Felix Hofmann

Felix HofmannI have always enjoyed designing, building and testing engineering assemblies. For example, as a little boy I found a wood drill in my parents’ workshop, attached it to a Lego motor and proceeded to drill holes into the living room wall! The holes are still there but hopefully my projects have become a little more constructive over the years. During my teens I was fascinated by remote-controlled model aeroplanes that I designed, constructed and flew. I also discovered metal work and, during my sixth form years, built a steam engine and refurbished a Myford ML7 lathe. Both are still in perfect working order!

Taking up a place to read Engineering Science at Trinity in 2003 was a life-changing event. Tutorials were a stimulating learning forum, combining intellectually challenging questions with excellent teaching. During my undergraduate I acquired the skills needed to tackle many engineering challenges and gained the confidence to question established approaches and to develop my own solutions to problems.

At the end of my 1st year, I had the opportunity to complete an 8 week summer placement working on a Rolls-Royce project in Prof Korsunsky’s research group. I discovered the wonderful intellectual freedom that research can provide and by the end of the placement I was thoroughly hooked. I spent the following summers working first for Rolls-Royce in Derby and then at the École Polytechnique near Paris.

Following my undergraduate degree I was delighted to be offered a DPhil position in Prof. Korsunsky’s group. EPSRC funding allowed me to pursue the research questions I found most interesting. My project concentrated on the development of synchrotron X-ray micro-diffraction techniques for probing engineering materials. It was a perfect mix of rigorous scientific analysis and the ‘tinkering’ required for refining novel diffraction techniques. The combination of an exciting project and excellent supervision made my DPhil a productive and fun experience.

In January 2012 I joined the Nelson group at MIT as a postdoctoral fellow. Here I used time domain spectroscopy to probe coherent phonons and to study their role in determining thermal transport in nano-structured materials. Being part of this highly dynamic group was an enlightening experience both in terms of the availability of resources, and the scope of projects.

In January 2013 I returned to Oxford on a permanent basis as a Senior Research Fellow in the Engineering Science Department. My current research includes, the study of radiation damage in future fusion reactor materials, the imaging of ion beam machining damage, and the continued development of High Energy Transmission Laue diffraction. A common thread throughout my work is the use of micro and nano synchrotron X-ray diffraction to probe material structure at the sub-micron scale. It never ceases to delight and fascinate me that seemingly unintelligible diffraction patterns can be analysed to reveal meaningful quantitative information. It is a great pleasure to be back in the stimulating and vibrant Oxford community and over the coming years I look forward to building my own research team to investigate exciting materials and engineering problems.