(Above - a photograph from Craig's hiking trip in Norway)
Craig Buchanan has been studying at Imperial College since 2008, with a year out spent working for Atkins on London’s Crossrail project. He is currently working on improvements to the design of circular hollow sections and the implications of 3D printing structural cross-sections.
Last year he took first place (in the oral category) for his presentation at our Young Researchers’ Conference: “A new design method of circular hollow sections”. Here he discusses his work and why he enjoyed the Conference.
I originally entered the 2015 Young Researchers Conference (YRC) purely for my own interest. I wanted to learn about the exciting projects that other structural engineering researchers were working on. I was not expecting to be invited to give an oral presentation, particularly as I had only been engaged in research for just over a year at the time!
The research topic that I presented at last year’s YRC aims to increase the compressive and bending resistance of structural steel, stainless steel and aluminium circular hollow sections allowing structural engineers to utilise smaller, lighter cross-sections. The intention is for this work to be incorporated into the design codes resulting in more efficient structural design, cheaper metallic structures and overall increased sustainability. I feel that it is important to try and place your research within a wider engineering and social context, as I feel that it is very easy, when working on something over an extended period, to lose sight of the bigger picture.
The main challenge of the Conference is to present to a diverse range of people, from fellow students to academics and practising engineers. You need to explain your work in a clear, concise and accessible manner. It is also challenging to condense many months work, in some cases years of work, into a short presentation. I found this enjoyable as it allowed me to take a step back, consider what were the really important parts of my work, and how best to present them.
I also found it particularly rewarding to see other researchers’ work, and to meet and engage with practicing engineers interested in research and its applications. Events like this are important as they allow researchers to present their work, but also allow practicing structural engineers to influence current cutting edge research.
I was certainly delighted to win first place! The prize money went towards a hiking expedition with friends to the most northerly point on mainland Europe (Kinnarodden, Norway). This involved three days of flying and driving and then a day and a half of hiking across boulder fields, glaciers, rivers, scree slopes and being followed by wild reindeer!
I would definitely encourage young researchers to enter and attend the conference. The YRC is a fantastic opportunity to present your work to your peers, academics and structural engineers – which is very rare. The questions you get asked are very different to those when you present at a typical academic conference, with the focus being very much more on its application in the ‘real world’ – something that researchers should always bear in mind.
This year’s Young Researchers Conference takes place on 6 April 2016. Winners receive prize money from a pot of £2000. Learn more about the event here.