The Welding Institute has been keeping in contact with our Members across the globe to see how the Coronavirus outbreak is impacting different corners of the world. This Insight looks at Norbert Sieczkiewicz’s experience in Lexington, USA.
Norbert is a PhD student with NSIRC and Lancaster University, sponsored by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation. His PhD topic title is, ‘Approaches to Industry 4.0 implementation for electron beam quality assurance using Beam Assure.’ Find out more about Norbert’s PhD research on NSIRC’s website here!
Norbert explained that his initial concerns were whether he would be able to return home to the UK from the USA due to border closures. He described the normality of him missing friends and family when living abroad, however, he added that the current situation created a ‘sense of helplessness which increased my emotional sensitivity. It took me a few days to realise that the world faced circumstances beyond our control.’ He chose to make the difficult decision to not return to the UK, deciding, ‘that it was not worth it to come back home by plane, which possibly can put myself and others at risk of spreading the disease.’ Despite this, Norbert explained that, ‘after all, it does not matter where I am carrying out my home office work,’ continuing on to say that there is still ‘a chance that the universities in the USA will reopen the labs and I will conduct my scheduled experiments.’
Describing how COVID-19 is impacting his colleagues and self differently, Norbert explained that he is currently undertaking an experiment in his short PhD visit to the University of Kentucky, which involves a ‘back-side weld pool monitoring project.’ He further explained that, ‘the lab is closed and I cannot conduct any weld trials. However, the welding laboratory team is supportive and provided me with their neural network model, alongside a dataset, to help me understand a similar project. They also helped me with setting up the programming environment and image pre-processing code.’ He added that this is keeping him ‘prepared for reopening the Welding Research Laboratory, so I can conduct all necessary experiments directly.’
On top of this, Norbert is also working towards his ‘PhD activities related to electron beam welding (EBW) and beam probing,’ adding that he can always count on his ‘industrial supervisor, Dr Colin Ribton, for good advice.’ Norbert continued, ‘During the coronavirus pandemic, his help is invaluable, by providing a large BeamAssure dataset. It keeps me busy to analyse it, with the help of the deep neural network, and overcome challenges that arise with beam monitoring of the EBW process.’
Reflecting on his experiences, Norbert added that, ‘Working from home is challenging and requires a great deal of organisation. Setting small goals for myself and regular meetings with my supervisors keeps me motivated. Their feedback and guidance keep my work progressing. Apart from the PhD project, frequent physical activity reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.’ He also notes that he is ‘lucky enough to have a garden where I am enjoying beautiful sunsets and starry skies. I reshaped my approach to life because I realised that simple things make me happy, like the neighbour’s cats’ daily visits.’
Norbert ended with this positive outlook on the situation; ‘it is a new situation for everyone and it is not easy to deal with negative emotions. We are surrounded by bad news, which can easily make us feel out of control. Looking on the bright side, we can see small miracles and some of the countries did an amazing job at containing the spread. We need to realise that the COVID-19, at some point, will go away. The labs and workplaces will be open again, where we will carry out our amazing jobs again. We can use the pandemic time to finish our reports, analyse previously gathered data or develop new skills. Please stay healthy and take care of yourself!’
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