3 January 2019

University of Sheffield PhD Student wins Prestigious IMechE Tribology Trust bronze medal

University of Sheffield PhD student Matt Harmon has won the prestigious Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Tribology Trust Bronze Medal, an accolade presented to researchers in the early stages of their career.

The Diamond

The award aims to encourage and recognise research contributions in the field of tribology – or the study of friction, wear and lubrication.

With support from his supervisor Prof. Roger Lewis, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield, Matt applied for the award and later went on to win, travelling to London to receive the medal in person.

Taking place on the 6th December, the medal presentation was also part of the 27th Mission of Tribology Research day, a tribology specific event hosted by the IMechE and attended by experts in the field.


It was an honour to be presented with this award by eminent tribologists and to receive recognition for my work.

Matt Harmon 

PhD student


“Ever since discovering tribology as an undergraduate studying mechanical engineering at the University of Sheffield, I have been fascinated by the field and the challenges, opportunities and applications it can provide.“

As a PhD student, Matt worked towards his doctorate for four years as part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Integrated Tribology (iT-CDT), a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and University of Leeds that offers training, research support and industrial experience to postgraduate students.

It was whilst at the CDT that Matt began his research focused on tribology and the railway, a project that was sponsored by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB).

This research aimed to understand the application and mechanisms of lubricants and friction modifiers in the wheel-rail interface and resulted in the development of new test methods for assessing grease and other friction modifiers and how they are applied.

His research also led to a new method being developed to detect the presence of grease and other contaminants on rail.

With both journal and conference papers now published, a number of Matt’s research findings have been taken forward by industry – from helping to develop new devices for monitoring railway track condition and performance, to supporting network providers in optimising their approaches to grease distribution.

His research has also led to a number of additional projects being funded in the field of tribology, including a new PhD opportunity for another postgraduate student.

He has also now completed his thesis and viva - “Understanding Application and Tribological Mechanisms of Lubricants and Friction Modifiers in the Wheel-Rail Interface” - and as such, recently achieved his doctorate.

“Matt’s commitment to tribology since he started in the iT-CDT has been excellent, publishing papers and collaborating with academic and industrial partners, as well as undertaking outreach activities to inspire the next generation of tribologists," says Professor Roger Lewis of Matt's success.

“Matt has also successfully worked across all scales in his work, which is quite unusual. He has developed small-scale laboratory tests for products and shown links with full-scale performance to give them validity. He has also met the challenge of scrutiny by colleagues and industry, and as a result, his work has led to further research projects achieving funding.


Matt’s commitment to tribology since he started in the iT-CDT has been excellent, publishing papers and collaborating with academic and industrial partners, as well as undertaking outreach activities to inspire the next generation of tribologists.

Professor Roger Lewis

Professor of Mechanical Engineering


“Winning the Tribology Trust Bronze Medal is a fantastic recognition of his work and commitment to the field, and it is thoroughly deserved. I am looking forward to following his future career and the insight and developments he will no doubt continue to contribute.”

Going on to a career in research is something that Matt is hoping to pursue, following the recent completion of his PhD studies.

“It has been a fantastic experience to develop my interest in tribology from being an undergraduate through to my doctorate and I’d really like to continue further research in tribology, initially extending my PhD work with a post-doctoral project before pursuing further work in academia,” adds Matt.

“After working closely with railway, I am keen to continue working within the industry and in particular extend the use of the testing methods I developed for new friction management products.

“I am grateful to Professor Lewis and Kim Matthews (iT-CDT Centre Manager) for all of their support throughout my PhD, which has been invaluable.”

Congratulations Matt!

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