Public engagement committee

The Committee reps act as a single point of contact for all public engagement matters for the cohort: they have the contacts, the expertise and (perhaps most importantly) the funds to support and facilitate activities for the wider student body.

Tom Pratt (2020 cohort)

What did you study prior to joining the CoSEM CDT and why?

I studied a four-year Masters course in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Bristol. I chose this course as I had an interest in aviation at school and did some flying in the Air Cadets which I really enjoyed. I also attended air shows, there is nothing quite like the sight and sound of an afterburning jet engine to grab your attention!

What made you choose a PhD in Advanced Composites? 

I wanted to continue to learn and felt that the cohort structure to the CDT would make an enjoyable experience. The performance advantages and design flexibilities which composite materials offer really interest me. Composite materials give you levers to control a design which other materials do not. I hope to make a positive contribution to the academic discourse and work closely with industry throughout the PhD and beyond.

Why is it important research students actively communicate their research to the public?

The CoSEM CDT is funded with public money through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC) so students have a responsibility to communicate their research to the public. Also, the government deserves recognition for providing opportunities to research students and the public should know how their tax is being spent. Half of the research projects carried out by the CDT are real-world problems posed by industrial partners, solving these helps support the UK composites sector.

How do you think we can make composites more accessible to the general public?

Composites will increasingly be used in consumer goods as material and manufacturing costs continue to decrease, this will naturally help raise the profile of composites. Composites can be made more accessible by pursuing public engagement opportunities and communicating the research to the public in an appropriate manner. Fortunately, composites are not an abstract concept, they are tangible objects, and there are plenty of examples which can be used to explain to the public what constitutes a composite.

What do you hope to achieve as a Public Engagement Committee rep?

I hope to be able to signpost public engagement opportunities to the rest of the cohort, to get involved presenting research to the public, and to inspire school pupils to pursue a STEM subject.


Joe Surmon (2019 cohort)

What did you study prior to joining the CoSEM CDT and why?

Chemistry at the University of Bristol (MSci). I have always been fascinated by the world around me, Chemistry always seemed like the best course to get the most comprehensive understanding of why most ‘things’ happen.

What made you choose a PhD in Advanced Composites? 

Throughout my degree I was always fascinated by the materials side of Chemistry, seeing how small-scale structures translated into the macroscopic materials we see and use every day. The CoSEM CDT offered the best of both worlds for me; not only could I investigate the small-scale structures I had learned to love from Chemistry, I also would be able to get my hands on the materials and play with them, and inevitably break them. Joining the CDT as a chemist has given me a unique ‘bottom-up’ perspective on engineering composite materials.

Why is it important research students actively communicate their research to the public?

Ultimately, it is the general public that funds and allows us PhD students to carry out the interesting and innovative work into these materials. I therefore see it as a moral imperative to aim to educate and show the public where their money is going. Composite materials benefit many people’s lives daily; I want to show the public how Bristol Composites Institute is pioneering this field of research, to improve people’s quality of life. You certainly do not need a technical background to get a grasp of how these materials work, why they are used and how they improve man-made structures.

How do you think we can make composites more accessible to the general public?

I want to get as many groups of people interested in these materials as possible, this will involve a wide variety of events tailored for each group. It is important that we are aware of who we are talking to in order to convey the information in a meaningful way to each individual. I am particularly interested in widening participation, this will involve aiming to reach out to underrepresented and minority groups in engineering. By reaching a younger audience I hope to inspire the next generation of composite engineers.

What do you hope to achieve as a Public Engagement Committee rep?

I hope to shine a positive light on composite materials. To inspire a wider audience to pursue composite engineering, but also demonstrate to the general public that these materials are not extremely complex. I want to push aside the jargon and illustrate the wonderful benefits of our research in a meaningful way.


Usman Sikander (2017 cohort)

What did you study prior to joining the ACCIS CDT and why?

Metallurgical & Materials Engineering. I took a shift from the study of metals to materials (composites) in my master’s degree as their phenomenal properties and wide range of applications inspired me.

What made you choose a PhD in Advanced Composites?

I had developed a massive interest in composites during my master’s degree. I wanted to learn more about how high-performance sports cars are built. What makes certain materials qualified to be used for satellites that enable us to explore space? Why carbon fibre is so unique and what makes it strong? Why there is an increased use of composites in modern commercial airliners? To find answers to these and similar questions, there was no better option than to pursue a career in advanced composites.

Why is it important research students actively communicate their research to the public?

I believe people are much more aware and interested in STEM than ever and they want to know how modern scientific methods are changing the world and providing solutions to their problems. It’s a two-way process, it transforms researcher’s perspectives towards how they look at their own research and informs the public what they do in the labs. Public engagement also helps researchers to inspire young minds towards possible STEM career paths.

Why should the public/next generation be interested in composites?

Composite materials have been widely accepted by the scientific and industrial community because they offer solutions that are light weight, durable, reliable and strong. From wind energy to space, from commercial/military aviation to biomedical applications, these materials have paved their way over the years and have been successful.

How do you think we can make composites more accessible to the general public?

By holding accessible talks and writing blogs to help the public to understand the role of composites in modern and future industry. University Open Days also present a valuable opportunity to inspire people about composites as we receive a diverse range of visitors on the day who come to the University to learn about the types of programmes on offer.

What do you hope to achieve as a Public Engagement Committee rep?

To bridge the gaps between the general public and University, to project a positive image of the University and to make the public aware how their contribution towards the University in terms of tax money is helping us to deal with challenges in the scientific community.


Dominic Palubiski (2016 cohort)

What did you study prior to joining the ACCIS CDT and why?

Chemistry at the University of Bristol. I always loved messing around with smells, colours, and fire! So chemistry was a natural course to choose. Besides the lack of fire it definitely did not disappoint.

What made you choose a PhD in Advanced Composites? 

I did a school competition that ended up using 3D printing and novel materials to gain an advantage. From that I developed a love of materials. After finishing my degree I looked into many different courses centred around materials but ACCIS's hands on engineering approach was the most appealing. It meant I not only got to play around with the chemistry of the materials but also then make and destroy them. Further to that, composites are the future; they are stronger and lighter than the alternatives. With the world becoming more eco-friendly it is imperative that we work towards this at the core of the eco-revolution: the scientists finding the new materials and technology.

Why is it important research students actively communicate their research to the public?

Easy! To get people excited! You quickly learn at university what we do and don't know, what needs researching and what is old news. By letting younger, and arguably more creative, minds know what is going on not only are you getting a new generation excited about science but also possibly finding a ground breaking new idea out of their drawings and imaginations.

How do you think we can make composites more accessible to the general public?

By making them in more products and items. It will take time to get composites into the general market but as soon as it happens people will see and learn about them. See a lamp post on the street side made with some new fancy composite? Go home and research it and learn about it! It will take time but by pushing them into products it will become more accessible.

What do you hope to achieve as a Public Engagement Committee rep?

I hope to bring the exciting world of not only composites but research as well to a new generation of people. By making them marvel and wonder and question.

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