The following is an excerpt.

Professor Patricia Verleysen at Ghent University in Belgium says that the NTNU team’s work has been a true source of inspiration for her DyMaLab group. 

Close up of a woman in a group photo,smilingPatricia Verleysen is employed by the faculty of Engineering and Architecture of Ghent University in Belgium. She is head of DyMaLab, a research group of the Department of Electromechanical, Systems & Metal Engineering. Also, she is a board member of DYMAT, the European association for promoting research into the dynamic behaviour of materials and its applications.

HONOURED – AND CURIOUS

Also, Professor Stefanie Reese from RWTH Aachen University   in Germany have accepted the invitation to join the group of world-leading scientists forming the Scientific Advisory Board of CASA. Reese we will present more thoroughly, in an article coming up later. Due to Covid-19, there have been no real SAB-meetings yet, just phone-calls, e-mails and Teams-meetings. In this email-interview, professor Verleysen reveals that she was honoured by being invited to join the SAB.
«And I must admit it kind of triggered my curiosity as well. I am glad to share my experiences and perspectives. At the same time, I am interested in discovering what’s «underneath the bonnet» of a successful Centre for Research-Based Innovation such as CASA. I look forward to the board discussions on current progress and future trends in testing, modelling and simulation».
She was already familiar with the Centre. She says that she first met the NTNU scientists at the SUSI (Structures Under Shock and Impact) conferences led by Norman Jones almost 20 years ago now.
«I was a junior scientist at that time, though it was immediately clear to me that this was a group to follow«, she says.
Her research at that time focused strongly on experimental work, mainly techniques to characterise the dynamic behaviour of materials. The group in Trondheim covered a more expansive field with both experimental and numerical work. They also had a strong focus on structures.

A UNIQUE COMBINATION OF SKILLS AND EXPERTISE

«Since then, we have been meeting at several scientific gatherings, even far beyond the boundaries of Norway, i.e during conferences in Brasil, Canada and South-Africa. This is how I got to know the leading Trondheim scientists, Magnus Langseth, Tore Børvik, Arild Holm Clausen and Odd Sture Hopperstad in particular».
Gradually, they started to collaborate, and Verleysen was invited to join NTNU evaluation committees and PhD juries. During one of these events, she remembers that she had the opportunity to visit the group’s labs.
«I still remember I felt like Alice in Wonderland… The wide range of facilities, some of them, such as the ‘kicking machine’, unique in the world, the unique combination of skills and expertise, … impressed me a lot».

A GENUINE SOURCE OF INSPIRATION

Patricia Verleysen tells that gradually, she got to know the Trondheim colleagues as nice, open people.
«Magnus shared his vision on the future of his group, including the establishment of CASA, the direction in which science should evolve and… hunting. The CASA members are diverse, in skills, research interests and personality, but they blend well. I have always admired how the NTNU team managed to accomplish more than merely the sum of all calibres. By joining forces and challenging each other’s ideas, they manage to find innovative and daring solutions. Their work has been a true source of inspiration for my DyMaLab group».
She explains that her group pursues a combined experimental and numerical approach to investigate the impact-dynamic behaviour of materials. For example, they study the strain rate dependency of pipeline steels, the crashworthiness of new cars made from advanced high strength steels, the optimisation of high-speed forming processes of aluminium alloys, and the dynamic shear behaviour titanium alloys, etc.
«Clearly, this research fits nicely with SFI CASA’s objective to provide a technology platform for the creation and development of safe and smart structures and products through multi-scale testing, modelling and simulation».

LOOKING FORWARD TO A POST-COVID LIFE

The last dissertation Verleysen attended in Trondheim, was Susanne Thomesen’s in November 2019. Thomesen, who now works as a post doc in CASA, deGroup of two men and two women after a doctoral dissertationfended her thesis «Plastic flow and fracture of isotropic and anisotropic 6000-series aluminium alloys: Experiments and numerical simulations». Professor Verleysen asserted her thesis together with Associate Professor Andrea Manes, Politecnico di Milano in Italy and Professor Arild Holm Clausen, NTNU (to the right).
When asked to share her impressions after the first presentation meeting in SFI CASA, the professor from Ghent University says it was an interesting meeting – on Teams:
«It is needless to say that all of us are eagerly looking forward to a post-COVID life where we can have real meetings again. Nonetheless, I was intrigued to see how well-established researchers –with their scientific authority and strong track record- openly and honestly presented their approaches and ideas to a diverse sounding board. We all talk a lot about embracing cognitive diversity. The meeting was a nice example of how it could be implemented in reality».

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ALWAYS SURROUNDED BY MEN

Professor Patricia Verleysen is now one of two female scientists in SFI CASA’s Scientific Advisory Board – which counts eight people. This field of research in general –and also CASA- has a gender imbalance problem. Does Verleysen have any magic formulas to share about how the research field can attract more female researchers?
She says that as a female professor in an Engineering faculty, she is always surrounded by men. Her direct colleagues, her PhD students are all male. The mechanical engineering courses that she lectures attract an audience of up to 90 per cent male students – although she says they are starting to see some changes. She jokes that even at home, with her husband and their two sons, she is always outnumbered – but never outsmarted… by men.

DEMONSTRATE THE SOCIAL RELEVANCE IN ENGINEERING SCIENCES

«Too late to cure the latter.  However, we might be able to improve the distorted gender balance in engineering. I have no magic formula, but my advice would be to walk the talk: we are in dire need of more role models. Successful female researchers who can combine an academic career with a healthy and happy personal life can send a strong signal to female students who aspire to become scientists».
Also, she says we may need to improve the perception of engineering sciences:
«We have to demonstrate that engineers are problem solvers. We contribute to a green energy future by designing new wind turbine towers; we enable a more sustainable mobility by developing lightweight solutions for cars. In short: we address pressing societal needs. Suppose we can brand engineering sciences such a way. In that case, I am convinced we will be successful in attracting more engineering students. And especially more female students for whom social relevance might be more important than technology as such».

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