Hello Esraa! Could you tell us a bit about your academic background?
– I am originally from Egypt and graduated from the school of science at Alexandria University where I was specialized as a chemist. After having studied for a bachelor’s degree I was keen on studying a master's program in Materials Science. Since I was interested in renewable and green technologies, I decided to work with solar energy.
You have also been studying at Chalmers University of Technology at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. How come you chose to study in Sweden?
– After I had completed my master's degree, there was an advertisement for a PhD-position at Chalmers University in Gothenburg. The position was about studying the corrosion in heat storage tanks used in thermal solar power plants which I thought was really interesting. So, I applied for the position and was delighted to get it.
In 2021 you became a member of the The Steel Academy network at Jernkontoret. How did you get in contact with the network?
– I was in the third year of my PhD and one of my colleagues told me about it and he said it was an interesting network for PhD students that I should join. So, I contacted Helena Malmqvist, who is the research manager for the network, and I am glad I was given such a chance.
For those who don’t know what The Steel Academy network does – could you give a short brief?
– It is a platform provided by Jernkontoret for PhD students who are interested in working in the steel industry or have some connection to the steel industry. The network gathers students and the aim of this network is to foster a community where members can exchange experiences, circulate information, and share knowledge, thereby strengthening the bond between academic institutions and the steel industry.
What did you do during your time in the network? (E.g attending events/study visits/other?)
– For example, I went to an event that was arranged by The Steel Academy Network at Jernkontoret in October 2022, and there were a lot of employers and employees from the steel industry attending. I connected with many of them and asked them what they were interested in, what their company’s vision is, if they had any vacancies and so on. All kinds of questions one would ask just before graduating. I think there were around 6-7 companies there, which is impressive since you don’t have the chance to meet with so many companies at the same time at any other place. I would say it is a unique chance to meet with engineers and researchers.
One main goal for the network is to enable contacts between the steel industry and students during their studies - how important would you say it is for both parties?
– I think it is extremely important! Even if I am interested in a company, sending an email saying “Hi I am a PhD student and I am interested to work in your company …”, of course it could work but to meet in person is much better and having the chance to ask all these questions like “What are your expectations for the future?”, ask if they are hiring and so on, is a brilliant opportunity that The Steel Academy Network enables. So, I am grateful that I got to know about this platform and had the chance to join it!
Would you recommend the network to other PhD-students?
– I would definitely recommend it in order for both sides to have a collaboration, get in touch and get to know each other, maybe even from master level.
Today you are working as a researcher at Swerim AB. How did you first get in touch with Swerim?
– The Steel Academy Network arranged a study visit to the research institute Swerim during my time as a member. Back then I knew Swerim by name but not what they are doing. We met with coworkers there, had a lab tour and I got very interested in their work, since they are conducting research based on industry needs. Also, Swerim collaborates in national and international programs. One year after my visit to Swerim, I finished my PhD studies and got the chance to get a job position there.
What do you focus on in your work?
– I work in a group of Material Development in a subgroup: Corrosion and hydrogen embrittlement. I focus on corrosion and oxidation of metallic materials. It is essential to inspect corrosion behavior when developing new materials or testing materials for new applications. Also, it is needed for quality assurance or studying failure cases.
– Depending on the application and the client's need, we customize corrosion testing to mimic the realistic conditions. Afterwards, we start to investigate materials performance, correlating results to understand why it behaves this way and what could be done further.
What is the best part of your job?
– I like research in general, it is like a detective’s work. We start to collect data and information about each case/project, then plan work and finally try to solve the problem or answer raised questions. What is interesting about Swerim is that we work from raw material to finished products. This enables collaboration among different groups, utilization of various analytical and testing techniques which corresponds to better research.
Last but not least - If you could give one (or more) piece of advice to an engineering PhD student, what would you say to that person?
– Enjoy the ride, it's a very interesting experience! I know it can be tough, but one learns a lot, not only science-wise, but also developing many transferable skills that benefits us in our daily life. In addition, it’s an amazing chance for networking and finding new contacts. When I look back, I am grateful that The Steel Academy Network contributed to open many doors for me and my career.