R&D profile: Jacob Corteen

Jacob Corteen moved from the world of academia to join British Steel in 2016. Learning about the rail sector, he's applied his specialist knowledge to this field and now works as a Research Scientist in our R&D team. Find out more...

What was your first role at British Steel? And what's been your journey so far?

I started at British Steel in the Rail Technologies team, working there for 6 months before being seconded to R&D. This was supposed to be a temporary move, but it suited me and became permanent soon after. I’m a PhD metallurgist with alloy development and materials characterisation experience, and have learned about the rail sector and rail-wheel contact tribology during my time with British Steel. I’ve also built on my skillset in industrial-academic collaborations while with the business.

What did you do prior to joining British Steel?

I was working at the University of Sheffield as a postdoctoral researcher on an Innovate UK project with a major precious metals company to develop silver alloys for the solar industry.

What does your day-to-day role involve?

Widely varied. Probably the largest part of my role is running the £2.4 million collaboration with the University of Sheffield under the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN). As part of this, I’m the industrial supervisor of a PhD student and will be heavily involved in supporting 2 other students that we're recruiting. I maintain the relationship with our partner academics at the university, contributing to specifying the suite of research equipment and I'm also carrying out novel research based on my own ideas alongside those of colleagues and the business' needs. To support this, I have a position as a Visiting Academic at the university, which is a significant upside!

When I’m not working at or with the university, I carry out a variety of projects for our rail business. I’ve worked on rail investigations, weld trials, track surveys and developed a technology roadmap to guide innovation within the business. I’ve also sat on industry committees and engaged with stakeholders throughout the rail industry. I also try to keep up with industry developments, academic literature and funding opportunities whenever I can.

I’m a first aider too, but let’s keep safety in mind and make sure it’s not needed!

Why do you enjoy working at British Steel?

The people are 100% the best part of this job - I work alongside a number of very experienced scientists with decades of steel industry knowledge who I'm always looking to learn from.

The work itself is varied and interesting, and I’m very much proud to be such an integral part of our work under UKRRIN - I’ve been given a great opportunity to stretch and develop my skills.

What is your proudest achievement?

The PhD is a pretty big one, to be honest. Seven years on and I’m still in shock I managed it some days!

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

For someone whose job involves regularly meeting with professors, providing input to senior management on our technology strategy and representing the business at conferences and industry forums, I’m actually really shy! Turns out it’s possible to overcome that when you’re confident in your technical ability and have done the preparation.

What advice would you give to other people considering a career at British Steel?

Look out for opportunities to move around within the business once you're here – we’ve got a wide range of environments and learning opportunities. Gaining experience in different areas of the business will stand you in good stead throughout your career. Plus it’ll be interesting!