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The collaboration began with Boeing Australia’s support of former RMIT PhD student Dr Lauren Burns’ research into the design of aerospace composite joints, inspired by nature.
“I was really excited to do my PhD in conjunction with Boeing because they’re a global leader in aviation and aerospace and very innovative,” Burns said.
“Linking into that level of experience and resources had innumerable benefits to my work and my career.
“The industry supervision was embedded in the project from the beginning.
“I would meet regularly with an industry supervisor and various people in the Boeing group and seek out their advice on the direction I was heading and get their opinion on the work and whether they thought there were any issues in terms of certification issues or just other considerations from industry which might not be as relevant to a university institution.”
Senior research engineer at Boeing Australia, Steve Georgiadis, said they saw potential breakthroughs in new materials and structural architectures coming out of bio-inspired research and engineering, but while innovative, the potentially high-risk nature of the project made it ideal for a PhD project.
“For decades Boeing have been joining composite materials using very strict guidelines, so the research Lauren conducted during her PhD project brought new ideas and allowed us to challenge these guidelines, and by doing so, we have been able to dramatically reduce the cost of joining aircraft structures together,” Georgiadis said.
Professor Adrian Mouritz, Head of the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at RMIT, said whenever possible RMIT aims to work in partnership with industry.
“It’s beneficial in a whole lot of different ways,” Mouritz said.
“It brings a closer working relationship at a research level between industry and university, but specifically for the PhD student, the real benefit is the opportunity to understand what the technical and research problems are for industry and gain a deeper level of understanding about the practical significance of their research.”
For Boeing Australia, engaging with partnered research delivers multiple benefits including attracting the best and brightest students to pursue technical careers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths; training the next generation of aerospace research engineers; and helping to solve complex, technical problems.
The initial PhD project resulted in Boeing Australia employing Dr Burns where she now works as a composite research engineer. It has also resulted in final year aerospace engineering projects and was extended to include another partnered PhD project.
“We’ve now got a new PhD student, Justin Hicks, who is working with Boeing Australia to look at a whole new technology field to make composites more damage resistant and more resilient,” Mouritz said.
For Boeing, the decision to extend the partnership with another PhD project was an easy one.
“It has been a win-win situation – we were so happy with the last one we went through with Boeing and RMIT, that we want to replicate it,” Georgiadis said.