IOM3 welcomes new President Professor Serena Best CBE FREng CEng FIMMM

1 Jan 2019

Having now taken on the role as President of IOM3, Serena talks about engaging younger members, key issues facing materials science and engineering and the 150th anniversary.

Serena Best is currently Deputy Head of the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge, UK. She also co-directs the Cambridge Centre for Medical Materials and is a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge.

Serena studied Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Surrey, UK and in 1986 moved to Queen Mary College, University of London to study a PhD on the development of a bioactive ceramic – hydroxyapatite. Best headed up bioceramics activity for the Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Biomedical Materials under the Directorship of Professor Bill Bonfield at Queen Mary College in 1991, before moving to the University of Cambridge in 2000. There she researched bone replacement materials and has more recently focused on collagen scaffolds for a range of different applications for soft tissue repair.

How do you feel about taking up the role as president?

It is a real honour to take on the role of president and I am very excited for the opportunities it will provide. I am keen to see first-hand the Institute and local society activities that are ongoing around the country. During my term in office, I hope to be able to learn in more detail about the many aspects of the materials cycle that I don’t work with in my day-to-day job.

Has your predecessor, Martin Cox, offered any advice or is there anything you would like to continue in your presidency?

Martin’s advice was ‘enjoy it’ – I intend to take his advice very seriously.

How do you hope to engage younger members and more women to the industry?

It is very important for us to understand what our members want from IOM3. The IOM3 Women in Materials Group started from a dinner conversation between a new female fellow and a member of the management team a few years ago. This conversation led, very swiftly, to the formation of the group, which has gone from strength to strength with a number of excellent meetings based on career talks, networking and mentoring, open to women, and importantly also to men. We still need more women fellows to ensure there is a more even gender balance – and for this reason, along with the membership team, I have taken to heart the Women into Fellowship initiative, which is making a very positive impact on our numbers.

However, we have other groups that need more representation too. I am keen to explore ways to improve our diversity profile across the spectrum of membership grades. However, very importantly, we need to focus on the Younger Members community. The Younger Members’ Committee is doing a truly fantastic job of encouraging participation and organising events. I feel that we have a great deal to learn from them to ensure that we offer the best links between the community and the Institute and to ensure that we are providing the service they truly want. I am keen to visit universities around the country and also talk to people starting their career – and their employers – and listen to their views and ideas.

What do you feel are the most important messages for the Institute going forward?

The Institute is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2019. I would have been interested to hear at first hand, the vision that started things off. My hope is that we continue to ensure that current issues, successes and future opportunities in the fields of materials, minerals and mining are highlighted to the government and the general public in a positive light. As an institute, we have a huge amount to offer to the benefit of the economy, the environment and the general population.

What are the key issues facing materials science and engineering?

I believe strongly that the discipline of materials science and engineering is a victim of its own success. Much of the scientific research in academia, and product development in industry is reliant on materials knowledge and skills. Materials science underpins work across engineering, physics, chemistry and medicine but, unlike much of the rest of the world, the subject in the UK is becoming subsumed into other university departments. The need for qualified materials scientists is growing, but our visibility is being eroded. This is something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency – and reversed if possible.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I enjoy travel and food, which often go together. Through my sons, I have discovered art and sport – both of which I enjoy as an observer rather than a practitioner.