Matei is a PhD student in the Turbo research group.

" I simply enjoy learning and exploring uncharted territories."

Why did you decide to study for a PhD ? 

During my third year of undergraduate studies at Imperial I had the great opportunity to interact with the Turbo Research Group as part of a Design Team Project. I have then become inspired by the multi-disciplinary nature of the problems that arise in Thermofluids Research. Going into my Final Year Project, I had the opportunity to test the academic environment and develop my own research questions. Nonetheless, I simply enjoy learning and exploring uncharted territories. I believe the PhD also fits well with my career aspirations as I would like to stay in academia, given how much I relish research and teaching.

What has your experience been like so far? What has been the best thing about it?

I had a very pleasant experience throughout my time in the department. I enjoy mingling withlike-minded students and academics, discussing various analytical questions and trying to push the boundaries and better myself every day. I am very grateful for playing a part in a collaborative and inclusive scientific environment that fosters creativity, innovation, and a sense of community among researchers. Moreover, we are blessed with wonderful leisure opportunities. Having a healthy work-life balance in South Kensington is easy, with the Science Museum across the street and Hyde Park just around the corner.

I try to make the most out of every day and cherish everything that this journey brings, but an excellent day would probably start with an endurance workout at Ethos, followed by a tutorial where a student would keep on asking questions until they are crystal clear about the subject and then discovering that the simulations that I were scheduled to run overnight finally converged with meaningful results. Needless to say, they have not yet all aligned in one day, but most weeks have a good mix of personal, teaching and research micro-achievements.

What is your PhD research about?

My research is in thermal management using novel manufacturing techniques. I am trying to figure out how to improve the cooling of electronic devices and systems using additive manufacturing and machine learning techniques. With the advent of additive manufacturing, complex geometries with targeted properties have become feasible. I am looking into how to design and optimize these geometries to improve thermal control. With the increasing demand for smaller and more powerful electronic devices, thermal management has become an increasingly important aspect of electronic device design. Excessive heat generated by electronic devices can cause them to malfunction or fail, which can be costly and even dangerous in some cases. I am confident that by making the most out of the Artificial Intelligence revolution, more efficient and reliable systems can be developed and incorporated in sustainable energy solutions.

What would you say about the supervision you receive?

I am immensely grateful for the supervision I have received from Professor Ricardo Martinez-Botas and Dr Liliang Wang.  Their guidance and encouragement throughout the research process have helped me navigate the academic landscape. Being able to work with other researchers in the Turbo Group has broadened my understanding of their field and provided opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. Nonetheless, their trust gives me a lot of autonomy in formulating my own research interests, sitting at the interface of Heat Transfer, Materials and Computer Science.  Their commitment to providing exceptional funding, equipment, and research tools allow me to focus on the road.  Most importantly, being close to someone as knowledgeable and wise as Ricardo is always a privilege and I never get tired of learning as many life lessons as I can.

Do you have any thoughts about what you might like to do in the future?

Research. I thrive on playing with unanswered questions and I very much enjoy the area that I am currently exploring. I would also like to be able to delve more deeply into, and gain in Materials Science, and start looking into integrating different modalities to design intelligent materials for better thermal management. However, my journey from a young chess player in Romania, to a simulations Engineer in Croatia and then a PhD candidate at Imperial has taught me that it is impossible to predict what the future holds.

What advice would you offer to students considering applying for a PhD at Imperial?

I would encourage them take the time to research the department and its faculty members.  Make sure to seek advice from current PhD students and decide upon the most appropriate supervisor to fit your research interests. There is a wealth of knowledge floating around, and a multitude of areas in which world-leading scientists have channelled their efforts, so expect a competitive application process. But if you equip yourself with dedication and are able to find the right funding stream, you're in for the journey of your life. I am having mine now! And I am so grateful.