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Photo: Ted Karlsson
Latifa Melk received an award by Vattenfall for the best PhD thesis in 2016 at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Ted Karlsson. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

She wrote the best PhD thesis

Published: 2 December 2016

Vattenfall’s prize for best PhD thesis at Luleå University of Technology for 2016 has been awarded to Latifa Melk who did her research studies within Engineering Materials. In her doctoral thesis, she has worked with the zirconia ceramic-CNT composites .

– I am very happy to be rewarded for the hard work I put in. It motivates me to keep working hard, says Latifa Melk about the price.

Challenged previous research

In the motivation to the prize, there is a description of her research:

“Latifa Melk has dared to stick her neck out in her research; she challenges the important concept of fracture toughness of ceramic materials research. Fracture toughness is the ability to resist the crack propagation, which is very important and it is considered as an Achilles heel for ceramics, which are by nature brittle.

Latifa has developed a new method to measure the fracture toughness based on using ultra-pulsed laser ablation laser (femtolaser) to make a very shallow crack before testing the “true” fracture toughness. She has been able to show that the good values of fracture toughness published by other researchers for the carbon nanotube reinforced zirconia composites are probably wrong, they are too high compared with the “true” fracture toughness. This has attracted attention and discussion in the research.”

Dual degree times two

The motivation also reveals that Latifa Melk came from Morocco to Nancy in France, to study at the EEIGM program. There, she took a double Master degree in Materials Science and Engineering, a French and a Swedish degree. After graduation, she began as a PhD student in the European Joint Doctoral Programme in Material Science and Engineering (DocMASE) She took double doctorates, one Swedish and one Spanish. When she defended her dissertation in Spain, where the defense is graded, she received the highest rating, "excellent". Latifa has been a very ambitious graduate student, proficient both experimentally and analytically, as well as in writing.

Hard work pays off

When asked if she has any advice for someone just beginning their doctoral studies, Latifa replies:

– Work hard because hard work always pays off! Do not worry if you make mistakes and do not panic if you do not manage to publish in the first year. Set small goals, make a plan and stick to it. Attend conferences and seminars to update you on the latest findings in your field. Take it as an opportunity to discuss your work with other groups working on the same subject. This will help you when writing scientific papers, says Latifa Melk.

– I would like to thank my supervisor, Professor Marta-Lena Antti, Division of Material Science, Luleå University of Technology, and Professor Marc Anglada, UPC, Spain. Without them, my work would never have been possible.

Now Latifa Melk works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Division of Machine Elements, in the group of Professor Nazanin Emami. There she will study the mechanical and the tribological properties of carbon nanofillers-reinforced UHMWPE composites.