Maria Felice

Welcome to this new column, which will feature in every third issue of NDT News. The aim of the column is to showcase the variety of fantastic jobs that people do in the world of non-destructive evaluation (NDE). Each quarter, I will be writing about one or two people who work in NDE. I therefore need help and suggestions in finding people to talk to and write about. I would like to speak to a variety of people – young and not so young, managers, inspectors, academics, students, apprentices and everyone else. Do get in touch if you have any recommendations or would like to put yourself forward. Please contact the editor at or myself at

By way of an introduction, the first person I am writing about is myself! In my three years in NDE I have discovered that it is quite a small world, so some of you will already know about me and my research work.

I am on an Engineering Doctorate (EngD) scheme, which can be described in two words as an ‘industry PhD’. Like a PhD, an EngD requires a novel contribution to knowledge and I must write a thesis and pass a viva voce exam to graduate. Also, like doing a PhD, I am registered as a full-time student at a university – in my case, the University of Bristol. Unlike most PhDs, I am linked very closely to industry – in my case, Rolls-Royce plc. My research work has immediate benefits to the company and, after spending my first year at the University of Bristol, I am now based full-time at Rolls-Royce in Filton, Bristol. Another difference between a PhD and an EngD is that an EngD involves about twenty weeks of taught courses spread over the four years of the scheme. Some of these are related to my research area and others to professional development.

My research area is NDE (as you have probably guessed), and my EngD is managed by the Industrial Doctorate Centre in NDE, which is associated with the UK Research Centre in NDE (RCNDE). There are now over twenty Industrial Doctorate Centres in the UK, all of them running EngD schemes and all of them consortia consisting of one or more universities and industrial partners. Some other examples are the Nuclear Engineering Centre and the Machining Science Centre.

What attracted me to doing an EngD was the opportunity to simultaneously gain experience of working in both academia and in industry. I get to solve real problems of industrial significance by performing rigorous academic work and this is both challenging and satisfying. I also have access to supervision and resources at both the university and the company and since, in my case, they are in the same city, I really do make the most of this. In return, I try to act as a link between the two sites and help with technology transfer. For example, I am helping Rolls-Royce to implement ultrasonic array freeware that was developed at the University of Bristol.

The aim of my research work is to develop an in situ ultrasonic array inspection to detect stress corrosion cracking in aero engines. This infamous type of cracking is an especially serious problem in the nuclear power generation industry and I learnt more about this on a recent trip to Leibstadt Nuclear Power Plant in Switzerland. Since stress corrosion cracks are branched and scatter ultrasound in many directions, they can be very tricky to detect with ultrasound, especially when using a single transducer. I have developed an efficient computer model that simulates the interaction of ultrasound with these complex cracks. I am now in my final year and am using the model to optimise the array design for the particular inspection case.

Instead of going into further detail, I will leave you with an excerpt from a rather unusual poem[1]:

“The image of stress corrosion I see
Is that of a huge unwanted tree,
Against whose trunk we chop and chop,
But which outgrows the chips that drop;
And from each gash made in its bark
A new branch grows to make more dark
The shade of ignorance around its base,
Where scientists toil with puzzled face.
Chemists and metallographers,
Technicians and philosophers,
Though struggling individually,
Their common goal: to fell the tree.”

  1. S P Rideout et al, ‘Role of moisture and hydrogen in hot-salt cracking of titanium alloys’, Proceedings of Conference on Fundamental Aspects of Stress Corrosion Cracking, 1967, pp 650-661, 1969.

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