People of MECHA: Dr Jonathan Stringer

What encouraged you to enter academic research and teaching as a career?

The nature of academia means that you tend to enter it for the research (by doing a PhD) and the teaching element grows as you progress. For me, the reason for entering research was a combination of my own curiosity and the freedom to concentrate on answering questions that nobody else has answered. Once you have tried answering these kinds of questions, communicating the answers with other people is just as, if not more, important. This is something I enjoy, and has a lot of parallels with teaching, as you are trying to get across information that is new to the audience in a way they will hopefully understand and remember.

What do you love doing outside of work?

I am quite a keen cook and have mostly been focussing on perfecting British Curry House-style curries during the lockdown. Besides that, I enjoy watching my cat doing typical cat things. Once the lockdown finished, I was able to meet up with my niece and nephew again and resume my other great love, confusing toddlers.

What have you found to be your most difficult challenge so far, either in your professional or personal life?

Losing a previous job during the last financial crisis was a big challenge both from a personal and professional perspective for several reasons. Besides the more generic issues with being unemployed for 7 months (financial, psychological etc.), there were specific problems with having resources to keep up with the rapidly evolving nature of current research (e.g. you do not have access to the latest articles, you are not in the same environment for stimulating discussion of ideas etc.). I eventually got another research position in a seemingly unrelated field; wear of abradable turbine seals, rather than inkjet printing and printed electronics. It turned out that a lot of the techniques that were commonly used in the latter could be applied to the former; and looking into how this could be done was very rewarding.

Your favourite moment when you were a student at University?

As an undergraduate, we used to make trivial and slightly ludicrous bets/challenges with each other about assessed presentations. These would be along the lines of somehow fitting a certain prop or phrase within the presentation. While we were never sure if the lecturers were in on it, it was still gratifying when I managed to get the highest mark in the year for theming a talk about the use of textile fibres in load bearing structures around the TV series ‘Happy Days’.

**If you were allowed to make anything using a 3d printer, what would you make? ** This answer to this question changes every day. It could be something generally worthy and possible (e.g PPE), something that addresses a particular problem I have at the moment (e.g. something to attach to my windows so I can install some ersatz double glazing) or something not really possible (e.g a vaccine for COVID-19). While it slightly depresses me to say it, I am currently in an office with a draughty window, so will probably go with the middle one.

What are some of the new innovations happening in additive manufacturing?

While it may have only come to the public attention relatively recently, 3D printing technology has not really changed that much over the last 20-30 years. Most of the innovation comes in the form of making the technology easier (e.g. automated generative design for additive manufacturing) or in applying the 3D printing techniques to new materials. For me, one of the most interesting areas for innovation is the use of multiple materials in a single object.