London Materials Society
5 Dec 2017


The London Materials Society was proud to host the 2017 June Wilson Award, which was held on Thursday 02 November at Imperial College, London. Female competitors up to the age of 30 submitted an abstract of no more than 500 words describing their current and proposed future research relevant to materials science and engineering, for a chance to win £750 prize money.

Congratulations to Dr Vivian Tong who won first place for the 2017 June Wilson Award.

Dr Vivian Tong is an early career researcher based at Imperial College London. She was the first student to complete her PhD with Dr Ben Britton, and her pioneered activity focussed on understanding zirconium alloys. Her thesis, submitted in 2 years and 10 months was recognised with a Faculty of Engineering Postgraduate Prize in Materials Characterization Techniques and by her sponsors, Rolls-Royce plc, where Prof. Rugg wrote, in a formal letter of thanks addressed to Prof. Haynes, that her work will “find inclusion in process models for our nuclear business” and this “longstanding issue for the Zr manufacturing sector was solved with remarkable speed”. Her work was instrumental in the Engineering Alloys research theme (50+ researchers) being recognised as an Outstanding Research Team by Professor Gast (President of Imperial) in college’s annual awards. This work has also been published in Acta Materialia (2017) as “Formation of very large ‘blocky alpha’ grains in Zircaloy-4”. Her work in this field continues, where she is working on understanding blocky alpha in welds used in reactor cores.

Her talents as a researcher has been instrumental in inspiring the next generation of individuals within our research theme. Her attitude towards science and engineering is rigorous, direct, and supportive. This has catalysed a sense of perseverance and tenacity, which inspires those around her to work at their best and to contribute new knowledge to our discipline. Her direct supervision of Ruth Birch (Rolls-Royce prize for best MSc Thesis in the MSc Advanced Nuclear Engineering) and Chengang Xu (MEng Materials) has demonstrated her capabilities to bring out the best attributes in others around. Together, we are breaking new ground in the understanding of hydrides in zirconium and contributing to supporting mitigation of delayed hydride cracking in nuclear fuel.

Dr Tong’s skills as a research extend far beyond zirconium, and she is known as an expert in electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD). Her expertise is qualified through publications on qualifying the resolution of high resolution EBSD (Tong et al. Ultramicroscopy 2015), high spatial resolution transmission EBSD (Tong et al. Journal of Microscopy 2017), and characterisation of femtosecond laser shocked metals (Swinburne et al. Phys. Rev. B. 2016). Additionally, her work has been presented at major international conferences, workshops, and departments (including an upcoming invited talk on high rate deformation of zirconium at TMS 2018).

Her expertise is leading to new commercial ventures. She is developing new imaging modalities and approaches for fast and rigorous EBSD analysis, and she is currently filing a patent and preparing a second on this work. This work is of commercial interest to a major commercial partner, who have already begun discussions on licensing this software with an intended release date in Q2 2018.

Extending beyond research, she is a passionate and effective communicator. Dr Tong has developed new public engagement activities, and supported fellow PhD students and PDRAs in delivery of these workshops, including “Making Better Aeroplanes” to the 1st Lee South Brownies, “Green Energy” to Penwortham Primary School (Tooting, London) and Long Wittenham Primary School, and at the Schools Engagement Day of the Imperial Festival.

Well done to all this year’s applicants.

For further information:

June Wilson Award