Advanced composites are materials typically used to make ‘high-end’ products such as commercial jets and even hockey sticks! Inspired by her ample industrial experience in aerospace engineering, Janna's research at the UBC Composites Research Network establishes a knowledge framework to advance composites manufacturing design practice and contribute positively to sustaining a vibrant composites industry.
The insertion of advanced composites is an excellent example of a promising technology threatened by manufacturing risk. Whilst the perception is that the composites end-product is highly sophisticated – think Boeing 787 or BMW I3 – the truth is that the extent of composites manufacturing knowledge is overshadowed by what is not known. The growing disconnect between basic research (knowledge) and industrial application (practice), coupled with the prevailing magnitude of tacit composites manufacturing knowledge, impedes effective knowledge transfer. Most research effort is spent understanding the fundamental processing physics and developing simulation tools, whereas the use of this knowledge to support effective decision making is often overlooked. My research aims to establish a knowledge framework that integrates the creation and application of composites manufacturing knowledge. We call this framework Knowledge in Practice to continually remind ourselves that the goal is to explicitly manage this gap, also known as the 'valley of death'.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
To me, public scholarship means keeping in mind the practical implications of your research. The ability to think outwardly and holistically and to see the 'bigger-picture'; critically appraise your work and the work of others in relation to what currently exists or is known; and to collaborate and communicate ideas with academic and industrial (in my case) peers alike.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
I believe this initiative can help public scholars broaden their 'sphere-of-influence'. For instance, facilitating interdisciplinary relationships within the PSI cohort (and beyond!); and providing opportunities to consider possibilities beyond being a researcher.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
There are few things I know with certainty. Knowing that I would like to return to industry after I graduate is one of them! That being said, I am unsure in what capacity specifically at this stage. As part of my PhD experience, developing the technical composites manufacturing knowledge is a given. The ability to also contemplate and explore issues concerning public policy with respect to advanced materials is an unexpected bonus.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
Composites manufacturers, even the largest and most experienced, are facing daunting challenges including: innovation adoption, knowledge management, training and succession planning within their own organizations and their supply chains. Collaborative research that contributes to addressing such issues has a strong impact. My work formalizes the philosophical principles of the Knowledge in Practice framework. In turn, this approach continues to be adopted by my colleagues within the CRN, and our partners, as they work together with their customers on issues that threaten composites competitiveness.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I worked as an engineer in the aerospace industry for a number of years prior to commencing graduate studies. I chose to pursue a PhD to take the time to enrich my existing knowledge of advanced composite materials and to develop the skills necessary to become a technical expert in composites manufacturing.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
The Composites Research Network is a research group that is highly regarded within the global composites community. A focus on fundamental research that has practical implications for the composites manufacturing industry is what makes this research group unique. So without a doubt, and given my background, this is one of the key reasons why I chose to study at UBC.
There are few things I know with certainty. Knowing that I would like to return to industry after I graduate is one of them.