An international award for our colleague Carmen

Huge congratulations to our colleague Carmen Gorska who is fresh back from her trip to Tsukuba, Japan where she received the coveted silver Thomas Philip Medal of Excellence award for her scientific paper titled ‘Fire dynamics in Mass Timber compartments’ at the 14th IAFSS conference. The silver IAFSS medal is only proceeded by the golden medal, which was awarded to retired FM Global research scientist Gunnar Heskestad – the 11th winner of the award since its inception in 1994.

Carmen’s award marks a career dedicated to the subject of timber structures, a topic she has tirelessly researched and continues to be passionate about in her role as Senior Fire Engineer here at OFR. Her dedication has seen her travel from Poland to Australia before reaching us in the UK. Here she tells us more

I’ve always been incredibly passionate about the subject of timber structures and fire and my career has mainly been invested in researching this topic in all of its guises. It was always what I wanted to specialise in since completing my PhD Thesis on the subject, so winning an award for a paper about this subject feels incredibly fulfilling, plus it was a great opportunity to visit Japan – and the famous Gunnar Heskestad signed the back of my award! 

The IAFSS conference is a fantastic place to network with other industry professionals who are as interested in all aspects of fire safety as much as we are! It attracts specialists from all around the world so the potential for inspiring conversations is endless. It’s a great place to discuss your own ideas with people who are doing similar work in their own fields. I also got to catch up with my former colleagues from my PhD whilst I was there which was nice. It was only after receiving my award that I truly understood it’s importance – suddenly industry professors from all around the world were shaking my hand which was very humbling. 

As well as the awards ceremony, they hold workshops throughout the week, and I was asked to deliver a lecture on ‘external flame in timber compartments’ as part of the ‘facades’ workshop. I also participated in a number of other workshops including one with a focus on timber structures, electric vehicles and AI application to fire safety. I also attended the ‘humanitarian’ workshop, which related to fire safety in refugee camps and informal settlements etc. I came away from the session with many ideas on how we at OFR could contribute to humanitarian projects with our fire safety expertise. It was brilliant to update my knowledge with the latest findings in the topics that I’ve always been so fascinated with, and I certainly topped up my inspiration to continue my work with sustainability at the heart of my motivation. I feel like it is my contribution to a more sustainable world, and it continues to drive me in my work. 

I’ve worked for OFR since June following a collaboration with colleagues Danny Hopkin and Michael Spearpoint investigating the fire behaviour of engineered timber for the STA-SiG project. Before that I worked for Stora Enso, the leading engineered timber supplier followed by a year at CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research.) I got my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in Poland, 2013, I was then awarded with the “Erasmus Mundus Scholarship” which led to the completion of the IMFSE International master programme followed by a PhD Thesis at the University of Queensland, Australia, in fact it was a summary of this thesis that won me the award!

The event in Japan was a brilliant experience and it was an honour to win the award which included an amazing dinner gala which followed the award ceremony – where I was presented with the silver medal and a certificate. I was thrilled that my paper won –  I’d already won an award for it at the previous IAFSS for the best Ph.D. STUDENT paper, but this time it was awarded for being the best paper overall! I felt humbled as this award is much more prestigious and I was up against many senior researchers and professors. I only found out in September of this year that I’d won so it was a wonderful surprise.  

My paper explains how the fire dynamics (the temperature inside of a building – the flows, the external plume, etc) will change if the structure is timber instead of steel or concrete (combustible vs non-combustible). You can read it here.

I’m looking forward to continuing my work here at OFR and incorporating everything I learned at the conference. 

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