Dr Harry Coules

MEng, PhD

Harry Coules

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Job title: Research Associate
Division: Department of Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Bristol
Tags: Fellowship: Postdoctoral, University of Bristol
Related theme: Energy Engineering


I studied Engineering Science at the University of Oxford and completed a PhD in Welding Engineering at Cranfield University. Currently, I am a post-doctoral researcher with the Solid Mechanics group at the University of Bristol and have interests in residual stress analysis, fracture mechanics, and structural integrity assessment.

My Fellowship

Some structures, such as the pipes and pressure vessels inside nuclear reactors, have to be built to resist a whole range of loading modes. They need to carry high pressures and support a wide variety of externally-applied forces, but they are also subjected to stresses which originate from inside the materials that they are made of. Thermal stresses, and the residual stresses which are "locked into" components during manufacture are examples of this.

In this fellowship I am studying how these different forms of loading interact in complex mechanical systems and around cracks and structural defects. This will help engineers predict how mechanical components behave, how they change over time, and how their structural integrity is affected. Previously, a lot of my work has been on methods to measure and reduce residual stresses in engineering components.

For me, this fellowship is partly about putting that experience into the broader context of structural mechanics and using it to address the problems that these stresses cause for real-world systems. In this project I’m working in collaboration with EDF Energy, who operate most of the UK’s nuclear power stations. Nuclear engineering is a very important application for this work, but it also applies to a huge range of structures in other industries and even right down to the micro-scale

Motivation to Apply

At the postdoctoral level, the EPSRC fellowship offers a degree of independence which is extremely rare at this stage of a research career. For me, having the freedom to build up a research project around the issues that I think are important was a very exciting prospect, and that was my main reason for applying.

Career benefits of Fellowship

For a postdoctoral fellow, I think that the fellowship is an opportunity to build up an independent reputation in your field and to show future collaborators and colleagues what you can do. It is different from a typical postdoctoral role in that you have overall responsibility for the success of the project, and that you can choose where and how you carry it out.

Advice for future applicants

I think that the main thing an EPSRC fellowship offers is the space to devote your time and energy to a topic that you personally believe is important. If you have a clear idea of what you want to find out and how it will affect the rest of your field, but need time to develop and pursue it personally, then the fellowship is for you.