Case Study: Marc-Antony Coster

I graduated in 2011 with a 2.1 BSc in Physics from Loughborough University. I had always had an interest in materials science and wanted to move into an academic career. I joined the CDT in 2014 and was particularly drawn to the taught component of the first year. Having been very interested in materials science, but with limited academic experience of the subject, the modules provided me with a valuable foundation that has been extremely useful in the first years of my project, giving me a running start on my research.

My time at IMPaCT has given me many skills and experiences that have been a distinct advantage in my PhD so far. As part of the CDT I have many opportunities to work with and alongside a community of like-minded individuals that have become close friends. Symposia and summer school activities have deepened my knowledge base and given me an insight into other students projects, giving my own work both a context and a group that can offer support or guidance, pooling our collective knowledge to help one another.

My PhD research is based at Leicester and is concerned with stress relaxation in nickel-based superalloy springs for high temperature use in the next generation of reduced emissions power plants. I am industrially sponsored by Alstom (now owned by General Electric (GE) since 2015), who are a major steam turbine manufacturer based in Rugby, about 30 miles away. My project has been varied, creating theoretical models, developing and conducting complex experiments (pictured left), investigating metal processing methods, and learning material characterisation techniques such as Transmission Electron Microscopy. The work has been challenging and exciting, requiring knowledge of engineering, physics and chemistry, and the CDT has been responsible for preparing and supporting me through this. I have spent time visiting Alstom/GE on placements and have had multiple useful discussions and talks at the site with technicians and specialists in the field, to guide the project over the next two years. I would recommend the CDT to anyone with an interest in the field, it has been an exciting, rewarding journey with my cohort, and is an excellent way to begin a career as a research scientist.

“Marc presented his first year research results at GE in October. This was to an audience of 15 turbine specialists from different development groups in the company. The talk was very well received and prompted some interesting discussion. He has developed a convincing physical model which corresponds well with his experimental results. The result of this is that we are now investigating a new processing route for these components and also a possible design change.”

 Dr Gordon McColvin, Industrial supervisor at GE.