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From FE to HE progression - UWTSD PhD student Ashley Pullen is on a path to success

From FE to HE progression - UWTSD PhD student Ashley Pullen is on a path to success

Ashley, aged 26, will graduate next summer with an impressive portfolio of skills and qualifications in a specialist area – Non Destructive Testing (NDT). UWTSD has become a global centre for academic teaching, research and development in the field of Non-Destructive Testing (NDT). NDT is considered essential for the safety of aircraft, off-shore oil installations, gas pipelines, railroads, chemical plant, power stations, civil engineering structures and a wide range of industrial products. As the technology develops, further applications are emerging, for example, in medicine and in on-line and off-line testing for quality control in the manufacturing industry. This is particularly so in the automotive and electronics sectors.

Ashley, initially enrolled on a BSc Engineering degree course at UWTSD’s Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Engineering after studying (Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair – Level 3) VRQ at Gower College, Swansea and is currently working on a magnetics research project with Eddyfi Technologies, who are part-sponsoring his PHD alongside the KESS 2 project.

He was encouraged to study for a PhD by UWTSD’s Peter Charlton, Professor of Applied NDT.

Ashley said: “I applied for the BSc Automotive Engineering course at UWTSD as I wanted to stay in Swansea, where I grew up. I have friends who had studied at UWTSD and knew it was renowned for its mechanical, motor vehicle and motor sport engineering courses. Smaller class sizes and more hands on support was also something I knew I wanted, together with the experience of working in industry.”

“I got industry experience through a placement during the first year of my degree course at Days in Llansamlet, in the servicing depot. I’ve always had an interest and worked on my own cars and this placement furthered my understanding. Industry experience can be gained by the student in all areas of motor sport or automotive engineering. For my dissertation during my third year, I chose the subject of Hybrid Vehicles. I wanted to research in depth about installing a hybrid system on a bus - working out the required energy you can store and re-use during a bus round. After my dissertation I found out about the opportunity to do the MSc in NDT&E course with Peter Charlton, who encouraged me to go for it. Peter has been a fantastic mentor. I wouldn’t be doing my PhD if it wasn’t for him. He gave me the confidence to achieve what I have done so far. I also had fantastic hands on support from Gower College Swansea too. The staff and facilities in the motor vehicle department are superb.”

With the increasing use of composite materials and the potential for the use of "smart" materials embedded in structures, the UK government has a strong interest in promoting the development of appropriate NDT technology to ensure the safety and quality of products built from such materials.

UWTSD was a key partner, with TWI Ltd, in the establishment of the UK NDT Validation Centre in Port Talbot, now called TWI Technology Centre Wales. This is the first time that a significant Department for Trade and Industry project of this nature has been established in Wales, and consequently the project has high-visibility, with strong support from the Welsh Government and a range of prestigious international clients.

The University remains closely involved with TWI Technology Centre Wales and other strategically important industrial partners, with several PhD studentships created. There is a growing momentum of research activity, with the appointment of a Profess of Applied NDT and Senior Research Associates in NDT at the University.

To supplement its widely recognised and respected Research and Development work, the University offers the only NDT postgraduate qualification in Europe. The highly valued MSc programme supports the global demand for well-qualified engineers who can operate at senior management level, dealing with a range of graduate or postgraduate engineers.

Speaking about the NDT course, Ashley said: “It’s a very in-depth course covering the physics of the main techniques including ultrasound, radiography, electromagnetic and other techniques, but for engineering applications rather than medical. It’s Applied Physics in a nutshell. Leaving school I never thought I would be doing something like this, the University has definitely inspired me to go down this route.

“I’m now 26 and I’ve got a year left on my PhD. I will graduate next year, with a great portfolio in a specialist field. My relationship with Eddyfi started during my MSc because of Professor Charlton’s connection with local companies. We have the opportunity to go there, use their equipment and work with them on our dissertations.

“I want to continue my work in research and development. I love being able to come up with ideas and solutions and new ways of doing things.”

Professor Charlton said: “It has been fantastic to see Ashley develop from a 1st year undergraduate into a first class research engineer.   A particular highlight was when he managed to achieve his first publication based upon course work research undertaken as part of his MSc course.  More recently he has published a paper in a prestigious peer reviewed journal as a result of his ongoing PhD research.  I look forward to seeing him continue with his career.”

Andrew Gibson UWTSD BSc/HND Programme Director said: ‘‘I am delighted with Ashley and all his achievements. I remember Ashley beginning his studies 7 years ago onto the HND Automotive Engineering programme and how he seamlessly progressed and completed his final year of the BSc Honour Degree. It has not surprised me because Ashley was an excellent student on my programme, combining highly developed practical abilities with regards to the automotive applications, along with a very logical and thorough understanding of the theoretical principles of engineering and I wish him every success for the future.’’

Principle Scientist Dr Neil Pearson at Eddyfi Technologies in Swansea and recently appointed Professor of practice at UWTSD’s Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Engineering said:  “Engaging with universities is key to our business growth strategy, supporting post-graduate students that can really help us push the envelope of what we can achieve with our technologies whilst creating new ones.  Ashley with the support of Professor Charlton has really helped us understand the physics of problems of NDT techniques which evolve into ideas and potentially new products that we export across the world.  With talent such as Ashley, we want to offer employment opportunities to keep local students local and continue to produce state-of-the-art technology in South Wales.”

Gower College, Swansea lecturer Jason Lewis said: “During his time as a motor vehicle student at Gower College Swansea, Ashley was committed to his studies and was always the first to complete his practical and theory work.

“Always willing to help others in the group, Ashley was a tremendous role model and it’s fantastic to see that his hard work and commitment has paid off - his progress is admirable.”

Thanks: University of Wales Trinity Saint David