“Metallurgy had the lowest A-levels but got the highest starting salaries” Visiting Professor in Materials David Kirk has spent nearly half a century working with Coventry University. He continues to teach students even though he retired in 1998 Materials: Visiting Professor David Kirk
Where did your career begin and Q how has it progressed?
introduced a modular combination of Materials and Physical Science degree courses. Eventually a number of factors combined to effect, sadly, the demise of the cost-intensive courses in Materials, Physical Science, Applied Physics and Applied Chemistry. Personally, I was glad materials courses were still running when I retired in 1998.
A My career started in 1959 on appointment as a Research Fellow at Birmingham University. This was followed by two years as a Senior Research Metallurgist at the International Nickel Company’s R&D Laboratories before joining the Lanchester College of Technology on 1 July 1960 as a Senior Lecturer in Metallurgy. Forty-nine years Q Any interesting memories to share? on I have progressed to Principal A Yes, hundreds! For example, Lecturer in Materials, Chairman of during commissioning of D the School of Materials and now block the architect gave strict to being a Visiting Professor in instructions about floor loading. Materials in the Engineering and He said exceeding the allowed Computing Faculty. maximum could result in the building collapsing. I asked what How have things changed on the Q would happen if a sudden accident course (and campus) since you outside caused every student to have been here? rush to one side of the building. A Initially we had HNC, HND, LIM and The reply was that the permitted AIM courses in Metallurgy housed, floor loading would be exceeded! temporarily, at Coventry Technical As an ‘expert witness’ I was grilled College. In 1963 the courses for two days at the Old Bailey moved to D block [James Starley by a barrister who had a PhD in building] after spending £250,000 Engineering. Eventually the judge on a metallurgy suite – 200 years’ stopped the ordeal, declaring: “the salary then for a senior lecturer! The two of you obviously disagree.” HND course was the largest in the A three-week stint at the Singapore UK. This was replaced by honours Institute of Standards included a and degree courses in Metallurgy. visit to the cricket ground where Metallurgy was broadened to recent grass cutting had killed six become Materials and after king cobras. merging with the Rugby College we
What did you most enjoy in your Q job – prior to retirement?
A There was always a great deal of satisfaction when students graduated and obtained relevant employment. This satisfaction was heightened, knowing the metallurgy intake had the lowest A-level score in the University but obtained the highest starting salaries. Teaching a technological subject involved numerous contacts with industry – especially because of the sandwich course element. Consultancy work for industry was fascinating and ranged from examining nuclear submarine parts to egg poachers. What do you most enjoy in your job Q – during retirement?
A The most enjoyable feature is having the time to carry out research work on shot peening. Peening is an industrial process developed for performance-critical applications – such as aircraft and F1 racing cars. I serve on the International Scientific Committee for Shot Peening and the SAE Sub-committee on Surface Enhancement. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the tutor you want to see in the next evolve.
Evolve is Coventry University's magazine for Alumni