Q&A with Dr Eugenio Zapata-Solvas, Chair of the UK Chapter of the American Society

In the latest in our series of interviews with members of our Advisory Board speaker panel, we talk to Dr Eugenio Zapata-Solvas, Chair of the UK Chapter of The American Ceramic Society

1. As part of the Ceramics UK conference, you are hosting the UK Ceramics Talent Workshop, which brings together young ceramists who are doing outstanding work in the field. Please can you tell us more about this exciting event?

The idea behind this event is to facilitate the interaction between the most talented young ceramists in the UK and industry representatives. It is always challenging for either PhD students or early career postdocs to communicate their work and ideas to industry representatives, so the UK Chapter thought that Ceramics UK conference could be the perfect scenario for it.

2. What was the idea behind the creation of the UK Chapter?

The UK Chapter was born as a service of the American Ceramic Society (ACerS) to its members in the UK. However, after nearly 3 years operating in the UK, we could say that it is indeed a service to the whole ceramic community in the UK as we always welcome everyone to our events. One of our missions is to collaborate with existing societies to help the ceramics community in the UK.

3. The UK Chapter of ACerS has only been established since October 2016, what is your biggest achievement to date and what are your objectives moving forward?

The biggest achievement has been probably the recognition we have got from the UK ceramics community and beyond the UK, in spite of being operating for a relatively short period of time. The UK Chapter started as a pilot programme from ACerS and thanks to the UK Chapter success, there are now 6 more international chapters (Italy, Germany, India, Canada, Serbia and Taiwan).

4. One of the missions of the UK Chapter of the ACerS is to be a platform to bring together academia and industry through the fostering of knowledge exchange. What has been the UK Chapter strategy?

UK Chapter activities have been always focused on strategic applied science themes for academics, but with a strong presence in and interest for industry. This has enabled UK Chapter to engage with both communities and for example the 16th of May will be the first UK Chapter activity co-organized and hosted by a ceramic industry (Lucideon in Stoke-on-Trent). I think this is a real success and demonstrates that the UK Chapter could be of value for academics as well as industry researchers.

5. One of the goals of the UK Chapter of the ACerS is to support UK Ceramic students, what exciting talent do you see emerging and how will this benefit the Ceramics Industry in the long-term?

Improvements in technology and the existence of more multidisciplinary teams have enabled the education of students with a wider range of skills than ever before, who are ready to tackle major global challenges. I have no doubt they will nurture industry and have a positive impact on industry productivity and economic growth.

6. What do you see as being the most exciting developments taking place in the Ceramics Industry both in the UK and America in 2019 and beyond?

What I see is the willingness to see ceramic technologies in the market and investments being made now in the UK to push this target. For example, there is a big investment to develop electric batteries, to help routing to market ceramic additive manufacturing products and help in the decarbonisation of industry clusters, including the ceramic industry sector. This is all a very exciting environment that will require the collaboration of academia, industry, policy-makers and have the potential to deliver a big socio-economic impact in our society.

7. You were named ACerS Global Ambassador in May 2017 for your outstanding leadership of the U.K. Chapter since its inception, because of your efforts the UK Chapter has grown significantly. What has been your biggest achievement since the UK Chapter was established?

As I said above, being of value for the UK ceramic community is the biggest achievement. UK Chapter would have not got any further or more international chapters would have been created without the support of the UK Ceramics community.

8. Your 15 years’ experience in the Ceramic materials science industry and roles at UCL and Imperial College London is impressive, what has been your career highlight?

I still have a long way to go but if I were to highlight something on my career, it would be the way my career has evolved. I started doing a PhD in the condensed matter physics department, trying to answer questions at a fundamental level about the plasticity of ceramics. After my PhD was completed, I started to get involved in industry-focused research which got my attention more and more, until I got involved in the UK Chapter, trying to facilitate the interaction between industry and academia.

I currently have a facilitator role in UCL in which I support and facilitate this interaction to within UCL academic community, trying to help on the delivery of the modern UK Government Industrial Strategy. It is clear to me that the UK Chapter has played a pivotal role in the transformation of my career and something I would have not probably ever imagine when I started my PhD.

9. What are you most looking forward to about Ceramics UK 2019?

I am really looking forward to seeing all the new science being developed all over the UK and experience all the excitement in our community about future collaborations and funding opportunities. I will also be particularly focused on helping our young talented ceramists to get noticed to the industry present in the UK Ceramics conference. I cannot wait to be there!