Oral history of British science
King, Julia (Part 2 of 9). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee's office, Aston University, Birmingham
King, Julia, 1954- (speaker, female)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 2: Remarks on: parents' reaction to Cambridge offer; A-level and higher results; JK feelings on Cambridge entrance; start at Cambridge in October 1972; learning to cycle. [02:52] Remarks on New Hall College Cambridge: renamed Murray Edwards; small, fun, President Rosemary Murray; [04:36] friendly biologist room mate Alison Stewart in curious split level rooms. [06:00] Comments on tutorials with John Leake at Gothic St John's College: anecdote about strange notices on doors at St Johns; John Leake's fellow's rooms, with crystallographic décor; JK career links to John Leake; John Leake's precise and supportive character. [11:40] Remarks on: contrast between old colleges and New Hall; physics, chemistry and crystalline state components of natural Sciences course; JK surprise at difference between exciting school Nuffield physics and boring first year physics, lack of integration between lectures and practicals; anecdote about lecturer. [13:55] Comments on crystalline state classes: JK fascinated by mathematical elegance and logic; comparison with chemical synthesis' learning by rote approach; certainty of knowing work on crystals was correct; [18:25] teaching methods, attractions of learning by doing. [20:05] Remarks on undergraduate life: working hard; few close friends until final year; friend Lizzy Eyre; social links to Churchill College, such as friend Steve Fisher who helped her with physics; [24:00] preferring to work in her room; discos; discussions with friends; anecdote about dozing off in early lectures; discussions over report of the Club of Rome; anecdote about JK finding herself targeted by evangelical Christian groups; [28:13] JK not finding Christianity compatible with being a scientist, as it required belief rather than evidence; boyfriend Chris; anecdote about avoiding drugs at a party; avoiding politics at university; limited involvement in societies; [32:48] Remarks on friends: Siobhan; medic, met through rowing at Cambridge, husband Mark, still friends today; still in contact with Lizzy Eyre, Ali Stewart and others but less close. [36:30] Remarks on: academic ambitions whilst an undergraduate; applying for job at Rolls-Royce because everyone else was; subjects studied; decision to specialising in metallurgy, in lively department, in third year; JK enjoying long vacation term in final year. [41:52] Comments about Goldsmiths tour around metallurgical industries: minibus driven by lecturers Dai Jones and John Kallend; visit to Imperial Metal Industries [IMI] and GKN in Birmingham; anecdote about eating onion sandwiches after visiting a mine; only two women on tour; anecdote about VIP treatment at IMI; [46:30] comparison of IMI experience with later Rolls-Royce experience; JK later abolishing last Rolls-Royce managers dining room at Barnoldswick. [48:33] Comments on metallurgy course: focused on applications; nuclear reactor course taught by Trevor Page; JK interests in big issues of nuclear reactor technology, technical ceramics, with lead from Japan, and composites; Japanese attempt to find one stage steel making process; [53:55] JK interests in relating physical and mechanical properties of materials to structure and composition. [54:00] Remarks on PhD: sponsored by Harwell and supervised by John Knott; examining embrittlement of nuclear reactor steels; first class degree typically leading to research funding; visiting Oxford and Imperial to investigate possible PhD but remaining in Cambridge. [56:40] Comments on John Knott's research group: hugely sociable group; contrast with large, high profile, steel research group under Professor Honeycombe; prominent lab location; atmosphere of groups. [59:35] Comments on other Knott group members and atmosphere: Rob Ritchie, US expert on fatigue fracture; Sami El-Soudani, Egyptian-American, quantitative fractographer, anecdote about not realising he had to fast during Ramadan; Dave Curry, who worked in Oil Industry; Andy Pickard, who works for Rolls-Royce; post-doc Richard Smith. [1:03:05] Description of laboratory: anecdote about being teased about using a vice and hacksaw badly; anecdote about playing a practical joke on Dave Curry; anecdote about stealing furniture from steel group. [1:06:55] Remarks on: John Knott, good supervisor, many ideas; Husband-to-be Colin working in Gerry Smith's research group nearby; JK staying as a General Electric funded postdoc in JK's group working on fatigue in aerospace alloys; JK winning Rolls-Royce fellowship at Girton College. [1:08:45] Detailed description of problems of fatigue in materials: defects in materials growing into cracks; fatigue lifing aerospace engineering components; beauty and importance of looking at fracture surfaces and striations. [1:19:25] Description of experimental methods for testing materials: industry component testing; growing cracks using a single-edge notch bend [SENB]; [1:24:10] lack of computer control in early years meaning people had to work all night; analysis of specimens with scanning electron microscope. [1:25:50] Remarks on: electron microscopes at Cambridge; PhD links with Harwell; Goldsmiths support for Department of Metallurgy and Material Science, leading to Goldsmith's society for students and Goldsmith's Chair of Material Science, as occupied by Sir Alan Cottrell; [1:28:50] Remarks on: differences between being an undergraduate and a PhD student; vacation activities, holidays with mother, temp job in London. [1:32:40] Remarks on student finances: student grant; support from mother; few things to spend on; grandmother buying her a calculator; buying many books; less pressure to spend money compared to students today. [1:37:50] Remarks on: post doc funding, Rolls-Royce research fellowship, writing up PhD; Rolls-Royce scholarship arrangements, work testing crack threshold behaviour in Rene 95 and Astralloy alloys; [1:42:30] teaching and supervising, previous experience teaching for John Knott; helping former school teacher Brenda Jennison to teach trainee teachers at Homerton College; long transit from Girton to Homerton; enjoying teaching, especially supervisions with engineers, with textbook by Dai Jones and Mike Ashbury. [1:49:00] Remarks on: calling herself an engineer, with reference to meeting Ann Dowling's engineering students at Cambridge; disparity between male and female lecturers at Cambridge, teaching by Christine McKie [Christine Kelsey]; sitting on a review committee to assess department for Ann Dowling; balance between male and female students on JK's course, women's colleges; [1:53:50] Description of typical day as a research fellow: living in college, breakfasting with fellows Alison Duke, Anthony McIsaac; newest fellow's extra breakfast and dinner duties; responsibility for senior combination room, anecdote about recovering chairs; outline of typical daily activities, tea breaks, supervisions, college dinners. [2:01:56] Remarks on husband-to-be Colin: working in Gerry Smith's group; meeting through then-boyfreind Tom; worked in lab next door; now director of the institute of mechanical engineers.
Interview with materials scientist Professor Dame Julia King