Zixuan Ran

  • Zixuan RanZixuan Ran is originally from China. She joined Oxford Brookes in April 2016 and her thesis title is ‘Development of Advanced Silicon Fibre Reinforced Aluminium Matrix Composites’.

    How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University?

    After completing my master’s degree at the University of Dundee, I was looking for a doctorate which allowed me to explore and learn new things in detail. Oxford Brookes University was offering some really interesting PhD project opportunities online (at jobs.ac.uk).

    What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to conduct your research?

    What really attracted me to Oxford Brookes University was the opportunity to be involved in a cutting edge project. I was impressed with the research interests and the experience of my supervisors: Dr Neil Fellows and Professor John Durodola. And what’s more, the PhD was fully funded by the Oxford Brookes University 150th anniversary scholarship.

    What were you doing before?

    I did my undergraduate degree in Tianjin Medical University with the exchange year at the University of Dundee. Then I continued my MSc in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Dundee, for which I achieved a Distinction.

    How easy did you find it to settle into the research environment?

    I love the research environment here; everyone is friendly and helpful. There is lots of training offered at Brookes and I have gained really valuable skills in research and self-development. My supervisors have been really patient, supportive and constantly provide me with encouragement, valuable advice and unconditional help.

    Tell us about your research.

    Long fibre reinforced metal matrix composites have been under development since the early 1990s but had struggled to become commercial due to high manufacturing costs. This lack of commercial success had curtailed investment, hindering proper understanding of the material properties and component design optimisation. 

    However, there are niche applications where the strength to weight ratio makes them commercially attractive, for example Al/C composites are now successfully used in a number of countries as over-head power transmission cables. New improved manufacturing techniques are leading to improved material properties at lower cost. This improves the potential for commercial viability and provides an impetus for further research into material characterisation and design optimisation. 

    My project aims to utilise modelling techniques to optimise both material and component design. The applications being considered are for automotive engine, vehicle crash and biomedical components.

    What do you enjoy about being a research student?

    The best part of being a research student is the opportunity it provides to improve my ability to understand and solve problems, to explore and learn new things every day and push myself to new heights.

    What do you think about the research training offered at Oxford Brookes?

    The research training offered at Brookes is really helpful. It covers a wide range of topics from research time management to technical analysis skills.

    What are your future plans?

    My goal is to apply my knowledge and skills into practice. Undertaking a PhD is a great experience and an opportunity to challenge myself. It has improved my ability to solve complex problems and helped me develop valuable transferrable skills. It is an excellent training process for creativity, professionalism and confidence.