Q&A – Cem Selcuk

Materials World magazine
3 May 2015

Simon Frost speaks to Dr Cem Selcuk about the benefits of institute engagement. 

Dr Cem Selcuk CEng CEnv MIMMM is Manager and Head of the Brunel Innovation Centre (BIC), an R&D facility near Cambridge, UK, that operates in areas such as power generation, sensors, wireless communication and electronics design. An active member of several professional institutes, we put a few questions to him on the topic of institute membership and its benefits. 

Tell me about your involvement with  professional institutes. 

I am a member of IOM3, TWI, the European Powder Metallurgy Association and the American Powder Metallurgy Institute. Being a member of different institutions helps to link various professional activities. In the past we have seen examples of joint activities, such as societies of one institute working with a committee from another. For example, in the past year as part of the IOM3 Particulate Engineering Committee, which I currently chair, we held an event at TWI Aberdeen, so that brought two worlds together – the oil and gas presence of TWI with a committee that has an interest in the sector and R&D activities for that application. Now we are looking at joint activities between the Particulate Engineering and the Defence, Safety and Security committees of IOM3. These kinds of events often attract a lot of people from across the board – students, professionals, senior engineers and so on, the whole spectrum. 

What are the benefits of joining committees?

The committees put a mixture of people from industry and academia around one table. It’s the perfect environment to link up the academic and industrial communities. If you want to build a network in your subject area, the institutes have a lot of committees on offer to help with that. An individual interested in materials science and technology can pick the relevant ones to get involved with, then it is up to the committee to embrace them. In the case of Particulate Engineering, we are quite open and like to have a mixture of academia and industry so that we represent a wide range of interests, and that results in a very fruitful discussion, valuable networking opportunities and collaborations. 

It is not only the on-paper benefits that you get when you become a member of an institute, it runs a lot deeper than that if you want it to. If you get involved with activities, events, committees and so on you will get much more out of it. I think there are many benefits of attending events organised by institute committees – people often come to these events and leave with an interest in becoming part of an institute or approaching an industry sector that they have gained further interest in.

Do you encourage students at the Brunel Innovation Centre to take an active part in institutes?

At BIC we tend to engage with lots of young engineers at undergraduate level. We offer them industrial placements and the opportunity to have a year with us to gain experience and knowledge in the practicalities of the R&D environment and then expose them to projects. We do this almost every year and have quite a high intake – we try to give as many students as possible the opportunity to come here and get to know how things work professionally. We encourage them to become a member of an institute at an early stage, whether that’s the Institute of Chemical Engineers, TWI, the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing, IOM3 or another. The aim is that by the time they leave us they are better-equipped individuals, and joining an institute early on certainly helps.

Have you found being an active institute member helps with your standing as a professional?

Absolutely. I joined IOM3 when I was studying, so I’ve been active in the institute for a long time. Once you start to get involved with an institute at various levels, you naturally become a part of strategic discussions and start to have some input in things such as institute benefits and wider engagement initiatives. Becoming a part of decision-making processes is something that’s obviously beneficial to your professional development. Committees give you a voice in the overall structure of institutes, which is valuable.