A PhD experience that opened a world of possibilities

Marilyne Philibert, a scientist at A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), comes from a small village in France. She chose to join the A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP) to gain international exposure and pursue her dream to develop advanced materials and innovative technologies.

Please introduce yourself
I am from a small village called Varennes sous Dun, in the region of Burgundy  in France, where there’re more cows than humans!

I wanted to challenge myself by pursuing a PhD in a different country. After completing my master’s degree in textile engineering in France, I joined the University of Manchester to pursue my PhD.

In 2017, I was pleased to discover more about the A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP) and decided to travel to Singapore to join IMRE, where I spent two years doing research in the structural health monitoring of composite structures using piezoelectric transducers. As I enjoyed my previous stay in Singapore and my PhD project, I came back to A*STAR and joined IMRE in October 2021 as a scientist.

In my spare time, I enjoy travelling, sewing, painting and baking.

What is your area of research?
My research project for my PhD was focused on the structural health monitoring of composite structures using ultrasonic piezoelectric transducers, which are able to convert ultrasonic waves travelling in a solid into electric signals and conversely. For example, in an aircraft, the idea is to create a permanent network of piezoelectric transducers to detect hidden cracks and delamination at any time, to improve safety and reduce maintenance costs. Piezoelectric transducers can generate and sense guided waves using signal processing, where any damage to the structure will cause a corresponding change in the signal.

Current technologies developed for continuous monitoring involve manually attaching heavy and bulky ceramic transducers onto the structure. The solution proposed in my thesis is to use polymeric direct-write transducers made by spraying a light piezoelectric polymeric coating, which will enable multiple sensors and sensor network with high consistency and reliability that is promising for next generation ultrasonic structural health monitoring applications. Implementation of the light weight and low profile active ultrasonic sensors using the in-situ coating becomes very attractive for aircraft applications as it can reduce mass and improve reliability.

I continue to explore similar research at IMRE, as I get increasingly exposed to different projects and interactions with experts in the field.

How has the A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP) award helped you in your career?
The international experience that I gained equipped me with the necessary skills such as networking, problem solving and adaptability that are essential as a scientist. Through conference visits enabled by A*STAR, I was able to meet like-minded peers and learn from renowned researchers from across the globe. I have published three scientific journal articles to date and am now in the process of publishing a review article on Lamb waves-based technologies for structural health monitoring of composite structures for aircraft applications.

The ARAP award was a good opportunity to work for both a university reputable for its research and high-quality education, and a public sector R&D agency with numerous collaborations with renowned industrial partners.

How did your mentor help you in your ARAP journey?
My supervisor, Dr Yao Kui, has offered valuable support in sharing his expertise and providing career advice. My colleagues in IMRE were always very helpful by offering precious guidance and insights.

Would you like to share some tips for interested applicants for ARAP?
The ARAP award is an exciting opportunity to broaden one’s horizon with international experience. I recommend attending conferences as it is very important to build a good network of experts in the field. The PhD journey is full of ups and downs (both professionally or personally), so seeking advice from supervisors, colleagues or other fellow students is essential.

What has your experience in Singapore been like?
I had an amazing experience in Singapore as the city is a melting pot of diverse cultures and very charming with many green spaces. During my attachment in Singapore, I visited so many countries that I would have never expected to see.

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