Interview with the Future Leaders
Dr. Fei Gao, Dr. Vincenzo Citro and Dr. Angeliki Chanteli, the winners of the Best Clean Sky PhD Awards competition, who received their awards during the second day of the Clean Sky Closing Event, share their views on the future of Aeronautics.
Clean Sky awarded the first three PhDs, to acknowledge the importance of young scientists for the greener aviation of the future. First prize was awarded to Dr. Fei Gao (University of Nottingham) for his thesis "Decentralised Control and Stability Analysis of a Multi-Generator Based Electrical Power System for More Electric Aircraft". Second and third places went respectively to Dr. Vincenzo Citro (University of Salerno) and Dr. Angeliki Chanteli (University of Patras). Find below the interviews of the awarded students:
Q1: What has been your motivation for getting interested in aeronautics-related studies and, subsequently, for deciding to perform a PhD in aeronautics?
Fei Gao (FG): Since childhood, I was interested in aeronautics. My Chinese full name means high-flying which kind of indicates that I may be involved in the area of aeronautics in my life. Before I started my PhD, I have already got qualifications and working experience in the field of electrical power systems. The knowledge and skills I gained can be applied not only in terrestrial grids but also in aircraft applications. Based on these, luckily I got a full scholarship from the University of Nottingham to sponsor my PhD study. When I first started my PhD, I got the opportunity to work within the framework of the Clean Sky Systems for Green Operations. The project highly ignited my interest and the excellent supervision I got from Nottingham inspires me a lot.
Vincenzo Citro (VC): I decided to study fluid dynamics because I love the aeronautical world. Since I was a child, my attention was focused on natural phenomena and, in particular, on sound propagation.
Angeliki Chanteli (AC): After my graduation as a Civil Engineer I realized that I was interested in a totally different field of studies and more specifically in aeronautics. The evolving character of technology with applications in aeronautics drew my attention and since the scientific subject of Strength of Materials was a common ground for me, I decided to perform a PhD in aeronautics targeted in that area.
Q2: Having successfully completed your PhD just a few months ago, what is your personal vision? I mean how do you think you could exploit the benefits of having performed a high class PhD Thesis, in favor of your personal career but also in favor of European Aeronautics?
FG: My PhD work is to deal with power management, control and stability assessment of a multiple sources electrical power system for the more electric aircraft (MEA). The concept of MEA is becoming a major trend in modern aerospace engineering. In contrast with the drawbacks of the pneumatic, hydraulic, and mechanical power, the electrical power system has many outstanding advantages such as high efficiency, low maintenance, good controllability and advanced diagnostics. In this context, electrical systems are employed to replace existing hydraulic, pneumatic and mechanical actuators. The key findings of my PhD work contribute towards next generation of electrical system in the MEA by improving their efficiency, power quality, stability margins and coordination of power sources possibly of different physical nature. So I believe this PhD project supports the move towards greener aviation and well aligned with ACARE Flight Path 2050 goals.
In terms of my personal career, after my PhD, I have joined University of Oxford to continue my research as a postdoctoral researcher. I will definitely make use of the knowledge and skills obtained during my PhD to continue my research. Hopefully I can make some breakthroughs here.
VC: I am very happy of my PhD. I learned a lot thank to my supervisor prof. Paolo Luchini. I think that my research could help a lot the European Aeronautics. In particular, I developed a new method able to predict the transition from laminar to turbulent flow in unsteady boundary layers. This helps to design more efficient helicopter blades.
AC: The completion of my PhD thesis was a challenging and demanding quest of solutions for me personally. I'm glad that I have accomplished a challenge like a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics and my next step would be to exploit a career in the Aerospace industry. Based on the valuable lessons that I learned from my advisors, on how to enhance my ability in critical thinking, to prioritize and process the problem solving steps with dedication and combined with the developed professional skills, all these characteristics will definitely benefit my personal career and of course a career in the European aeronautics.
Q3: Are you determined to pursuit a career in aeronautics or would you be willing to also look outside this sector? What is the motivation for your priority and how do you assess the perspectives for achieving a career in aeronautics? What are your main doubts and concerns, if any?
FG: As mentioned above, I decided to continue to do research and joined the University of Oxford as a postdoc in Nov 2016. My research is in the field of electrical power systems which can be not only applied in the aeronautics but also in other more electric transports and terrestrial grids. At the moment I probably do not restrict myself to the field of aeronautics. In the long run, I would like to find an academic position. So I think it might be better to broaden the vision to some extent.
However, given the chance, I still would like to be actively involved in aeronautics field. It is always good if we can get the chance to work in partnership with the world's leading aerospace companies including Rolls-Royce, Airbus, BAE Systems, GE, Safran, Boeing, etc. So I will try my best to keep the tie in aeronautics and consider to apply for some projects in the field of aeronautics.
I think achieving a career in aeronautics is promising. Taking the Clean Sky as an example, the ongoing Clean Sky 2 is more than twice the size of Clean Sky 1. The significantly increased funding and high involvement of university and industry partners also mean good opportunities in aeronautics especially for young researchers.
VC: I am very determined to pursuit a career in aeronautics. I have no doubts about my future. I believe that the aeronautics is one of the most interesting fields and will help people to have a good life. I hope to have the opportunity to continue my career in the university world.
AC: Although I'd like to stay in a field related to my research I find myself to look outside this specific sector and test my skills in another subject still related in aeronautics. My motivation is mostly triggered by the use of cutting-edge technology in aeronautics then I try to follow up with the new concepts and conclude how my skills can be exploited in these projects. My only concern is that the industry of aeronautics should be more open to offer internships or trainee programs to candidates with engineering studies in general. The opportunity of learning something new I think is always beneficial and helpful in realizing what you want to work on.
Q4: If you could have a direct contact to the decision making people concerning aeronautics research in Europe, what would you suggest them to do?
FG: I think aeronautics research in Europe is well organized, established and successful. Taking the Clean Sky 1 as an example, it is very impressive considering the number of participants and final achievements. I am honored to be involved in such an exciting research framework programme and make my contributions. If fortunately given the chance, I would recommend to improve the involvement of researchers (mainly PhD students and postdocs) such as opening more placement opportunities in R&D parts for PhD students. The young researchers could gain more practical visions and in return they can apply their research into the company's products or systems.
VC: I think that the aeronautics research is continuously growing thanks to Clean Sky. I simply suggest to continue working as done before.
AC: The aeronautics sector is known for its technology-edge character due to the continuous efforts of their research departments which lead to the adaptation of new concepts inclined with the arising needs. Lately, a more eco-friendly approach in materials and engines is followed by the researchers in aeronautics which is clearly a necessity and I think it is a wise suggestion to further study the possibility of a greener aviation.
Q5: Would you recommend to a young boy or girl to study aeronautics and subsequently to follow a career in the sector? And why?
FG: Of course. I would recommend young boys or girls to pursue a degree in aeronautics. This subject is very interesting. If they go to postgraduate or PhD level, they may focus on different aspects such as mechanical, material, structure, electrical, electronic side for the aerospace applications. They can do some practical things in the university lab and will find it more interesting to demonstrate their innovative ideas experimentally. Moreover, they will feel more excited and inspired if their findings and breakthroughs can benefit the aeronautical industry. In terms of the career, apart from the academic jobs in this targeting field, we have plenty of world leading aerospace companies in the Europe where they can find a career and realize their ambition.
VC: I would, because there are a lot of job opportunities and it is a very fascinating field. Moreover, I think that aeronautics offer a very wide range of applications. The hard process from design to flight offer a very rich variety of different jobs.
AC: Firstly, I would recommend to all future students to not believe in strict stereotypes. Aeronautic studies in Greece are demanding but also very interesting and of course there isn't any gender discrimination to be considered as a discouraging factor for the future female students. There is of course a general disparity between the male and female students in engineering studies but if we provide motivational information the interest of future female students might increase. Eventually we should all be able to fulfil our dream studies and thrive professionally. The scientific field of aeronautics is versatile and of vast range so everyone can discover their preferred subject and of course to follow up a career in this sector. Nevertheless, a career in aeronautics for us Greek female graduates in our own country I'd rather say it's difficult at the time and it can be, mostly, pursued internationally/overseas.
Q6: You have performed a PhD Thesis in a sector which is still dominated by men. Do you feel that your gender could be a disadvantage for your pursuit career?
AC: So far I have not felt any gender discrimination issues and nowadays with the policy of the European commission, which is a helpful step, I can see a number of opportunities to be given in female scientists in order to work in the field of aeronautics. I'm certain that in the future more women will be welcomed in this sector.