctoral research project with industrial and academic impact
The topic of my PhD is ‘Advanced Shearography for Wind Turbine Inspection’. A promising research subject for wind energy companies.
One of the problems wind energy faces is for the on-board inspection of wind turbine blades made of composite materials. Currently, the method used to inspect wind turbine blades (WTBs) is to dismantling the whole blade and testing it on the ground. Or to send a technician to climb the structure for a visual inspection.
Our goal is to develop a shearography system assisted by robot. The whole system can inspect the WTBs on-site through remote control by operators on the ground. This research is improving industry questions about asset reliability management, whilst also making contributions to the academia.
Personal development in NSIRC
NSIRC provides a platform combining industry and academia for UK, EU and International students with different academic and industrial interests. It gives us the opportunities for researcher with real-world topics, and end-up with engineering leadership skills learned through real project experiences.
Furthermore, it provides different sponsorship opportunities which are important, supporting us in terms of researching as well as living in the UK.
Unlike universities alone, the great advantage to NSIRC students is that we are based at TWI, and are directly facing the industrial questions that they want us to solve.
Living in the Cambridge with NSIRC
The United Kingdom is an inclusive nation with people from every part of the world. This is reflected in the community at TWI, and within NSIRC students, as we are also from different countries.
At NSIRC I feel like I am in a large family, except our family members have many different accents. Lots of fun happens within this family and lots of activities are held among us.
I am happy here, and hoping we could have more students join our NSIRC family in the future, to share our lives and researches together.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 780662
Zhiyao’s 3 years involvement is funded by the project as per DoA
Here are some more NSIRC links that you may be interested in...