"If you want to make a difference, you have to dare to think differently". Bilim Atli is a research scientist within the Buildings, Infrastructure & Maritime unit of TNO. In these times of automation, she believes the scientist's human view of the future is becoming more important than ever – a view that TNO shares.
"My department focuses on reliable, sustainable and safe solutions for the maritime & offshore, buildings & infrastructure, energy and defence sectors. I work in the Structural Dynamics expertise group, where, among other things, we contribute to the development of sustainable ships built with composites.
These materials have been used for years by aircraft builders for whom the main goal is to save weight, and therefore fuel. For marine and offshore applications, composites have even more advantages: you can create more complex geometric shapes and embed sensors into the hull, allowing you to monitor the vessel's behaviour throughout its entire life cycle. A ship like that is rightly called a 'smart megastructure'.
We are currently in an EU project to build such composite ships. My job is to develop and carry out experiments with colleagues to demonstrate clearly how structures behave under extreme conditions. It is about pilot setups of many metres in height, so it's very challenging.
Young Researcher of the Year
In 2019 I was elected out of four nominations as TNO Young Researcher of the Year, for my research into cryogenic storage tanks. These can be found on ships powered by LNG, or liquefied natural gas, because LNG must be stored at a temperature of 163 degrees below zero. Which materials are resilient to such low temperatures? And can they withstand an impact or collision?
In addition, we are seeing the world take its first steps towards a hydrogen economy. Also with hydrogen it is more efficient for many applications if it is stored in liquid form. And that requires even lower temperatures. A next goal may be to develop cryogenic tanks for this purpose.”
"I obtained my PhD at Penn State University with a thesis on aerospace engineering. At a career fair in Boston I came across TNO for the first time. I was attracted by the position that TNO holds between business and university. In business, the focus is often on a single product. At TNO you can take a broader view: very nice if you have an inquisitive mind.
Moreover, you are working on a product that will become reality in the near future. Its feasibility has already been proven at university level and it is TNO's task to demonstrate the reliability, sustainability and safety of the application. Both pragmatic and challenging, and therefore grateful work.
The diversity of my work itself is also attractive. I am both a scientist and a scientific leader of a product-market combination within our unit. On the one hand, I design and carry out tests, report on them and make suggestions for follow-up projects. On the other hand, I have to set up a project portfolio and make it fit in with our roadmap."
Always ask for what you need
"TNO is actually a collection of more than 3000 very smart people from all backgrounds and with different areas of expertise. At the same time TNO has an eye for each individual. You can follow different career lines, and the HR department will guide you from the very beginning. At the start you also get a mentor. And you can always ask for what you need, whether it's coaching or training.
What I like about starting at TNO is the traineeship. This enables you to quickly get to know the various departments and see how varied and interesting TNO's work is. Furthermore, the balance between work and private life is very good. You determine your own agenda. Flexible working hours and working from home are among the possibilities. Taking parental leave is very common here."
"My ideal working day? It starts with coffee! After that, I am happy when a day offers the combination of experiments, analyses, reports and customer dialogue.
I have been working on the structural dynamics of maritime structures for about seven years now. As a research scientist, you can develop from junior to principal at TNO. I want to reach that highest level someday. In the meantime, your team grows and your portfolio changes, so there are constant challenges.
And you always have to keep an eye on the future. Especially at a time when automation is booming and machines are taking over the repetitive tasks of the scientist. Your added value is your human view. If you want to make a difference, you have to think differently, be creative, see how you as a scientist can make the world a better place."