‘We’re changing design and maintenance practices for aerospace composites

Natália Marinho, PhD candidate at the Engineering Technology (ET) faculty

Natália Marinho, from Brazil, always wanted to do a PhD. She loves wrestling with complex problems and discovering solutions. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA). During that time, she had the opportunity to spend a year at the Civil and Computational Engineering Centre at Swansea University in Wales. From Bahia, she moved to the Aeronautics Institute of Technology (ITA) in São José dos Campos, São Paulo,  Brazil, where she completed a Master’s in Aeronautical Design, Aerospace Systems and Structures at the Laboratory of New Concepts in Aeronautics (LNCA). While in ITA, she discovered that the UT and the ITA at the have very close ties, which was a key factor for her in deciding to come to UT. 

Stressful but fair

‘One of my research colleagues from ITA mentioned a PhD opportunity at UT. So, at this moment, I was sure I should apply for it. The application process, although a little stressful, as you would expect, was also very helpful and fair. I was accepted and started on my four-year PhD programme in January 2022.’ 

Wrestling with complex problems

‘I had always wanted to do a PhD and was excited to be able to start as part of the Department of Mechanics of Solids, Surfaces & Systems (MS3) at ET, integrating the Dynamics-Based Maintenance (DBM) group, specialising in Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) & Aerospace Composites . I love it when we can change the way maintenance is thought about and implemented in the aerospace industry. This is what truly motivates me and moves me – wrestling with complex problems and coming up with solutions.’

Natália's research

Moving away from usage-based maintenance intervals

‘The idea of my PhD is that integrated sensors are continuously monitoring the response in a full-scale aircraft composite structure. So, what we hope to obtain from Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) is really to influence the structural design to detect impact events and, at the same time, have a better estimation of impact energy levels for different sections in an aircraft. Once an impact event occurs, the system can detect, locate and characterise the event, which can then be followed by the prognostics. This way we move away from time or usage-based inspection intervals: we only ground the aircraft and repair it when an impact event has resulted in damage.’

The ebb and flow of post-graduate life

Studying here is good; the department is very supportive and well-equipped. I have discovered the importance of taking time to frame the right research question, to set up good research structures and time frames. I’ve also learned to appreciate the ebb and flow of post-graduate life. 

There is a strong international community at UT and in Enschede. It took me time to get used to being in a different country, but I was helped by the beautiful parks, where I can walk and run. I also enjoy eating out. I may be biased, but I prefer the Latin American restaurants. 

My advice to others would be that doing a PhD could be the best thing for you, for your personal life and your career.’

The future

Natália’s dream is to continue in academics after she has completed her PhD. Ideally, she would like to continue to be involved in research development at UT, in the same field, where she can continue to enjoy the benefits, challenges and impact of a state-of-the-art technological environment.

Reframe PhD
Check out Natália's video

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