BCI Alumni Q&A: Usman Sikander, KTP Associate, TRB Lightweight Structures

Why did you choose the Bristol Composites Institute for your studies?
I first learned about the Bristol Composites Institute during my master’s research in my home country by exploring various papers that discussed composite materials from various angles. My interest at the time was understanding the fibre/resin interfaces, particularly from a mechanical standpoint. Subsequently, I secured a fully funded PhD scholarship, bringing me to BCI, and the rest is history!

What research area did you specialise in whilst you were here?
I focused on customizing the surfaces of polymeric fibres using diverse plasma techniques. The research initiative concentrated on micro/nano-scale modifications to the fibre surfaces, investigating their influence on adhesion at both micro and macro levels, as well as their wetting characteristics with thermosetting matrices. The fibres employed in the study had inert surfaces, causing issues such as delamination, inadequate adhesion properties, and suboptimal wetting characteristics with thermoset matrices in the composite materials. The aim was to enhance the adhesion and wetting properties of these fibres.


After leaving the BCI where did you go?
I moved to Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire after graduating to take up the role of Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Associate. The role is a three-way collaboration between the University of Bristol, industrial partner and UK Research and Innovate (UKRI).


What are you currently working on and what do your future plans look like?
I am working on developing novel and bio-derived resin systems for various composite applications, specifically focusing on the e-mobility market. Sustainability is the key element in this development program encompassing the development of materials and methods with low environmental burden and the transfer of knowledge from academia to industry.


How did the BCI prepare you for work outside of academia?
The connections I made as a student at BCI were great. They taught me a lot about how research is done in collaboration with industry, especially since my PhD was co-funded by an industrial partner (DSM Dyneema®, now Avient). Working with a mix of scientists and engineers from different parts of the world helped me learn and improve my soft skills and technical abilities. It also gave me a chance to get better at communicating.

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