Dr Nicola Symonds

Unit Head

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Find out about our latest capabilities and activities. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn for more updates.

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Expanding our chemical analysis capabilities

We have a vast range of capabilities at our fingertips thanks to our ever-growing network of experts. For example, if your project involves elemental or isotopic analysis we can call on the specialist skills and knowledge of Professor Andy Milton, Dr Matthew Cooper and Dr Agnes Macey-Michalik at the Centre for Earth Research and Analysis Southampton (CERAS).

With a wealth of experience and a range of advanced facilities, they can optimise samples and select the right instruments to get the data you are looking for. Learn more about the CERAS team.

Metals under the microscope
Metallography is one of the many techniques we can use to build up a picture of a material’s properties for our clients. For example, this image shows the 3D microstructure of a 250um cube of wrought aluminium.

To understand a metal component you need to examine it in more than one direction or you won’t see the whole picture. Lots of wrought metals have anisotropic (strength and elongation) properties and this comes from non-equiaxed grain structure formed during cold working processes, such as extraction or rolling. In this case we put the views together digitally to give the client insights into the grain structure and its impact on the behaviour of the component. Find out more about our metallurgical analysis services.
nC² contributes to international maritime safety

Professor Nicola Symonds recently attended the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA) Congress in Rotterdam to present the results of our work on the safe use of pilot ladders.

Ladder-related accidents claim the lives of maritime pilots and other seafarers every year. This was the first study to use mechanical testing to determine the safest way to tie off ladders; using our evidence, IMPA’s aim is to strengthen international standards and ultimately prevent injury and loss of life.

Find out more about the pilot ladders project.

Making it big!

Some BIG billboards for a project with big impact! We’re proud that our work supporting the conservation of HMS Victory is being highlighted across the city alongside other University of Southampton achievements. Our Director, Professor Nicola Symonds, is shown for scale! 

Learn more about our work on the HMS Victory project.

X-ray diffraction expertise

The best thing about being a University-based consultancy? It gives us access to unrivalled expertise and facilities on behalf of our clients. For example, Dr Mark Light, Head of the Materials X-ray Diffraction Facility, is our go-to specialist for any project with an XRD element.

With over 25 years’ experience in this field of materials characterisation, including numerous industry projects, he’s able to advise on optimal techniques and uses the Facility’s state-of-the-art instruments to get the data our clients need.

An Easter eggsperiment…

With Easter approaching, we set out to answer the questions on everyone’s lips… which is stronger, chocolate egg or chocolate bunny? And what would it look like if we put them in an Instron electromechanical axial testing machine? Watch the video to find out.

The winner was the bunny, which was much stronger than the egg, requiring 436 N of force to break, while the egg needed just 51 N. On closer inspection (between mouthfuls) we did spot that the bunny was made of thicker chocolate than the egg, which explains its added strength…

A very happy Easter from all of us at nC²!

Sharing materials failure expertise

Our Director Professor Nicola Symonds has been back in the classroom as an industry guest lecturer, sharing her extensive knowledge of materials failure and failure investigation with University of Southampton engineering students.

They are learning from one of the best! Internationally recognised for her expertise in failure and accident investigation, Nicola helps our industry clients solve failure problems, and is regularly asked to provide testing and analysis to the UK’s rail, marine, rail and air accident investigation bodies.

Find out more about Nicola’s expertise.

Our women engineers in the spotlight

As March draws to a close we are coming to the end of our celebration of nC²’s super-talented women, but not before we shine the spotlight on Rachel Triggs.

Role: Senior Consultant
Area of expertise: Corrosion control, paint and coatings testing
Career in a nutshell: Worked with nC² since 2016 as a contractor, then recruited as a consultant, after 15 years at the Ministry of Defence
Best thing about the job? “Our team ethos – we always support each other to ensure that we deliver the best results to our customers.”

Find out more about Rachel.

Sparking an interest in STEM careers

At nC² we’re keen to share our passion for engineering and inspire young people to go into the sector. Here’s Dr Jelili Bello and Sam Hambrook putting this into action at a careers day at Wyvern College in Eastleigh.

They talked about their own motivations and career paths, and their roles at nC2, hopefully sparking some new career ideas and encouraging pupils to pursue their interest in STEM.

Celebrating our talented women engineers

Throughout March we’re celebrating nC²’s brilliant women engineers, inspired by International Women’s Day 2024. This week, meet Professor Nicola Symonds.

Role: Director
Area of expertise: Failure/accident investigation
Career in a nutshell: Led nC² since its establishment in 2015, after 10 years working on accident investigations in the Ministry of Defence
Best thing about the job: “Leading, working, and having fun with such an excellent and diverse team.”
Most proud of: “Providing my expertise to support the five-year Air Accidents Investigation Branch investigation into the 2018 Leicester City Stadium AW169 helicopter crash, which was published in 2023.”

Find out more about Nicola.

A visit from the National Museum of the Royal Navy

It was great to welcome Jenna Taylor and Emry Eisaman from the National Museum of the Royal Navy. They came to drop off some samples for the HMS Victory project, so we took the opportunity to show them our capabilities – here they are with Dr Ben Cunningham in the Testing and Structures Research Laboratory. Always a pleasure to hear about the exciting conservation work NMRN is doing – we’re so proud to be part of it.

Celebrating our superwomen

Inspired by International Women’s Day 2024, our month-long celebration of the talented women in the nC² team continues. This time we recognise the skills and expertise of Sam Hambrook.

Role: Senior Engineering Technician
Area of expertise: Sample preparation, imaging, evidence tracking, lab management
Career in a nutshell: Joined nC² in 2019 – previous roles include yacht skipper and police officer!
Best thing about my job: “The variety of projects and having the expertise of others to call on.”

Find out more about Sam.

Calling all families! nC² needs you!

Our nC² lab keys have been stolen! We need some young sleuths to crack the code set by the dastardly Professor Nogood, so we can continue our vital work. Watch the video for the full story…

We hope you’ll share our plea for help with your little detectives, and join us on Saturday 16 March at Science and Engineering Day for our fun escape-room style challenge.

It’s part of a fantastic free day of activities, workshops, lab tours and live shows, with something for all ages to discover. We’ll be at the University of Southampton’s Boldrewood Campus, Building 176, level 1. Visit the Science and Engineering Day website for more details and free tickets.

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2024

To mark 🌟 International Women’s Day 2024 🌟 we’re celebrating the talented women in the nC² team, with a profile each week during March. First up, it’s Dr Ilaria Corni….

Role: Head of Operations and Principal Consultant
Area of expertise: Materials characterisation and electrochemical deposition
Career in a nutshell: Joined nC2 in 2016 after working as a researcher at the University of Southampton
Favourite thing about my job: “I really enjoy helping clients to solve engineering and material related problems. Every day at work is different and it is exciting to be involved in projects spanning from the medical to the aerospace sector.”

Learn more about Ilaria.

nC²’s Director awarded prestigious Fellowship

We’re proud to report that nC²’s Director, Professor Nicola Symonds, has been made a Fellow of the Women’s Engineering Society. This prestigious award recognises individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the field of engineering and to the sustained encouragement of women in STEM.

As an internationally recognised expert in failure/accident investigation and a staunch advocate for women in engineering, including within the nC² team, Nicola is truly an exemplar for both. Congratulations Nicola!

NMR spectroscopy expertise

At nC2 everything we do is powered by expertise – and we’ve got a huge pool of specialist knowledge to draw from at the University of Southampton. Take Dr Neil Wells, who manages the University’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy Facility and is a member of our network of experts.

We can bring Neil on board when our clients are seeking to understand the composition, 3D structure and other key structural characteristics of a chemical sample at a molecular level – an invaluable technique for quality control and product development. Find out more about Neil.