Visits by IoP researchers to the Canadian University of Alberta


Ulrich Müller, research associate at the WZL, conducts research in the field of grinding technology at the Chair of Technology of Manufacturing Processes and recently had the opportunity to spend a visiting researcher period at the University of Alberta (UoA) in Edmonton, Canada, thus deepening the existing ties between RWTH and UoA.


What research project are you working on, what are you personally researching?

My projects are very diverse within my field of expertise. My work is a mix of basic research, application-oriented collaborative research and direct consulting for our industrial partners in the field of grinding technology.

Personally, my research is in the area of grinding superhard materials, such as diamond and cubic boron nitride. My dissertation is intended to help make the manufacture of cutting tools and other products from superhard materials (cutting materials) more efficient. To achieve this, I am concerned with the basic mechanisms that occur in the contact zone between the grinding wheel and the workpiece during the grinding of such materials. With the knowledge gained in this way, the grinding process can be designed based on knowledge instead of trial-and-error.

  Ulrich Müller in front of building Copyright: © Source: Ulrich Müller

How did the guest researcher stay come about, why Canada?

A little over a year ago, I was looking for new challenges to develop myself personally and professionally. Furthermore, I had visited many countries before but I never stayed there for more than three weeks. Therefore, I looked for options for a somewhat longer stay abroad that were feasible within the framework of my work as a research assistant at the WZL. After a few discussions with colleagues and with the then managing director of the Cluster of Excellence Matthias Brockmann, I discarded my initial goal of a stay in the USA and instead used the existing contacts to the UoA in Edmonton, Canada. More specifically, my colleague Martina Müller, who is currently at the UoA, had already had some conversations with Professor Qureshi from the UoA. Martina Müller, also from the WZL, is conducting research within the Cluster of Excellence in the area of CRD-B2 - Production Engineering. Then it quickly became clear that Professor Qureshi was open to further collaborations. In addition, there is a strategic partnership between the UoA and the RWTH, so that students and doctoral candidates can apply for a Junior Research Fellowship. Complementary, RWTH as a family-friendly university has contributed to the fact that my 1.5 year old son and my wife as well could accompany me during my stay abroad. I am very grateful for that.

  Nature Copyright: © Source: Ulrich Müller

How long were you there, what were your tasks?

My stay in Canada lasted exactly three months, from mid-February to mid-May. In Canada, I worked on a project that aims at large-volume additive manufacturing (3D printing) of wax and ceramics. The project is titled "The Wax Robot Factory." My task was to identify the range of commercially available systems for these additive manufacturing applications and evaluate them in terms of suitability for the project goal.

What gain do you derive for your research from the residency?

The gain is not necessarily in the area of my own research but rather in having strengthened transatlantic ties and thus increased the potential for future joint research projects. In Canada, I noticed that challenges are approached quite differently than they are here – and that is not meant to be judgmental. Here in Germany, we are very structured and take a systematic but often dedicated approach to problem solving. In Canada, I had the impression that the network idea is in the foreground and that people work together to solve problems. Both offer advantages and I appreciate that more now.

  Nature Copyright: © Source: Ulrich Müller

Did you have the opportunity to gather impressions and experience new things in your free time as well?

Since I was advised by almost everyone to travel to the Jasper and Banff National Parks by car, I or we did so. The Rocky Mountains surround these national parks and cannot be described by photos or by words regarding their spectacular dimensions. During our one-week road trip we experienced a breathtaking nature that I have never seen before. Especially the drive over the Icefields Parkway was a unique experience. Since there was still a lot of snow in April and the lakes and waterfalls were frozen, we were lucky that only a few people were there. However, I advise anyone who wants to travel there in the winter to put spikes under their shoes.

At the beginning of May, shortly before our return to Germany, we spent a few days in Vancouver on the Pacific coast. Since we had spent a lot of time with snow and ice in Edmonton until then, the comparatively green city was a welcome change. Although we had rain almost every day, the city remains in good memory. The location by the ocean with the adjacent mountains and the proximity to the US city of Seattle is something special.

  Nature Copyright: © Source: Ulrich Müller

What were your highlights?

My highlights were first of all the fantastic colleagues from the research group I worked in. Besides that, the breathtaking scenery in the national parks is of course an absolute highlight. In fact, the persistent cold in spring in Edmonton is also a highlight. In our case, we had temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius for a short time in February. From mid-April, the temperatures were then mostly above the double-digit minus degrees.