Dr Claire Dancer is an Assistant Professor in WMG's Nanocomposites Research Group. She studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge before gaining her doctorate at the University of Oxford for a thesis on processing methods for the superconducting material magnesium diboride. Her postdoctoral research at Oxford included projects on ceramic armour and electromagnetic materials, and she was a College Lecturer in Materials Science at St Anne's College, Oxford from 2009 to 2013.
I was very interested in physics and astrophysics at school and so despite my Physics teacher trying to persuade me to study Engineering, as an undergraduate I decided to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge. This proved to be a fortuitous decision as in the first year of this course you must study a range of sciences, and this was how I fell into engineering!
Along with continuing my A-level subjects which were physics, chemistry and mathematics, for my fourth option I chose to study Materials Science, and fell in love with the subject pretty much straight away. Materials Science is a discipline which spans science and engineering; I study the fundamental science of materials as well as working out how to engineer them to have optimised properties. After studying Materials to MSci level at Cambridge, I moved to Oxford for my doctorate and stayed for 5 years afterwards working on a range of research projects.
In 2013 I moved to Warwick to become an Assistant Professor in Nanocomposites at WMG. My research group at Warwick works on developing new ways to make novel composite materials using nanomaterials, and I teach students who are studying for the BEng/MEng in Engineering. As I’m seeing from my students now who are pursuing a wide variety of paths, there are a huge range of courses and specialisms in engineering. Ultimately they all involve problem solving and understanding how the world works, and these are the aspects which really drew me into the field.
The highlights of my career so far are all research related: discovering how and why a material has the properties you can measure, or engineering a new structure for the first time, is extremely satisfying. I have also found that engineering is an extremely social discipline. In order to achieve a greater understanding of the materials I study I always work with other researchers from universities and industry as our combined knowledge gives us greater insight than working alone.