Jane Lee and Teknova's Dr. Svenn Anton Halvorsen
May 2015. The time had come for InFoMM's Cohort 1 to vacate our somewhat permanent premises of classroom C6 and begin our individual ventures into the wide world of research with industry. The mini-projects were to be our first research challenges, the scope of which involved real and current industrial problems from various companies. Whilst a few of the cohort remained at the department for their first mini-project, I was to travel to a small but beautiful seaside town, Kris-tiansand, in Norway, for my 10-week challenge.
My first mini-project, titled “Metallurgical scale-up: metal droplets in slag”, was a collaboration with Eramet, a French metallurgical company specialising in ferromanganese production, and Teknova, a Norwegian research institute where I was mostly based. The research lifestyle was certainly a drastic change in schedule, which allowed for more independence compared to the set courses we attended at Oxford. I found this new style welcoming and quickly adjusted to my own daily rhythm, though the Norwegian custom of 11am lunchtimes and 7-3 workdays still baffles me to this day! In addition to my own research schedule, I would meet with my academic supervisors over Skype about once a week, and being based in a research institute meant that I had plenty of colleagues in similar academic fields close by to discuss ideas and brainstorm with on a regular basis. During my stay, I also travelled to Trondheim, where my other industrial supervisors were based, and to one of Eramet's factories to observe the ferromanganese production process in closer detail. The factory visit in particular was an unforgettable experience personally, and it certainly made me feel more in touch with my miniproject and more motivated by how real the challenge was.
A week's holiday separated the two mini-projects, and I was again back at Heathrow early Monday morning, about to embark (literally) on mini-project 2 in the Netherlands! My second research challenge was proposed by Petrotechnical Data Systems (PDS), a company mainly based in The Hague, who were interested in developing finite element solvers for the pressure and temperature equations used for basin modeling in the petroleum industry.
The atmosphere at the PDS offices was completely different to the experience I had in Nor-way, with a more city-like vibe to the working environment. At PDS, I worked within the basin modelling team, who were all experts in numerical geology and programming. Although I was initially a little nervous about tackling a numerical (or scientific computing) project given my modelling background, I soon knew I was in safe hands at PDS and found my feet quickly. My industrial advisors were always incredibly helpful, and my colleagues were always interested in discussing my work and helping whenever possible.
Being the only member of the cohort who spent both mini-projects abroad, I feel very privileged to have gained so much experience and skills from two very different projects. The InFoMM pro-gramme has not only allowed me the opportunity to experience working life in industry, but it has also broadened my knowledge and scientific interests. I am now able to branch out further into the field of scientific computing, which I had previously avoided. Having returned from The Hague, I have continued to work with PDS for my full research project, and I look forward to pursuing this exciting research.
- Jane Lee