Interview with Dr Mark Tyrer

3 May 2011

How did you get involved in construction materials?
Almost by chance! I had worked as a geochemist at BGS in the geology of nuclear waste management, was looking for a relevant PhD and saw one with Chris Page at Aston on the chemistry of blended cements for waste encapsulation. I have worked in cement chemistry ever since, but maintain links with waste management.

What most interests me is geomaterials research generally (cement science, in particular) and how this impinges on so many different fields, from traditional construction, through biomedical cements, polymer-containing systems, environmental protection and very many others. These are remarkable materials, which so many people take for granted, yet they require less energy than metals and polymers to produce, are durable and largely recyclable. It's easy to forget how strategically important cement and concrete are – the volume of concrete produced each year eclipses the total of all other man-made materials put together!

What has the Construction Materials Group achieved so far?
The Group's strengths reflect members' interests. In particular, we have a good balance between the two major subject groups – cement and concrete and asphaltic materials. We cover a variety of subjects in our meetings and arrange regular events for participants in the early stages of their careers, such as the Young Researchers' Forum. Conversely, we also have a tradition of honouring contributors in the later stages of their careers and actively supporting the SCI awards.

How will the Group develop?
Like most others SCI Groups (and other institutions) it must adapt to membership changes. Unlike the past, few companies can afford staff time to contribute to Society affairs. Also, the loss of many laboratories from public hands limits the resources available to us.

So, in recent years our meetings have needed to be focused on topics of current commercial importance and, happily, these have drawn large audiences. Many meetings are one-day, or half-day events, and I expect that this will be our main activity in the future. A key need is new committee members. Duties are not onerous and there is a real opportunity for people to make a valuable contribution to the SCI and to the field. I hope we will see some new people come forward, especially younger members.

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