How would you describe your role?
I finished my PhD and started this role almost immediately after, in November 2020. My role comprises of anything to do with 3D printing; research, teaching and meeting people interested in 3D printing. I absolutely love what I do. One of my favourite aspects of the role is meeting students with specific projects, mainly final year projects. For example, one year we had a student making a prototype dialysis machine. I love the challenge of learning to use 3D printing equipment and realising what we can make and using their creative skills to do that. It’s really satisfying seeing others use the equipment in ways you didn’t think of, because everyone is creative in their own way. And that’s essentially what I see my role as, introducing others to the technology.
How has the lockdown affected you & your work?
At home it didn’t affect me all that much, I moved from a flat to a house, which was big for me. The lockdown massively affected my work though. Previously, I was working ridiculous hours when completing my PhD. The Monday after we got sent home, I remember sitting on my sofa and thinking ”what do I do?” and reflecting on the fact that Covid-19 exists and the priority in that moment was to stay at home and look after ourselves. It changed the work-life balance completely. The pandemic affected me in the way that I think it affected a lot of people, you take stock of your life and where you’re going and what you have. It’s been a real turning point. It made me think “what do I actually want to do in the next few years?”. It also made me sit back a bit from work and think about all the things I want to do outside of work like the comedy workshops I did at Theatre in the Mill in November 2020. I don’t think anyone will be the same again after the pandemic, and everyone will always remember this time.
In terms of my role now, students not being on campus changed everything as we couldn’t communicate face-to-face or engage in lab experiments. We’re just going back into that now, which is great. During the pandemic, I was involved in a project to develop face shields. It was an amazing opportunity to be part of something that helped with the Covid-19 efforts to keep people safe.
What exciting projects are you working on right now?
Something I do quite a lot of is research new materials, like plastics and rubbers. At the moment, I am part of a really exciting project with one of my colleagues, Dr Rob Innes, he is a specialist in rubbers, and we are developing a 3D printing material with really strong rubber. Whilst this is quite nerdy and might not be exciting to a lot of people, I love discovering new things and am excited that we are almost done creating something that nobody else has done before.
Another big project for me at the moment, is face-to-face teaching! I delivered my first in-person lecture at the beginning of this semester, and it was terrifying! Suddenly I realised that my job is standing in front of a lot of people and speaking. In the last few weeks, I have really enjoyed it and it’s a lot easier than I first realised. There’s a lot to learn from delivering lectures, from how people receive information, and what they do with that knowledge, to how to explain complex subjects. It’s very satisfying.
The last three months must have felt like a massive breakthrough for you with your return to campus, the new lecturing position and the comedy workshop you participated in.
Yes, I touched on this in my comedy set, I got very ill last year, and I get vertigo attacks sometimes. To be back in front of people, talking to people and listening to large groups which is very difficult when you have vertigo, is something I was worried about during the lockdown but the last few weeks have been amazing.
A highlight of your time on campus/ in role so far?
I would have to pick, passing my VIVA exam for my PhD and the comedy set I performed at Theatre in the Mill as part of Dr Diddams’ Comedy Lab. The VIVA exam experience was particularly strange because it was done by video call, so no one was in the room with me. I delivered the presentation and a big interview to a panel and instead of the usual experience of celebrating over a meal afterwards, they congratulated me and when the call ended, I was by myself at home.Whereas the comedy night was a big celebration. It felt like everyone’s first big night since the beginning of the pandemic. It was quite unique in that way.
A funny/ embarrassing story from your time on campus?
During the second year of my PhD, I lived across the road from the university campus. I used to come into work at 07:30 in the morning, I was exhausted at that time, and remember sitting with a professor, whom I ‘m not going to name! We were sat having a conversation, and I asked, “what are you doing today?”, and he said, “I’m meeting with the farmer department.”. I was sat there thinking, I didn’t even know we had a farmer department, wondering where they kept livestock and equipment. So, I kept asking questions about where this place was, and he seemed really shocked and explained it was just on the other side of the road. It took a few days until I realised, he meant “Pharma” as in pharmacy. I was so tired that my brain was clearly very confused! Afterwards, I remember thinking “I can’t believe I just said that to a professor”.
A surprising/interesting fact about yourself?
A lot of people are very surprised when I say this, but my first language is Polish. I grew up in a Polish community in Huddersfield. I remember getting to primary school and not understanding what the other children were saying, and it’s because my family spoke Polish at home. It has made for some interesting situations when people don’t realise, I can speak Polish, and say something embarrassing in front of me. When I was a poor undergrad student, I used to shop in Primark all the time and there was one time when a Polish couple were saying some naughty things to one another whilst I was looking at the t-shirts and I said “excuse me” in Polish, at which point they scurried off.
What inspires you?
I like meeting people who have a curiosity for something. I find it inspiring when everyday people have a curiosity or interest, and they are really good at it. That’s what makes people interesting, I think everybody has a thing that they are nerdy about, and I want to know what that is.
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
Keep going, ignore what the negative people are saying, and believe you can do, what you want to do. I think people can spend so much time worrying about what other people think and it holds them back. Enjoy yourself always.
If you could time travel 100 years, would you go into the past or the future? And why?
I thought quite a bit about this one. I think I’d want to go into the future rather than the past because if I went into the past, I’d want to change things. The classical thing is “could you prevent events like WWII from happening?”, but I suppose then you get into weird paradoxes where you think “would I then exist and be able to travel into the past?”. I would love to go into the future and get some relief that things will be alright, for example, we spend a lot of time discussing big issues like climate change, and I’d like to go into the future and comeback and say it will all be fine. Also, I’d like to find out what humanity has done in 100 years. I like to think positively, and that we will discover lots of amazing and weird things.
What are you fearful of in the future and what are you hopeful for?
I worry a lot about climate change, it’s a massive issue and the real worry is that humanity will spend more time on politics, arguments, and media. I’m hopeful that humanity will look after itself and figure things out.
What question are you never asked that you wish you were?
My instinct is to say that I’d like people to ask me more about 3D printing. I’d also like it if people spent more time asking each other “what are you up to at the moment?”, and “shall we do something?”, especially after the pandemic.