Adham Ayman Al-Sayyad is a PhD researcher working on multidisciplinary cross-border project. In our article, we explore the Egyptian national’s research around the topic of laser beam joining; why his next step post-PhD would be to spend some time working in industry to understand his research topic from new angles; and his passion for bridging cultures to bring people together.
“Laser joining of metals to polymers gained cogent interest among industries and researchers, along with environmental concerns, due to its ability to produce lightweight products with customized properties,” Adham explains, adding:
“Compared to conventional joining methods – such as using adhesives or screws – laser beam joining has the advantage of being an autogenous, rapid, and easily automated process.
Understanding the factors influencing the strength and quality of the laser-welded assemblies of such material combinations will open the doors to a variety of biomedical, automotive, and aerospace innovations that are currently blocked due to the limitations of conventional joining methods.”
Adham’s PhD is funded jointly by the FNR’ INTER programme and GDO6 in Belgium, in the framework of the M-era.Net project LaserSTAMP. Coordinated by the University of Luxembourg, the project is a cross-border collaboration between the University, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), the University of Namur and Optec, a laser systems company based in Belgium.
“As a PhD student at the University of Luxembourg”, Adham says “I was fortunate to gain the trust of my supervisor Prof. Dr. Plapper, the project’s principal investigator, and was handed the project coordination since the beginning of my work in January 2017.”
Laser beam joining: Understanding influencing factors
It has been shown that preparing a surface before the process of using laser beams to join metals to polymers enhances the mechanical properties of the joint – the area where the two materials are connected. However, the factors that influence this behaviour remain unknown:
“State of art categorizes the main factors influencing the laser welded metal-polymer joint strength into two main phenomena: chemical bonding and mechanical interlocking. However, the effect of surface properties on the interfacial thermal transfer was not studied,” Adham explains, adding:
“My PhD work is to analyse those effects in order to benchmark the main factors influencing the joint strength and quality, and identify the optimal conditions for promoting the adhesion of laser welded metal to polymer assemblies.”
The yet unknown factors are at the heart of what the LaserSTAMP project aims to uncover – with a cross-border approach involving collaborators with strengths in a range of fields, along with an industrial partner, as Adham explains:
“The project integrates multidisciplinary competences of its partners including physicists, chemists, material scientists, and manufacturing engineers. Having a background in manufacturing engineering and being part of the Laser Technology Competence Center (LTCC) at the University of Luxembourg, my PhD topic is targeted towards understanding the effects laser joining parameters and surface preparation techniques have on the strength and quality of the joint.”
“In addition, a PhD student at the University of Namur is working on uncovering the root cause of the physicochemical adhesion between the joining partners and revealing the type of chemical bonding involved. Material scientists at LIST are supporting the characterization of treated surfaces and the welded joint. The industrial partner, Optec, is working on the industrialization of the developed know-how, through the development of a laser system specialized in surface preparation and joining of metals to polymers.”
“I believe that it is beneficial for my research and academic career to have a temporary career shift after completing my PhD studies and work in industry before I come back to research”
Having just begun the third year of his PhD, Adham is still at the beginning of his researcher career, but this project is far from his first experience of being a researcher: He was awarded a research fellowship from DAAD to conduct his BSc thesis at Fraunhofer IWM (Germany), and in 2014 a similar fellowship for his MSc at the same institute. This was followed by a Switchmed Green Entrepreneurship award in 2016, which Adham received for his research on using agricultural residues for the manufacturing of biodegradable disposable products.
Adham’s sights have been set on a career in research and academia since the early days of his undergraduate studies. Working in a field with industrial applications, he sees the value in working in industry for a while once his PhD is complete:
“Besides its academic teachings and empowerment of my scientific thinking and research attitude, my PhD has a significant impact on strengthening my entrepreneurship skills and supporting my independent character while fostering my leadership and team working skills.
“I believe that it is beneficial for my research and academic career to have a temporary career shift after completing my PhD studies and work in industry before I come back to research. This will give me a deeper insight on the production and manufacturing processes, expand my research viewpoints to the practical industrial implications, and orient my research strategies to the social and economic benefits of the community.”
Bringing people together
Adham has a clear passion for collaboration and working with or meeting people from other countries, cultures or scientific disciplines, as well for bringing people together. Not only did he help secure internship opportunities to students of his former university in Cairo, he has also founded an initiative to bring international musicians together. Adham gives more details:
“With the support of the International Relations Office at UL, I was fortunate to secure mobility grants through Erasmus+ and to provide financial support for internship positions at the University of Luxembourg to students of my former university (German University in Cairo – GUC).
“This grant allowed me to invite the president of the GUC to Luxembourg in order to discuss future collaboration opportunities with several research and higher education stakeholders in Luxembourg. I believe that expanding my network and acting as a connecting point between research and educational stakeholders of both countries are very important for both my personal development and research career.”
A keen musician, Adham also founded and directs the ANASEA (Asia-North America-Africa-South America-Europe-Australia) initiative at espace cultures of the University of Luxembourg:
“Being a musician myself, playing a traditional Egyptian musical instrument, I was astonished by the cultural diversity of Luxembourg upon my arrival to the Grand Duchy. This inspired me to start such initiative. ANASEA aims to remove intercultural barriers between the multilingual and multicultural communities of Luxembourg with an orientation to preserve and revive their global cultural legacy.
“ANASEA engages musicians and artists through a series of periodic masterclasses and workshops in order to introduce them to worldwide cultural artistic heritages. Based on peer-to-peer learning approach, participants teach each other the arts and music from their countries and cultures and experience integrating their different styles into a final product.”
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