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‘A materials girl in a materials world’

19 June, 2014

‘A materials girl in a materials world’

A quip on a famous lyric from the queen of pop proved a good fit for Professor Kim Pickering during her Inaugural Professorial Lecture at the University of Waikato this week.

‘Materials girl’, Prof Pickering, spoke about her passion for materials science and engineering and the trends she predicts for the future.

She explained that “Materials science and engineering is all about understanding why solid materials behave like they do and how to improve them.”

Diversity in science and engineering industry
Alongside materials, a reoccurring theme was her experiences as a woman in a predominantly male dominated industry – something she has watched evolve in her 25 year career.

”It has been great to see an increased appreciation of the value of diversity. Diverse backgrounds can contribute to diversity of ideas in design, which is a very important process in engineering,” says Prof Pickering.

Future of materials
Her research background is within electronic materials and composites, including modelling the failure and utilisation of natural fibres in composites.

In the future, Prof Pickering sees great opportunities still to be explored in the areas of 3D printing, particularly in molecular 3D printing. She also sees a ‘space elevator’, consisting of a cable between Earth and space as a real possibility, “for this to be made possible we need stronger materials for which 3D printing could provide the solution.”

From London to Waikato
Prof Pickering studied at the Imperial College in London, within the Royal School of Mines, followed by her first position at Plessey, an electronics company. With a continuing passion for materials, she returned to study at PhD at the University of Surrey, before moving to New Zealand in 1994, for her position at the University of Waikato. She is currently Deputy Head of the School of Engineering at Waikato University, alongside her role as a lecturer in materials science and engineering.


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