Get to know : Hong Peng

Senior researcher and project manager – Elkem

How would you describe yourself in two sentences?

I am enthusiastic about new things, innovation, and goal-oriented work. Having worked and taught at a university for a short time, I am deeply passionate about interacting with students and young scientists, and sharing my experiences with them.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on innovation and new product development related to refractory monolithics. Specifically, I am focused on developing new products that can facilitate the use of cement-free castables for both high alumina-based and MgO-based castables, with improved properties for the industries. My work involves designing experiments, analyzing results, and publishing papers, as well as collaborating with colleagues and industry professionals to ensure that our products meet the needs of our customers.

Did you always want to work in science? How were you introduced to it?

Yes, I always wanted to work in science. I was introduced to science by my high school teacher. I wanted to work on new materials which could shape our future life: at that time, materials and energy were the most attractive areas.

Could you briefly describe your academic/professional career?

I have a diverse academic and professional career in materials science and engineering. I obtained my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Zhejiang University in China, and my Ph.D. from Stockholm University in Sweden. My master’s degree focused on developing new fiber-reinforced composites for high-temperature applications, while my doctoral project utilized spark plasma sintering techniques for Si3N4-based ceramics. These experiences have been the foundation for my career.
Throughout my career, I have gained extensive knowledge and expertise in ceramics and refractory research through various roles and have published over 100 papers. Currently, I am a senior research scientist and project manager at Elkem Silicon Products in Norway, where I am responsible for monolithic refractory technology and new product development for refractory materials. In this role, I also interact with professionals from both academia and industry. In addition, I have mentored exchange students at Elkem for the last 12 years. I got to my current position through years of experience in various roles, including lecturer, researcher, guest researcher, teaching assistant and post-doctoral researcher.

Why is it relevant to talk about gender equality in science?

Gender is an important factor to consider in science and many other fields. Historically, science has been male-dominated, and women have faced numerous barriers and discrimination in pursuing careers in science, especially in the refractory sector. However, I was brought up in a way gender was not emphasised since boys and girls were equal in the school. Therefore, while working in science, it has never occurred to me that I am different from men.

In your career, did you face problems linked to your gender? What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

Luckily, I haven’t faced gender-related issues in my career, only in some areas where I have travelled and observed that women have different roles. Although it is due to the local culture, I wish I could do more to help.

Gender equality has improved significantly over the years. I still remember the first time I participated in some international refractory congress in 2006, where I was one of the few women who presented scientific work. Nowadays, I see many more women being active in this field.

Who is your woman scientist inspiration?

My supervisor for my bachelor’s degree, James Shen, who also mentored me during my Ph.D. studies at Stockholm University, inspired me as a woman scientist.

What is the most motivating/exciting aspect of your job?

Continuous learning and working with new subjects are my driving force. The phrase « live and learn » encapsulates my daily approach to life. Interaction and cooperation with professionals from both industry and academia give me extra energy and motivation.

What message could you give to the young generation?

« Be yourself » is a motto that I live by and I would like to share it with everyone. It has helped me greatly, along with another motto that I believe in strongly: « Do what you like and like what you are doing ».

This project has received funding from
the European Union's Horizon Europe
research and innovation program under
grant agreement no.101072625