How can experienced professionals find research projects in their niche area?

Many experienced professionals can easily find research projects in their niche area, but young PDRAs and PhD students may not know how to find them. Research projects can offer opportunities for learning, networking, and career advancement. However, finding research projects that match one’s skills and interests can be challenging. For that reason, we will introduce some strategies and resources for finding research projects in your niche area.

  1. Identify your research interests and skills.

Identifying your research interests and skills involves introspection into your academic background, personal passions, and career objectives. Questions like, “What are the primary themes or issues that captivate me?” and “What gaps or challenges exist in my field of study?” can guide this reflection. Additionally, consider the skills or methods you enjoy using or learning, and ponder how you wish to contribute to the progress of knowledge or society.

To pinpoint your research interests and skills, explore diverse sources of information and inspiration. This may include perusing academic journals, books, or websites pertinent to your discipline. Seek input from current or past professors, colleagues, or peers who share your interests. Delve into online databases or platforms listing research opportunities or projects and explore professional associations or networks offering guidance for researchers.

To find meaningful projects, look for titles such as research assistant, research officer, or research specialist in relevant fields. Utilize keywords when searching on platforms like LinkedIn and ResearchGate to discover valuable opportunities.

  1. Explore existing research projects and opportunities.

One of the crucial skills for a researcher is the ability to investigate existing research projects and opportunities. This skill aids in discovering new collaborators, recognizing gaps in the literature, and identifying potential funding sources. Here are some suggestions on how to explore existing research projects and opportunities:

– Utilize online databases and platforms that aggregate research information, such as Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Scopus, and others. Conduct searches based on keywords, topics, authors, institutions, or citations to locate pertinent research papers, projects, and researchers.

– Attend conferences, workshops, seminars, and webinars aligned with your field of interest. Stay informed about the latest developments, trends, and challenges in your research area while networking with fellow researchers who share your interests. Additionally, consider presenting your own work to receive feedback from peers and experts.

– Join professional associations and societies that represent your research domain. Gain access to their publications, newsletters, events, and membership directories. Participate in committees, working groups, or special interest groups to contribute to their activities and initiatives.

– Initiate contact with potential mentors, advisors, or collaborators working on topics or methods that intrigue you. Reach out through email, social media connections, or request a meeting to inquire about their current or past projects, research goals and challenges, and seek advice.

– Explore your institution’s research resources and opportunities. Check your department’s website, bulletin board, newsletter, or email list for information on ongoing or upcoming research projects, events, grants, or awards. Engage with colleagues, supervisors, or administrators to learn more about their research interests and activities.

  1. Research out to potential collaborators and mentors

One of the key skills for a researcher involves reaching out to potential collaborators and mentors who can provide valuable feedback, guidance, and opportunities. However, many researchers face challenges in initiating and maintaining such professional relationships. Here are some effective tips for conducting research outreach:

– Clearly define your goals and interests before reaching out to anyone. Determine what you aim to achieve through collaboration or mentorship and what you can contribute in return. Whether it’s learning a new method, working on a specific project, or seeking career advice, consider how you can contribute to their research or objectives.

– Conduct thorough research on the individuals you intend to contact, including their background, publications, and current projects. Tailor your message to reflect your genuine interest and enthusiasm, and identify common connections, such as mutual colleagues, institutions, or interests, to establish rapport.

– Craft a concise and polite email for your initial contact. The first impression is crucial, so ensure your email is well-written, professional, and respectful. Briefly introduce yourself, explain the purpose of your contact, articulate what you hope to gain from the interaction, and inquire about their availability and preferred mode of communication. Be specific about your request yet remain flexible and considerate of their time and priorities. If relevant, attach your CV or portfolio, and provide a link to your website or profile.

– Follow up and maintain communication. If you don’t receive a response within a reasonable time frame, consider sending a gentle reminder or follow-up email after a week or two. However, avoid being overly persistent or pushy to prevent annoyance or pressure. If they agree to a conversation, prepare questions or topics for discussion, and be punctual, courteous, and attentive during the conversation. Express gratitude for their time and insights and follow up with a thank-you email afterwards. If they suggest any action items or next steps, promptly follow through and keep them informed of your progress.


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Engineering Doctorates in Composite Materials, Sustainability and Manufacture





Opportunity for doctoral studies at Bristol Composites Institute and National Composites Centre.

Type of award Engineering Doctorate

Department Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Research group BCI

Scholarship Details An enhanced stipend of £24,917 for 2024/25, a fee waiver and generous research financial support for the successful candidates.

Duration 4 years

Eligibility Home/EU (UK settled status) with permanent UK residency

Start Date Flexible from October 2024

The NCC has supported the Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) in Composites Manufacture for many years. We are now seeking high calibre candidates to join our IDC and take up one of three new studentships. You will be based at the National Composites Centre (NCC) and will work on pre-commercial, yet industrially focused, cutting-edge research, whilst following a taught programme at University of Bristol.

We are seeking highly motivated and committed individuals with an eye on the future, who are interested in conducting stimulating and essential industrial research and have a passion for finding sustainable solutions.

We are offering two EngD projects that focus on ceramic matrix composites (CMCs). Interest in CMCs is gathering pace because of their lightweight properties and ability to withstand extreme temperatures applications such as fusion energy, hypersonic flight and space vehicles. There are many challenges in producing components from these materials, so the two projects seek to develop new and exciting manufacturing procedures for the future:

Automated fibre deposition (AFP) of non-oxide CMCs

  • State of the art research on investigating automation manufacturing with CMCs using AFP technology to minimise costs and create more consistent materials.
  • NCC have previously demonstrated AFP deposition of oxide CMCs, but non-oxide CMCs significant technical challenges.
  • The EngD project will focus on formulating and testing a new non-oxide material that will be a UK first to be used in an AFP process.
  • The non-oxide material will be capable of operating at temperatures of around 3000 oC.
  • The outcome will be new manufacturing procedure that will have wide ranging impact in industry.
  • As the successful candidate, your interest in materials science and automation will unlock doors to next-generation applications in renewable energy and beyond.

Compression Moulding of CMCs

  • Compression moulding is a cost-effective manufacturing method which can produce complex shapes not achievable with other manufacturing processes.
  • The EngD project will investigate new approaches to compression moulding to produce component that can withstand ultra-high temperatures.
  • The research will result in methodologies to produce components that can go above temperatures that are achievable with current metallic materials.
  • The outcome will be a new manufacturing process to rapidly produce CMC components.
  • As the successful candidate, you will have an appetite for how hands-on materials research can expose new opportunities for UK industry.

We are also offering an EngD project that will provide a means to decarbonise future aviation:

Cryogenic composites for hydrogen storage

  • Hydrogen must be stored as a liquid to achieve the energy density needed for many aircraft applications.
  • Composites have the advantage of being lightweight and strong for this use, but their application at low temperature is restricted.
  • The EngD project will focus on finding the most viable solution for composites in hydrogen storage.
  • The performance of different materials produced by a range of manufacturing processes will be investigated at low temperature.
  • Novel methods of material characterisation at low temperatures will be developed and exploited in storage vessel design.
  • As the successful candidate, your interest in brand new, developmental testing methods will be used as the basis for design and certification of the future hydrogen economy.

Candidate Requirements

Applicants must hold/achieve a minimum a 2:1 MEng or merit at Masters level or equivalent in engineering, physics or chemistry. Applicants without a master’s qualification may be considered on an exceptional basis, provided they hold a first-class undergraduate degree. Please note, acceptance will also depend on evidence of readiness to pursue a research degree and performance at interview.

To apply please complete and submit this online form and send your CV and transcript of results to

Closing date:  12th February 2024.