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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.

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.