The talent displayed by a PhD researcher ensured the University of Huddersfield had back-to-back success when it topped the winners’ podium for a second successive year at a competition designed to showcase emerging future talent and aspiring leaders within the field of precision engineering and nanotechnology.

Doctoral researcher Aalim Mustafa is part of the EPSRC’s Future Metrology Hub, within the University’s Centre for Precision Technologies (CPT), in the School of Computing and Engineering .

His team ‘LEGO Colosseum’ which included teammates Luka Zvonarek from Croatia and Tomás Barbosa from Sweden, was announced the 2023 winner of the European Society for Precision Engineering and Nanotechnology’s (euspen) Talent Programme, which takes place annually as part of the Society’s International Conference and Exhibition for Precision Engineering and Nanotechnology.

This is the second time the University of Huddersfield has come top of the winning roster after last year’s winning team included Huddersfield PhD researcher Kevin John who, Aalim revealed, was the first to introduce him to the competition and who had recommended Aalim should take part.

“Winning euspen’s Talent Programme has been an amazing experience,” said Aalim Mustafa, who’s PhD supervisors are the Future Metrology Hub’s Dr Hussam Muhamedsalih, Dr Dawei Tang, and Dame Professor Jane Jiang, who is renowned in the field of precision metrology and the Hub’s Director.

“To compete against researchers from universities across Europe and to then discover it was our team that had won, was an extremely proud moment for each of us,” he said.

“Since the competition, I’ve grown in confidence as a researcher and the success has unlocked further boundaries to help me gain recognition not only amongst my peers but professionally too, as a researcher in precision engineering,” he added.

Before choosing to come to the UK and commence his PhD at the University of Huddersfield, Aalim who is originally from Sudan, obtained his Masters degree in mechanical engineering from King Fahad University (KFUPM).

Aalim’s dissertation for this included experiments he performed as part of a collaborative project between KFUPM and one of the world’s top science and engineering schools, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where Aalim spent four months carrying out the necessary research in order to successfully complete his thesis.

Euspen – what is it?

Euspen is an influential community linking industrialists, researchers, respected authorities, new, and established players worldwide; to promote its dissemination through education and training; and facilitate its exploitation by science and industry.

The Society is one of just four in the world representing the field of precision engineering and nanotechnology with the remaining three societies representing USA, Japan, and Asia.

Each year euspen’s Talent Programme identifies exceptional students with the potential to become future leaders in the field and the 2023 competition was no exception. This year the challenge was ‘to design a calibration sample that helps to evaluate a 3D laser profile sensor during a ‘Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process’ (STEP)’ and had been developed in collaboration with the LEGO Group.

By the time participants have been chosen to take part in the Programme, they have already undergone a rigorous European-wide selection process.  As Aalim explained, only the top three teams of the Stage One “Lego Challenge” are chosen to go through to the final round of the competition which this year was held at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Copenhagen. 

Each of the teams are then tasked with convincing the committee about their proposed design and to demonstrate their deep understanding of the topic.

A bursary was awarded to contribute towards travel, accommodation, and subsistence, and the finalists were also gifted with complimentary access to the 2023 International Conference and Exhibition. “Participating in this challenge,” said Aalim, “not only provided a golden opportunity for me to get to know fellow researchers from around the world but it has enriched my knowledge and understanding of precision engineering as well as the wider applications it involves,” he added.