James Gardner

Current student

PhD Student
Study area

I feel that the atmosphere of the Design School is to continually contribute high levels of novel knowledge; this motivates my fellow research students and me to push boundaries in our respective areas.

Can you explain what your research project is about?

Functional textures, such as sharkskin, affect their surrounding environments to optimise performance. Textures on sharks manipulate how water flows over them to reduce drag forces; this increases their maximal swimming velocities and/or reduces energies required to swim at typical cruising velocities. So that these, and other similar, textures can be incorporated into designed parts, a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) modelling method has been developed within this body of research. A potential use of the developed method would be the application of an adapted sharkskin texture to container ship hulls to reduce the amount of fuel required to transport cargo. Production of these optimised parts relies on the capabilities of Additive Manufacturing (AM) (A.K.A. 3D Printing) technologies and processes that can realise complex geometries, as traditional manufacturing methods cannot. This research is sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

What were you doing before you started your PhD?

B.Sc. Sports Technology (now B.Sc. Sport and Exercise Technology) & M.Sc. Sports Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University.

Why did you choose Loughborough University?

A research proposal had already been submitted by my supervisor and accepted by EPSRC before I discovered the opportunity to study in the Loughborough Design School. As I knew that the funding could financially support me, only the topics of CAD, AM, and biomimetic textures (e.g. sharkskin), as well as the members of my research group (Design for Digital Fabrication Research Group) had to convince me. I was easily convinced by all factors.

How are you funding your studies?

The first three years of this research was funded by the EPSRC. When the funded period of the research came to a close, I began to financially support myself by undertaking a position as a Research Associate on a different, but subtly linked, project. Arthritis Research UK fund me to develop a CAD system that will enable clinicians to design wrist splints using 3D scan data of patients forearms. This should result in improved functionality and aesthetics in comparison with current wrist splint designs.

What do you enjoy the most about studying a PhD with us?

Studying for a Ph.D. at Loughborough University is ideal for many reasons; the main one for me being the high standard of international research that is output by the University year-on-year. I feel that the atmosphere of the Loughborough Design School is to continually contribute high levels of novel knowledge; this motivates my fellow research students and me to push boundaries in our respective areas.

Describe what it is like to study a PhD, and how this differs from undergraduate/masters study?

Undergraduate and taught postgraduate (Masters) study are great opportunities to advance a student’s knowledge in their particular areas of interest. This level of study will provide a recognised foundation that supports their career choices. If a postgraduate student wishes to pursue a career in any research field they should study for a Ph.D. A Ph.D. level of study will increase their depth of knowledge, in a selected, specific area, so that they can become world experts in their respective fields. Due to the nature of a Ph.D. programme, the final stages of the process can become challenging as there should be no others, globally, that know more about their Ph.D. topic than themselves. Therefore much of a Ph.D. student’s time is dedicated toward problem solving and head scratching and should only be attempted by the passionate and persistent.

Describe a day in the life of a PhD student?

In the office at 9 A.M. Maybe one or two hours being a Teaching Assistant, for an undergraduate level module in the morning. Conducting experiments, as part of the Ph.D. research at some point in the morning as well. Lunch with other Ph.D. students from the Loughborough Design School. Writing up experiment results in the afternoon, as well as, conducting research as a Research Associate for another project. One or two tea breaks with other Ph.D. students throughout the day. Leave the office at 6 P.M.

Why did you decide to undertake a PhD in your area?

AM technologies and associated processes are rapidly developing in both academic and industrial sectors and are expected to change how and where the majority of products are made. I wish to be part of the select group of researchers that truly understands the technologies’ implications and how society can develop because of them.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

There are both opportunities for me to stay in academia or take my knowledge and skills into industry. I am not yet sure which path I will choose, however, I do know that people with Ph.D.s are able to change between the two.

If you could give one piece of advice to a future PhD student, what would it be?

Always read the news and academic publications in your respective research fields. Most subjects have significant developments weekly and it is your responsibility to be at the forefront of knowledge.