The following is an excerpt.
“Some of the presentations we have seen are jaw-dropping.” “There are big challenges ahead.” These potentially contradictory quotes encapsulate the impressions of SFI CASA’s Scientific Advisory Group meeting last week.
The formal comments and recommendations of the SAB are not ready as this article is being written, so it is based on what took place on the day of the presentations and on brief interviews with the board members during the following dinner.
Dr Frank Schäfer from Ernst-Mach-Institut in Germany took part for the first time, as stand-in for Professor Stefan Hiermaier. Schäfer was amazed at the quality of the presentations by the PhD candidates:
“Several times I turned to the other panel members and asked: Have you seen anything like this before? They hadn’t. The presentations were excellent. They inspired me,” he said.
Dr Schäfer was particularly impressed by the images of precipitate free zones in aluminium, shown on atomistic scale:
“The imaging technology is ground-breaking. This we have only been able to describe before,” he said.
At the same time, both he and the rest of the board members pointed to the challenge of bridging the gap between the different research levels. (For the content of the research programmes and presentations, see further down.)
Need to be selective
SAB veteran David Embury, Professor Emeritus at McMaster University in Canada, has followed SFI CASA host SIMLab for more than a decade. He is fully aware of the qualities, but also sees challenges:
“SIMLab is going through a period of transition. The portfolio is broad and work is needed to integrate over the length scales of the top-down bottom-up diagram. You need to think carefully and define what you have to do. You need to be selective, because you can’t do it all.
That said, the SFI CASA program, although ambitious, is clearly well founded and the direction is known. I am also impressed by the enthusiasm and professionalism of the candidates,” Embury said.
The other four members of the Scientific Advisory Board, Professor Ahmed Benallal from LMT Cachan in France, Professor John Hutchinson from Harvard in the US, Professor Norman Fleck from Cambridge in the UK and Professor Jonas Faleskog from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden all had comments of a similar nature. They pointed to the excellent interplay between experiments and modelling and the imaginative work. They all agreed that SIMLab continues to hold a world-leading position in their field of research.
“I am also impressed by the number of Norwegian candidates. In the US, half of them are Chinese,” John Hutchinson pointed out. He was also pleased to see SIMLab push down to a whole new level in the study of fracture criteria.
So, what was the basis for the comments of the SAB? An introduction to what SFI CASA is all about by Director Magnus Langseth, overview introductions by each research programme head and presentations by all in all 12 candidates and researchers:
Professor Randi Holmestad gave an overview of the Lower Scale Programme. She was followed by PhD candidate Christian O. Paulsen, who presented his work on experimental characterization of Dual Phase Steels. Candidate Emil Christiansen talked about sub-grain formation in precipitate free zones in aluminium alloys subjected to uniaxial compression, while Senior Research Scientist Jesper Friis from SINTEF talked about initial atomistic modelling of atom interactions in precipitate free zones.
Professor Odd Sture Hopperstad gave an overview of the Metallic Materials Programme. He was followed by PhD candidate Lars Edvard Dæhli, who presented his work on influence of a high-exponent yield criterion on the macroscopic yielding and plastic instability of porous ductile solids. After that, PhD candidate Bjørn Håkon Frodal talked about the effect of pre-compression on ductile fracture of aluminium alloys, while Associate Professor David Morin talked about qualitative analyses of ductile failure by strain localization.
Professor Arild Holm Clausen gave an overview of the Polymeric Materials Programme. Then, Researcher Marius Andersen presented his work on behaviour and modelling of thermoplastics at large deformations. PhD candidate Joakim Johnsen followed suit on large strain tensile behaviour of rubber-modified polypropylene at low temperatures, before Professor Clausen lined up some perspectives.
Associate Professor David Morin gave an overview of the Structural Joints Programme. PhD candidate Erik Løhre Grimsmo presented his work on behaviour of steel connections subjected to severe loading (see http://sfi-casa.no/heart-walls-and-steel-joints/) and PhD candidate Johan Kolstø Sønstabø talked about behaviour and modelling of flow-drill screw connections (see http://sfi-casa.no/my-stay-with-honda-rd-americas/).
Finally, Professor Tore Børvik gave an overview of the Structures Programme. Postdoctoral Fellow Jens Kristian Holmen presented his work on modelling and simulation of ballistic impact, while PhD candidate Vegard Aune talked about behaviour and modelling of flexible structures subjected to blast loading.
How to stay on top
Staying on top isn’t a given. The fact that several evaluations have rated research group SIMLab world-leading, is no guarantee for future success. In many ways, last week’s Scientific Advisory Board meeting was the first test to see if SFI CASA can live up to the success of its predecessor. As this article indicates, things look promising.
In his overview of SFI CASA at the outset of SAB meeting, Director Magnus Langseth stressed the characteristics of the SFI programmes, established by the Research Council of Norway. The SFI’s are supposed to create a platform for innovation, not to innovate themselves.
He went on to stress what makes SFI CASA unique: the competence of the researchers and candidates, the on-site testing facilities for materials and structures and the tool box developed to facilitate the technology transfer from the centre to the partners and their innovation activities.