By Liam Cotton.

I had the privilege to present my research paper at the 16th Biennial Worldwide Congress of the United International Technical Conference of Refractories in Japan. This took place at the PACIFICO Yokohama Conference Centre from 13th to 16th October 2019. I presented my paper “An Industrial Study Of The Change In Behavior Of Microporous Insulation In Teeming Ladles” at this prestigious conference, and it was a true testament to the training I received during my EngD that I was able to overcome the jetlag and lack of sleep and still present my work confidently and clearly. Over the 4 years of completing my EngD my presenting skills have improved and developed massively due to the frequency in which we had the opportunity to present our research to industrial sponsors. My presentation received positive feedback from the audience and I was one of only 15 out of 300 technical presentations given an “Excellent Presentation Award”.

The travel to the conference had its own challenges, as I was scheduled to land in Tokyo at the same time as Typhoon Hagibis, the most severe typhoon of the century and the worst to hit Japan in over 60 years. Because of this my stopover was extended in Qatar from 6 to 30 hours. This extra time gave me the opportunity to reflect on the skills I have learnt over the course of my EngD, a key one being patience, and the industrial and academic connections that I have been exposed to due to this training.

When I landed in Tokyo I was humbled and surprised at how quickly the city had managed to bounce back from the typhoon. Not a leaf was out of place. I felt truly welcomed by the country and having the opportunity to explore Yokohama and Tokyo after the conference was incredible. The blend of tradition and technology is very apparent in Japan. With a little bit of research before I arrived I was able to fully immerse myself in the Japanese culture, confidently exchanging business cards and networking at the conference. The Japanese Shinto principles appear to be adopted by the whole population. These principles include the simple acts of giving and receiving items with both hands to demonstrate the appreciation of their value and bowing slightly whilst saying “hello” and “thank you”. Embracing these principles went a long way to being accepted by the locals.

The 4 years of my EngD have provided a safe environment and support network to allow me to grow and develop professionally. I have now started a role at Tata Steel UK, based in Port Talbot, working as a Process Technology Specialist focusing on improving the value in use of refractory materials. This would not have been possible without the skills learnt and confidence gained from completing the EngD scheme.

The conference in Japan was an incredible experience and a trip I will never forget. I am truly thankful to the M2A staff for helping me arrange this and providing me with this opportunity.

Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) provides industry led postgraduate research training based at Swansea University's new Bay Campus. M2A is part funded by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government.