SCI Henry Armstrong Memorial Lecture Report

18 Nov 2014

The SCI Henry Armstrong Memorial Lecture was superbly delivered by Dr Ian Wilson from the University of Cambridge on 6 November 2014. The venue was the Thornton Science Park which is home to the impressive facilities of the University of Chester's new Science and Engineering Faculty.

Dr Wilson is a pioneer in the field of understanding the processing of complex materials. His subject was 'Soft Solids are hard work'. Soft solids are structured materials that do not fit comfortably into classical descriptions of fluids (which tend to flow) and solids (which tend to stay put). Familiar examples are plasticine, MarmiteTM, cookie doughs and cake batters. Their behaviour derives from their multiphase structure, which also imparts their functionality and product properties. Working out how to process such materials, to create or to maintain these structures, requires a fusion of different engineering and scientific approaches to generate workable solutions. There are aspects of art in determining which scientific problems need to be solved. The lecture was illustrated by examples from the food, pharmaceutical and FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) sectors, with elements of fluid and soil mechanics, rheology and chemistry, as well as some edible demonstrations.

As well as being a world-leading researcher, Dr Wilson is a superb communicator, educator and entertainer. Like the rest of the audience, I was truly inspired and there was never a dull moment – we never knew rheology could be so much fun!

The lecture was co-organised by the SCI's Liverpool and North West and Process Engineering Groups. It was followed by the Liverpool and North West prize  giving to the best students from local universities. Each student received a certificate, prize money and year’s free membership to SCI. Many family members were present to join in the applause as the winners received their framed certificates and book from Liverpool and North West Chair, Mike Halliday.

Food, wine and animated discussions concluded what was a really enjoyable and well attended event.

Stephen Wilkinson
Process Engineering Group and Liverpool and North West Group Committees

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