Student Profile: Rob Ward

To follow up on our 10 minutes with academic staff, we're also starting a series of profiles with our students. Meet Rob, a second-year Research Engineer in the IDC and avid tea drinker.

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Can you tell us more about your background and what/where you studied as an undergraduate?

Prior to undertaking doctoral research, I was an Officer in the Royal Navy Submarine Service specialising in Weapon Engineering. Having completed undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester I initially joined the RN as an Air Engineer Officer –however, after an interesting active deployment on an aircraft carrier in a war zone early in my career I was destined for a career under the waves. So I have background engineering knowledge in Aerospace, Mechanical, Nuclear, Marine and Weapon Engineering. What have I learned so far? Most problems are solved either by turning them off and on again or with WD40 and duct tape.

Why did you choose the IDC for your postgraduate study?

I was looking for something that could bridge the gap between theory and practical. Early in my postgraduate life, my work was very theoretical and in my military career, it was very practical and operational. I wanted therefore to work on research that stood up to the academic rigour of a PhD but also had a real application and benefit to the industry. The EngD at the Machining Science IDC offered the best of both worlds.

What do you particularly enjoy about studying Machining Science with the IDC?

I enjoy the freedom but also the structure. The first year is well suited to prepare you for the main three academic research years so you start with a toolbox full of skills ready to tackle the research problem. The IDC is also one of the most adaptive organisations I have worked with. The IDC takes feedback very seriously and acts upon it in a timely manner so the cohorts fully benefit from learning from experience.

Tell us about being a postgraduate student here. What's a typical week like for you?

A typical week in term time involves lots of staring at equations and diagrams on whiteboards and drinking tea but is generally roughly split into 75% Control Engineering & Machining Science Research with 25% - Meetings, Seminars, Teaching Work, Machining Trials, Industry Visits, STEM work, Language Night Classes and Socials. I generally stick to a 0800-1600 work day with the exception of Friday afternoons. Old Navy tradition but Friday afternoons are not for working unless on a boat/ship at sea!

What is your favourite thing about Sheffield?

The Peak District.

Can you tell us a bit more about your project and what you are working on?

The title is ‘Intelligent and Adaptive Control for Manufacturing Machining Processes’. What does that mean...? When you create something using a CNC machine there is a wealth of information that can be exploited after making the part. I’m looking at implementing an Iterative Learning Controller that can use this information and learn from it, while using existing sensors and hardware, to improve the performance of the CNC machine and the quality of the part each successive time the part is created. It combines control engineering with machining science to improve manufacturing machining processes.

What are your plans for the future and how do you think your experience at Sheffield will help you in your career?

I’d like to take up a lectureship post as I am passionate about teaching. My aim is to combine my practical engineering experience with academia to hopefully be a well-rounded academic. Perhaps an overseas postdoc first though :)

Do you have any top tips for students thinking about the postgraduate study with the IDC in Machining Science at Sheffield?

Do it. You will be hard-pushed to find a more supported organisation that invests in you and your research. You will be joining a world-class centre with unrivalled research facilities. Get in touch and come join us for a look around. Thanks, Rob! Watch this space for our next profile!

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