Dr Sam Cruchley, Vice Chair of the YMC spoke to Dr Nathan Elliot, Research Engineer (Racket Sports) at Head Sport in Austria.
Nathan primarily works on tennis racket design testing and carbon fibre lay-up development.
While early in his career, Nathan has had a varied one, including two stints working abroad. He gained his undergraduate degree in Sports and Materials Science at The University of Birmingham before completing an MSc and PhD at the Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield University. In between his MSc and PhD studies he completed an internship in the Prime Sports Research and development department in Venice, Italy.
The aim of his PhD project was to develop and validate a marker-less method to estimate tennis racket position in three-dimensions using a camera. His expertise lies in the field of research design, data management and analysis, camera calibration and image processing. Upon completion of his PhD he progressed to his current role at Head Sport in Austria.
Tell me about your background. What inspired you to get into science/engineering?
I always liked the idea of combining my passion for sport with my interests and experience in engineering. Therefore, as a first step into this niche subject area I chose to study BSc Sport and Materials Science at The University of Birmingham. Following completion of undergraduate degree, I went on to study for an MSc and later a PhD at the Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University, with a focus on tennis research. During this time I embarked on an 8 months internship in the Prince Sport research and development department near Venice, Italy.
What have you been working on lately?
Following completion of my PhD which developed a marker-less method to estimate tennis racket position in 3D, I gained a position as a Research Engineer at HEAD Sport in Austria. Over the last year I have been working to develop, test and engineer the new range HEAD tennis rackets which will be released onto the global market in 2018.
How important is professional development to you?
Professional development is highly important to me; I have always strived for progression in my career to date. Specifically, I felt the transition from academia (after completing my PhD) to working in industry was an important 'next step' in my career in order to broaden my experience.
What advice would you give to an engineer/scientist in the early stages of their career?
Always pursue subject areas/combinations that you are passionate about, be prepared to work hard and be patient/persistent in order to gain your ideal job/career path.
What was the most important piece of career advice given to you, as a young engineer/scientist?
Have fun following a career path which you enjoy and is different every day.
What does your company do to attract & retain younger/new staff?
HEAD Sport is a world renowned developer and manufacturer of sports equipment, specifically tennis rackets and skis. The working environment is relaxed and friendly but always productive. There are many opportunities to test new equipment designs in the field.
Who in science and engineering do you admire?
My former PhD supervisor, Tom Allen. Tom was a great supervisor and has published numerous pioneering papers surrounding racket/ball impact simulation which is used to inform companies like HEAD on how to improve the design of their tennis rackets. Tom currently works as a Senior Lecturer in the Engineering Department at Manchester Metropolitan University.
How do you find working abroad and what advice would you give a young engineer thinking about doing it?
For me, working and living in Austria has so fa been a great experience. Living abroad provides so many new things to learn as well as challenges to overcome. If an opportunity of working abroad arises, I would advise to take it and ensure you embrace the job and new culture for as long as you are there.