A 'spark' for harsh environments

Apr 4th, 2014

By Jackey Locke

Reina Sopper
A 'spark' for harsh environments

When a person leaves their home and family in Germany and travels 2,700 miles to Newfoundland and Labrador to study harsh environments, they must be passionate about the topic.

Upon attending the 2012 International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Regina Sopper relocated from Germany to St. John's to study harsh environments at Memorial.

Nuremberg-native Regina Sopper discovered an interest in Arctic and ice – a field she knew nothing about prior to the event.

“That’s when I discovered a fascination and deep interest for harsh environments,” said Ms. Sopper. “I went to many presentations, especially on Arctic and ice engineering. And, by chance, I was given an opportunity to chair a session on structures in ice.”

Through contacts she made at the conference, Ms. Sopper was introduced to Dr. Wei Qiu, a professor of ocean and naval architectural engineering (ONAE) and director of the Ocean Engineering Research Centre (OERC) at Memorial University. Dr. Qiu introduced her to fellow ONAE professor Dr. Claude Daley, who defined for Ms. Sopper the different areas where vigorous studies would be needed. That’s when she decided to relocate to St. John’s to undertake her PhD.

Ms. Sopper’s research focuses on ice-structure interaction.

“My colleague and I carry out dynamic impact testing. We crush ice cylinders with sphere-shaped indenters that are analogues of ship appendages at different collision speeds, and measure the forces on the back side of the indenter and the penetration depth into the ice.”

The team compared their results with the outputs of a special load case using a program that was developed at Memorial for ship design. To date, testing has been small in scale. Ms. Sopper hopes to extend the tests to consider a variety of different shaped indenters and ice geometries at near full scale, with larger masses and at higher indentation rates. The goal is to get a better estimate of the forces resulting from ice loads and optimize the structural design of ships and offshore structures.

Dr. Daley speaks highly of Ms. Sopper and her work.

“It’s been great having Regina join our group,” he said. “She has that spark that a graduate student needs to really enjoy the experience and also succeed at the research. She’s off to get some on-ice field experience soon and we all are looking forward to hearing about when she gets back next month.”   

While she is enjoying the research she is doing, Ms. Sopper is hoping to finish her studies on time and get some real-life work experience.

“Life can take extraordinary twists, and very quickly – a lesson I learned from attending OMAE 2012. Therefore, I will see where things are when I get closer to the end of my studies or what doors may open up in the meantime.”





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