• School of Engineering and Applied Science, Aston University

      B4 7ET Birmingham

      United Kingdom

    Accepting PhD Students

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    Personal profile

    Contact Details

    Phone number:  +44 (0) 121 204 3520
    Email:  sarah.hainsworth@aston.ac.uk


    Sarah, who is Deputy Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Diversity and Inclusion committee, is the first female Executive Dean of School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She is keen to build on the School’s reputation for encouraging women into, and advancing their careers in, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

    Before joining Aston University in 2017, Sarah was at the University of Leicester for almost 20 years, where latterly she was Professor of Materials and Forensic Engineering and also the University’s Head of Engineering.

    Sarah was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Year 2019 Honours List for her services to Engineering and Forensic Science.

    Among Sarah’s many other accolades is the Andrew H. Payne Jr. Special Achievement Award 2015 from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Engineering Sciences Section in recognition of exemplary contributions in advancing forensic engineering sciences. She also received the Mechanical Engineers Tribology Bronze Medal in 1995, the Rosenhain Medal of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in 2008 and was nominated as one of the Women’s Engineering Society’s “outstanding technical women” in 2009.

    Research Interests

    Her research interests include forensic engineering and she is a leading forensic science expert on stabbing, dismemberment and knife sharpness, providing reports to police forces across the UK. In 2013 her expertise helped establish the manner of King Richard III’s death through analysing wound marks found on his skeleton after its discovery at Grey Friars in Leicester the previous year.

    Her other research interests are in developing 3D non-contact laser vibrometry used in the measurement and analysis of structures and materials. She also works in automotive tribology, undertaking experimental research to understand the performance of materials under a range of conditions. In addition, Sarah is involved in research to understand how high microstructural evolution occurs in materials subjected to high temperatures and high stresses in steam and gas power plant.


    Forensic Engineering

      In the area of forensic engineering, my research is into two main areas, forces involved in stabbing and characterising tool marks in injury and dismemberment.

     Knife Crime - The Thrust of the Matter

    Stabbing is the most common way of committing murder in the UK and most other countries where guns are prohibited. British Crime Survey data suggested that in 2010-11 a knife was used in around 126,000 violent incidents. However, very little work has been carried out into understanding what happens during a stabbing incident.

    Engineering a Safer Drinking Glass

    Drinking glasses can be used as improvised weapons in alcohol-related violence. There are several thousand incidences of "glassings" - attacks involving drinking glasses or glass bottles - every year.

    Our research is investigating ways in which the design and manufacture of glasses influence the way in which they fracture. By understanding the detailed failure mechanisms we can understand how to improve the safety of glasses and reduce their injury potential.

    Tool Mark Analysis

    In terms of tool mark analysis, I have recently been involved in the work related to the skeleton of Richard III  that has been found in the choir of the church at Grey Friars in Leicester. I collaborated with Jo Appleby and others from the University's Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.

    We have been looking at the tool marks using the technique of micro computed X-ray tomography and also using our stereo microscopes to look in greater detail at the wounds found on the skeleton and relate these to possible weapons.

    Learn more about our work and the  role of micro-computed tomography in forensic applications.

     Visit the Richard III Project Website to read more about micro-computed tomography was used to help identify Richard III's remains.


    ASDEC Non-Contact Measurement and Modal Analysis

    As Director of the Advanced Structural Dynamics Evaluation Centre (ASDEC) based at the MIRA Technology Park, I was involved in research into further developing the use of Laser Doppler Vibrometry (LDV) in 1D and 3D measurement and analysis of structures and materials.  The purpose built facility set up by the University of Leicester, houses the only robotised 3D LDV in the UK.  ASDEC is a research centre that collaborates with industry to develop ways in which the measurement and analysis technique can be used to solve real world problems and is also available for consultancy projects.  We worked on space material development and making measurements on composite and hybrid materials for the real world correlation and improvement of computational models. ASDEC won the RCUK Impact Award for "contribution to business" and was the overall winner of the Impact Awards for 2015.
    Automotive Tribology

    My work in automotive tribology is involved in investigating the mechanical properties and failure mechanisms of coated components for use in the automotive valve-train. We have a number of specially developed testing rigs predict in-service performance by running under operating conditions as close to engine conditions as possible. This means that we can test new materials such as diamond like carbon coatings and also discriminate between the performance of different lubricants with different additive packages. We have a complete range of tools for characterizing coating performance in the laboratory.

    The research in this area is mainly experimentally based, and is aimed at providing an understanding of the performance of materials through fully characterizing the observed response under a range of experimental conditions.


     Microstructural Evolution

    Another area of research is understanding how high microstructural evolution occurs in materials subjected to high temperatures and high stresses in steam and gas power plant. We are investigating steels and nickel-based alloys in order to understand how their microstructures and mechanical properties evolve as a function of exposure to the operating environment.

    The work involves characterisation of microstructures by optical, scanning and transmission electron microscopies and the results are being used in development of appropriate models. We are additionally developing an abradable seal high temperature steam and wear testing rig capable of operating under dry steam conditions to investigate the oxidation and wear of abradable seal materials.

    Neutron diffraction is being used to evaluate intergranular stresses in magnesium alloys for optimising production routes for automotive applications. Magnesium is a lightweight high strength material that can be processed by casting and forging and experiments are being conducted to better understand processing on resultant mechanical performance.

      Microstructural Evolution 1

    Figure One: An electron backscattered diffraction map of a steel sample after exposure to high temperature and stress. Such maps allow us to monitor changes in grain sizes and orientations and help us understand how microstructure evolves over time.
    Microstructural Evolution 2
    Figure Two: A transmission electron microscope image of particles of diesel soot. An understanding of the structure and size of particles is aiding our understanding of how soot in diesel oil leads to increased engine wear.


    PhD Supervision

    I would be interested in supervising PhD study in the following areas:

    • Forensic Engineering
    • 3D Laser Doppler Vibrometry and Modal Analysis
    • Automotive Tribology
    • Advanced Coatings
    • High Temperature Materials
    • Tribology and Materials Characterisation 


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