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Joel Andersson, recently appointed professor of materials science. Here he is standing beside a welded aircraft engine component for a Boeing 747 at GKN Aerospace – an example of what his research on weldability in superalloys is about. Photo: Andreas Borg

Congratulations on your appointment. What does having the title of professor mean to you?

“Thank you, it feels great to have finally reached my goal. In practice, it does not change much since I have been doing the work of a professor for a few years. This autumn, I finally had time to write my application to become a professor because the pandemic meant that I was able to work from home with a few less distractions.”

Why did you choose to become a researcher?

“It has to do with my curiosity and thirst for new knowledge. I have a lot of patience and like to work long-term and hard. These are qualities that are well suited for this profession. But they would probably have been just as valuable if I had continued to focus on my dream of becoming a professional footballer. When my interest in studies took over while in high school, I hung up my football boots.”

Why did you choose this particular field of research?

“That I do research in materials science with a special focus on aerospace applications is partly due to the fact that I grew up with three engineers in the family. My father and one of my grandfathers worked at Volvo Flygmotor and my other grandfather was active in the shipbuilding industry. Their exciting stories from their work fascinated me. My friends and I used a lot of silver duct tape building rockets at my house. No wonder I chose Volvo Aero’s high school programme, which led to a permanent job at the company. Several years later, when I did my doctoral studies at Chalmers on weldability for superalloys, Volvo Aero, which at that point had become GKN Aerospace, once again became my partner. This opened up a whole new world of opportunities in research.”

What are the major challenges in your research field and what drives you?

“Global climate challenges are pressuring us to develop more efficient aircraft engines. They must be lighter and have better efficiency if we are to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from air traffic. To succeed in this, it is necessary to build the engines from lighter and stronger materials. Superalloys will be a big help in this. The problem is that these materials are difficult to weld. That is why we researchers work together with industry to develop techniques for welding and additive manufacturing that enable designing and manufacturing safe components in these materials. For obvious reasons, the safety requirements are extremely high in the aerospace industry. Working with these types of challenges feels both inspiring and meaningful. At University West, we currently have cutting-edge expertise in this research field.”

What events have meant the most in your career so far?

“A highlight was when GKN’s head of research Henrik Runnemalm asked if I wanted to build a Varestraint machine that is used in testing weldability. I was thrilled when we were finally able to test the machine at the Production Technology Centre and everything worked perfectly. Another important milestone was in 2016 when I was promoted to associate professor at Chalmers and was tasked with building and leading University West’s welding research team. It is incredibly inspiring to be able to develop this industry-related research together with the group’s 35 employees and with the help of advanced equipment.”

What happens next?

“Our team conducts world-class research, and we are passionate about maintaining and developing our symbiosis between industry and academia. Our goal is for welding research to provide the greatest possible benefit for Swedish industry and for it to be able to contribute in the relatively near future to even more efficient and climate-smart aircraft engines.”

Contact: Joel Andersson,