"Work Proactively"

Read through Philipp Tallafuss's experience in obtaining a doctoral degree.
Philipp Tallafuss Philipp Tallafuss
What type of PhD did you choose?

Industrial PhD/ External PhD.

Why did you decide for a PhD?

Interest in subject, life-long learning, long-term career aspirations.

What is the topic of your thesis and which University?

University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland: Development of a Guided Wave EMAT Online Inspection System for Al/Al-Sn/Al/Steel and CuSn/Steel Bimetal Strip Bond Quality Control used in the Automotive Industry.

What is the goal of your thesis, what do you want to find out?

If inspection of product quality with state of the art technology is feasible in a harsh serial production environment instead of sampling in the laboratory.

Why did you choose this topic and the University?

The topic was important for the company because at that time the company had a multi-million claim because of field failures of engine components, hence I got a lot of support from the company for my project as it was highly relevant. University because I got an international assignment to the MAHLE plant near Glasgow, the University did relevant research in a related field, and there was already a relationship between the MAHLE plant and the University for other research projects.  

When did you start and are you already finished? (If yes, when?)

I started in June 2015 and obtained my doctorate in July 2019.

Are you still working for your employer next to your PhD?


Do you get support from your company? If yes:

Time. Finance. Technical/ digital infrastructure. Others: Project (plant) team resources e.g. Engineers, Technicians etc. supporting me, access to machines and capacity for experiments as well as material samples.  

How did you ask and persuade your company prior to your thesis, so that you were allowed to start?

Three main reasons:

1. The company needed someone for an international assignment to the MAHLE plant near Glasgow in Scotland and because I was the ideal candidate, I could negotiate as a condition that the company supports me to obtain the PhD in parallel to my international assignment.

2. The company had a high interest in the outcome of the research to mitigate the business risk of field failures.

3. I had a mentor in the top management in the company who has seen potential in me and therefore supported the PhD for my personal/professional development. 

What challenges did you face?

Find the time to work on the PhD when you are in a responsible function in the company can be very challenging, especially when the normal workload is not directly related to the research work.  

Did opportunities for e.g. cooperation, contacts, … arise while you were working at your thesis? What is the advice you can give to others who are thinking of pursuing a PhD? 

Yes. High visibility in the company, cooperation in other student projects between MAHLE and University of Strathclyde until today, access to talent pool of University graduates, access to aerospace research collaborations, access to University leaders. 

What is the advice you can give to others who are thinking of pursuing a PhD?

Make yourself very clear why you want to obtain a PhD, there will be challenging times and if you clearly see the end goal and remind yourself of that every day, then you will also find the motivation to get over obstacles. Also, work proactively, do not expect anyone else to tell you what you should do in your research. 

Anything else you want to share?

I have grown a lot personally and professionally during my PhD and would recommend it to anyone who has got a clear goal why they want to achieve a PhD and that are interested in a specific subject.  

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