The team is growing

17 May 2011

A big, warm welcome to our newest team member, Phil Howes, who has joined our research team as a post-doc researcher.

Phil’s work to date has focussed on experimental materials science, having worked on  synthesising nanoparticles for biomedical applications.  An important part of his work with the Institute of Making will be using psychophysical methods to study people’s perception of different materials, and relating these perceptions to measureable physical properties.

But there’s more to Phil than just his research. A self-professed ‘maker’, and a lover of natural materials, Phil is a great and much-welcomed addition to the Institute of Making team.  


We asked Phil a couple of questions, and here's what he said:


You describe yourself as a maker. What is it you make?


I have a very ‘homemade’ attitude to life, and I’m reluctant to buy things that I think (rightly or wrongly) I can make myself. This often revolves around food, and at the moment I am very interested in baking bread, and thinking about what’s going on at a scientific level. I’m also into growing my own food, and have pretty much turned my flat into a plant nursery. Another example is when I needed to buy a new computer, and decided to build one from scratch. I learnt a whole lot about computers and hardware in the process, and now own a computer which I literally know inside and out. I’ve learnt that making things yourself will very rarely save you money, but the skills you learn along the way are well worth the investment. One of the best things about understanding and making various things is that it provides a nice overlap with my scientific research. The things that I learn on both sides feed into one another, such that there is a wonderfully blurred line between my work and my home life. I wouldn’t want it any other way.



What is your all-time favourite material to date?


Although I am fascinated by all types of materials, I have a particular soft spot for natural materials. I am very interested in processes such as biomineralisation, which is the process by which living organisms produce structures such as teeth or bone from minerals. The level of complexity that is obtained in natural structures is really quite staggering. Also, the fact that these materials self-assemble in a spontaneous fashion is something quite amazing, and scientists are a long way from thoroughly understanding and replicating these processes in a complex and useful fashion. For this reason, I would say my favourite material is bone.


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