Practical results for industry
Emma Williams is trusted to get on with the hands-on practical research she enjoys.
Working in extreme conditions
I work in SaMI’s SINTEC facility with the reducibility rig, the ‘HOSIM’ hot simulator, sour testing, the horizontal and tube furnaces. I look at materials samples that come in from industry and how different gases and temperatures can affect the overall reduction of that product under extreme environments like those used in steelmaking.
As we are focused on helping industry reduce their carbon emissions, one way we are doing this is by looking at ways of using other gases which are better for the environment and better for the overall industrial process. Doing this on a smaller scale in SINTEC allows industry to look at how we can help benefit the process in the future.
Background in materials engineering
After graduating in materials engineering, I completed a Masters in medical physics looking at how radiation is used in the medical field. This involved a lot of data science and treatment planning for cancer. I was researching a more effective method for early detection of secondary cancer before they typically show up in current scanning.
By implementing an engineering process called texture analysis, I developed a method for mapping the vertebrae to pick up abnormalities that would indicate there is cancer present in the spinal column. This could help improve the level of care for cancer patients by detecting secondary cancer earlier and delivering a treatment plan that treats both the primary and secondary cancer at the same time. Currently a patient has an initial treatment plan for their primary cancer with separate follow up treatment for secondary cancer.
I was taking a relatively common engineering process and applying that to the medical field to look at breakthrough treatments for cancer. With my engineering background, I was working alongside people with expertise in physics, NHS care, and private healthcare practice.
Everyone had different views and different priorities and it was good to compare ideas. Seeing things from different perspectives with different opinions, working collaboratively to bring it all together. This type of multi-disciplinary research is essential to discover breakthroughs that can have a real-life impact and improve society.
Practical research at SaMI
I really like the practical research sides of things. The hands-on research and practically being able to see where things are going. Being able to see the process and understand it by seeing how the whole thing is done. I get satisfaction of being able to say “I did that” and having something to show at the end of it.
What I like most about working at SaMI is I’m trusted to know what I’m doing. I’m trusted to get on with the research, a lot of my friends don’t have that. I think that’s quite rare to have that level of trust to just get on with the job you’ve been given as a graduate straight out of university. I really value that.
I enjoy working in a small team like SaMI where you know everyone working in the different departments. Everyone works really well together. I don’t mind asking anyone anything. As a lot of the work I’m doing is still really new to me, I don’t feel stupid going to ask people about things. It’s also nice doing research for the university I went to, it ties in nicely, and it’s been good being able to stay in the same place.
I enjoy being in work. It’s a friendly environment. You can chat to each other without feeling like you’re being pushed to meet targets. Everyone’s meeting targets, but it’s still a very chilled environment to be in.
Future in research-based industry projects
I was looking at whether to go into a job or study for a PhD, so I’m interested in research-based projects.
We’ve recently had a job from one of our industry customers looking at an alternative fuel source and whether that can be used elsewhere in the process. I’m really excited about doing that, and it involves working alongside other SaMI departments like characterisation.
In the future I’m looking forward to doing more of my own research projects like this at SaMI.
Contributor Emma Williams