Oral history of British science
King, Julia (Part 3 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 3: Remarks on: transferring to Materials Science department at Nottingham University for 7 years; anecdotes about lecturer training course; teaching at Nottingham; limited career guidance available; wonderful colleagues, including Bob Waterhouse; anecdote about learning from student's light hearted criticisms of Bob Waterhouse's teaching style; [06:38] description of teaching rooms; anecdote about JK having large handwriting; changes in teaching, blackboards and handouts. [08:18] Remarks on first research grant from EPSRC and National Coal Board to examine mining chain steels: recruiting postdoc, Bill Geary, who married JK PhD student Liz Pickering, daughter of metallurgist F B Pickering. [11:30] Remarks on JK first PhD student Ralph Venables: worked on fatigue in alloys with Rolls-Royce; JK learning from his reactions to her comments on his work; later worked for MoD and JK in Rolls-Royce; anecdote about security checks. [16:20] Remarks on: research with Rolls-Royce and Coal Board; advantages of moving to new university; now considering Cambridge home; domestic and work arrangement, Colin working for Rolls-Royce; missing the stimulation of Cambridge. [19:03] Remarks on Nottingham: friendly atmosphere; anecdote about Professor Stuart Llewellyn-Leach's late working habits; lack of equipment; anecdote about buying equipment from former electricity industry laboratories in Leatherhead; successful interview for Fellowship of Engineering research scholarship to work with British Gas, founded by Sir Denis Rooke. [25:35] Anecdote about moving back to Cambridge at suggestion of Colin Humphreys. Remarks on working with British Gas on fellowship: weld micro-structures, hydrogen embrittlement, hydrogen sulphide contaminants; visiting research sites, Watson House domestic appliance research station; polymer concrete, ceramics; background of British Gas privatisation, anecdote about grand lunches at British Gas executive dining rooms, closing of Killingworth research labs; stopping fellowship when she won a lectureship. [33:50] Remarks on: enjoyments of British gas projects; work on duplex stainless steels; building research group from Alastair Hope and Vince Lucy; stimulating Cambridge environment; building up projects on short crack growth and alloys with Rolls-Royce; [38:50] research student Dave Knowles work on aluminium metal matrix composites for BP; JK connections with BP, husband, Alan Begg; research student James Marrow, now Oxford professor. [40:00] Comments on supervising PhD students: supervising first PhD student, funded by Rolls-Royce EPSRC funded CASE award work on nickel; developing skills of PhD supervision; teaching of skills. [45:50] Remarks on contacts with Rolls-Royce: big materials lab, Mike Hicks; anecdote about Leon Grabowski wanting all their raw data on short cracks; primitive methods for recording data. [49:12] Comments on: finding building a large research group in Cambridge's macho environment unfulfilling; frustrations in doing research that wasn't making a difference; developing skills in getting research funding, research partners Rolls-Royce, British Steel,British Gas, Alcan, importance of reputation. [54:30] Story about research student Paul Hill's work on composite tethers for offshore rigs, JK visit to company with John Little to set up collaboration. [57:30] Anecdote about foundation of Rolls-Royce Cambridge University Technology Centre [UTC] in materials science involving a car journey with Harry Bhadeshia and Colin Humphreys; JK role running UTC; story about Rolls-Royce's Phil Ruffles's offering JK job as head of materials lab; feelings of frustrations in academia. [1:01:20]Comments on: excited by work making a practical difference, interest in industry funded PhD students; difference between engineering and science; joining Rolls-Royce in 1944, dramatic transition to running industrial research lab. [1:04:40] Remarks on colleagues at Cambridge: Colin Humphreys, interested in blue LED's and science of religious stories; Harry Bhadeshia, interest in welding; Jim Charles, former supervisor; John Leake; composite expert Bill Clyne; [1:09:03] former ICI Bill Clegg developing cement springs; familiar lab technicians. [1:10:10] Story about John Knott's departure to Birmingham and disagreement with procedure for choosing a successor to Robert Honeycombe as head of department. [1:12:45] Remarks on JK's research group: more women than other groups; other students joining them unofficially; big sociable group; proud of success of research students; daily activities running a research group, teaching, tutoring, lab classes, writing papers, helping students write papers; JK becoming less hands on in research. [1:18:25] Remarks about changes in computing: networking, research students all having Macs, Rolls-Royce using PCs, first getting a computer on her desk. [1:20:50] Remarks on: changes in instruments and equipment becoming computer controlled, improved electron microscopes, improvements rather than major breakthroughs. [1:23:10] Remarks on: technicians at Cambridge; roles and importance of technician support. [1:26:00] Remarks on social life: socialising with research group; living in college, husband working at BP Sunbury, houses in Windsor and Altrincham at different times; flying Suckling Airways between Manchester and Cambridge; marriage whilst JK at Nottingham in 1984; description of husband Colin and his career at Rolls-Royce, aero-engine and automotive component suppliers, BP, start-up and Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Interview with materials scientist Professor Dame Julia King