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Doctorate Graduation in Leeds

This summer, one year after having passed my PhD viva and becoming Doctor, my academic adventure at the University of Leeds came to an end with my graduation ceremony, where I formally received my MSc in Chemical Engineering and my PhD on the study of Particle Breakage in Agitated Drying Conditions.

The inspiring speeches from the teaching staff during the ceremony highlighted the fundamental values ​​that accompanied my studies, such as knowledge, rigour, and the ability to combine critical thinking and open-mindedness.

It was the opportunity to meet with my former colleagues within the CDT CP3 doctoral training program, my master’s professors and my PhD supervisors at this prestigious university. What a joy to experience this unique moment of my life and celebrate with my family the outcome of 6 years of research, projects, conferences and studies. I thank again all the people and institutions who made this journey possible and who guided me towards the love of excellence and self-realisation.

It was then time for me to enjoy the presence of my family and explore Ireland, a country with a captivating culture and infinite landscapes, the contemplation of which lending itself splendidly to meditation and the writing of my next articles.

Siabh Liag in Donegal, Ireland (Photo: François Hallac, 2023)

Research Conference by the Sea

This October was organised the last research event of the Centre for Doctoral Training program (CDT CP3) within which I have undertaken my PhD. It was the final moment where I could see all my former colleagues and supervisors reunited for a 3-days conference.

It felt great to catch up with the people from the CDT and discover what career path they have taken after their doctorate. From petrolium to pharmaceutical industry, sponsors of the different PhD projects were present and it was exciting to see my former colleagues from AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

All the projects of the remaining PhD students were presented with a wide variety of subjects such as molecular dynamics, solar energy harvesting or model predictive control. I particularly enjoy these broad research conferences as they allow to discover projects outside of my domain of expertise and please my scientific curiosity. The 3 days in Scarborough were also garnished with workshops where we could reflect on our experience within the CDT and give feedback for the potential future CDT programs at the University of Leeds.

As a CDT alumni, I had the opportunity to present one of my research projects at King’s College London (KCL) on the flow synthesis and precipitation of paracetamol in amorphous form, sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Redistributed Manufacturing in Healthcare Network (RiHN). The development of novel continuous flow reactors and processes for this project deepens my expertise in this technology and facilitates its application to my other research project at KCL on RNA vaccines production, supervised by Prof. Harris Makatsoris and Prof. Christopher Frampton in partnership with Centillion Technologies.

I’d like to address a warm thank you to Dr. Anoushka Kulikowski who organised this event, allowing me to have a hearty catch-up with one of my former PhD surpervisors Prof. Frans Muller.

PhD Viva Passed and Becoming Doctor

After nearly 4 hours of intense review of my thesis, it is with great joy that I passed my PhD viva on Friday and have become doctor.

Notwithstanding the actual tendency to move all activities online since the pandemic, I couldn’t imagine living this moment and receiving the outcome of so many years of work and dedication through an internet cable. I remember the feeling I had when submitting my thesis in March from my bedroom, and the sudden sensation of silence when the writing stage was formally done.

Having made the travel to Leeds from London, despite of the rail strikes, being present in Leeds and interacting with my examiners in the same room gave me a sensation I couldn’t have felt from distance. The same way being at a concert differs from watching a video, living this special moment physically made me receive from my senses what my mind could only conceive in abstract, and I am grateful to my external examiner for having accepted to travel to Leeds for my viva.

I’m delighted I have been able to celebrate this accomplishment with my former colleagues at the University of Leeds and my friends in the city, living the end of this chapter of life imprinted with nostalgia for my wonderful 5 years there as a PhD student.

I’d like to thank my supervisors and sponsors for their support during my PhD. In this moment, I have my deepest feeling of gratitude for my parents who provided me with an unconditional support throughout my life and always encouraged me to reach my objectives.

Prize Winning at International Conference

I’m delighted and honoured to have received a prize at the Early Career International Particle Technology Forum 2022 as a finalist in the IChemE Young Researcher Award competition. During the conference, organised by Imperial College London, I had the great pleasure to present the work of my now submitted PhD and introduce my methodology for particle breakage prediction in pharmaceutical agitated dryers.

An international forum is always an awaited event for me. It’s a unique occasion to discover ongoing projects in the world of research, fruits of years of work performing experiments, running simulations and analysing results. Having presented a few times at conferences, I’m aware of the time and energy it takes to prepare for such event and I’m grateful to the presenters for their efforts to share their discoveries and offer us this gift of knowledge.

After my talk, I had the opportunity to interact with researchers from both academia and industry and share thoughts on our projects. I’d like to thank them for their constructive feedback and ideas for potential applications of my predictive model combining experimental techniques, simulations and mathematical modelling.

Many thanks to the organising committee and sponsors for making this thrilling 2-days event happen and congratulate again the other prize winners at the competition. Thanks a lot to my supervisors Prof. Andrew Bayly, Prof. Frans Muller and Dr. Claire MacLeod for their wise and thoughtful supervision. I’m also grateful to EPSRC, the University of Leeds and AstraZeneca for having sponsored my work and giving me the wonderful chance to do PhD degree in the UK.

Award Winning at National Conference

I’m honoured and proud of having received the award for the best oral presentation at the national ChemEngDayUK conference. I’m delighted of having participated to this 2022 edition at University College of London and presented in the Multi-Scale Engineering category.

Having been awarded for best presentation last year at the ChemEngDayUK 2021, I am honoured to have obtained the esteem of the jury for my work for a second consecutive year.

Having submitted my thesis at the end of March, this event was the opportunity to summarise 4.5 years of work and share the outcome of my research with an expert audience.

For the first time since the lockdowns, I was able to give a presentation in front of people. I was excited to meet the scientific community again and talk with people face-to-face. The idea of living this moment of conviviality and sharing the passion for science with my research confrères enchanted my mind and heart.

I’m glad to see that nowadays more institutions make the courageous choice of holding events in person, and I’d like to thank the organisers of this conference for having provided such a stimulating environment.

I’m addressing my special thanks to my supervisors Prof. Andrew Bayly, Prof. Frans Muller and Dr. Claire MacLeod for their wise and thoughtful supervision. I’m grateful for their kindness and help that led to the work I’ve been presenting at the conference.

I’m looking forward to participating to the 2023 edition of the ChemEngDayUK that will be held in Belfast, Ireland.

PhD thesis submitted

After 4.5 years, 5.5 overall with the MSc component of the Doctoral Training program, my PhD journey is coming to an end.
360 pages, and this figure inspires me with an analogy of the completion of my research study and the expertise I acquired in particle technology achieving the objective of my project: creating a model for the prediction of particle breakage in agitated drying conditions.

The difficulties related to the Covid-19 pandemic has taught me how to adapt to radically new constraints and work practice, strengthening my resilience through this challenging period.

With a coming viva, scientific papers to write and conferences to prepare, the feeling of emptiness and satisfaction after pressing the “Submit” button was quickly replaced with the motivation to accomplish a novel objective. As the proverb says: “the end is only the beginning”.

Looking back at those years, I want to acknowledge the help and support I’ve received during my PhD.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Professor Andrew Bayly for his wise supervision during my PhD. His expertise in the domain of particle processing and distinct element modelling methods has been crucial in determining the framework of my project and the progression of my research.
I am also grateful to Professor Frans Muller for co-supervising my PhD and providing such stimulating research environment and discussions. His advice has been essential in the development of new analytical techniques, especially in data science and coding.
I am indebted to Doctor Claire MacLeod for her close industrial co-supervision throughout my thesis and for her thoughtful support during my research placement at AstraZeneca on the Macclesfield site.

Doctor Yi He has played an important role in developing my understanding of the limitations and good practice of DEM simulation work. Doctor Ioannis Fragkopoulos’ guidance was valuable during the first stage of my PhD and in the writing of my first publication. They accompanied me during my first conferences and have become mentors and friends.
My greatest thanks to Doctor Simon Connell who co-supervised my first research study in Leeds. He provided a fantastic lab environment for me to receive training to use atomic force microscopy.

I would like to thank the University of Leeds, EPSRC and AstraZeneca for sponsoring my PhD and giving me the wonderful chance to complete a research degree in the UK.

Finally, I would like to express gratitude from the bottom of my heart to my parents for their unconditional support through my life and encouraging me throughout my PhD.

Award Winning – National ChemEngDay UK 2021

I’m very honoured and proud to receive the award for best presentation at the national ChemEngDay UK conference 2021.

A year has passed since the first national lockdown in the UK and during this time, all of the conferences at which I was scheduled to give a lecture have been either cancelled or postponed. Nobody knew exactly when these could be reorganised, with some of them falling victim to multiple delays. This all too familiar situation resonated with me personally: with universities closed and no professional or social events, life has seemingly been paused. For someone entering a crucial phase of his professional life, with my PhD coming to an end, I had the impression of being constrained by what feels like an endless mass of limited horizons created by the current pandemic and I can see this feeling reflected in the minds of my fellow students.

Time has passed and the idea of virtual venues has – luckily – increasingly appeared as the solution. All students, institutions and industries have needed to adapt, but it has not been without its challenges. Weekly face-to-face meetings with supervisors and colleagues have been transferred to Zoom, Teams, Skype… Being a sociable person and seeking authentic connections, it was hard to admit that all human interactions would be performed through a screen. Having met my industrial and academic co-workers in pre-covid times, I consider myself lucky; I know from people’s feedback that integrating a team remotely without having met them in real life feels strange and sometimes hard to cope with.

And here I am, for my first national conference of 2021, having prepared myself for it. I could witness all the efforts put in place by the organisers to create a stimulating and interactive environment for the participants. Considering the difficulty of the task, I’m admiring of their work and would like to thank Professor Hadj Benkreira and the ChemEngDayUK committee for delivering this event, despite the technological, organisational and social obstacles that have faced them. Special thanks to Graham Hart (Process Technology) Ltd for sponsoring the prize.

My message to all students in this lockdown situation who are feeling limited in their personal and professional development is this:
This accomplishment taught me that lockdown doesn’t put your life on pause and you can still be acknowledged for your efforts. This situation is a challenge like many to come in life, but it doesn’t have to become a barrier if you’re resilient and believe in your capabilities.

I’m grateful to my academic and industrial supervisors Professor Andrew Bayly, Professor Frans Muller and Dr. Claire MacLeod for their mentoring during my PhD. I’d like to thank the EPSRC Centre of Doctoral Training CDT CP3 (University of Leeds), AstraZeneca and UKRI for sponsoring my research on the breakage of particles in pharmaceutical production.

Lab Photo AZ