#MondayMaterials Episode 15 – Sobia Khan
Meet the Department 18th January 2016
Hello everyone – and welcome back after what has been a slightly extended break for the UoM Materials Blog. Here’s hoping you all had a fantastic and Christmas and New Year.
What better way to get back into the swing of blogging than with a brand new episode of #MondayMaterials. As we hit Episode 15, I’m excited to say that we’re here with first year PhD student Sobia Khan.
One of the most exciting and interesting elements of blogging about the School of Materials has been the discovery of the surprising and fantastic work going on in the world of fashion. It’s all been very new to me, and is something which certainly continues today as I meet yet another fashion innovator. To find out more, let’s hand over to Sobia:
Hi Sobia, and thanks for joining us. We’ll start with everyone’s favourite question. Could you please describe your research, for the layman, in ten sentences or less?
My research is about image interactivity technology. I’m looking at online product presentations.
So when you go shopping online you might try to sort of visualise the product in more detail. You might try image enlargement, you might try to rotate the product, if there’s a video you might play the video – or there might be some way when you can kind of manipulate the fabric of the product if it’s a fashion apparel product.
So I’m looking at all these different types of strategies that retailers are using for product presentation, but I’m looking at it more specifically within a mobile context. More consumers are going shopping using their mobile phones, so we think that, you know, technology needs to improve on that front.
So that’s what I’ll be analysing.
And can you tell us how your research could benefit the general public?
Sure. So, more consumers are shopping via their mobile devices and we expect that trend to continue for the next few years. At the moment, consumers are sort of reluctant to actually purchase anything through their phones. They might do a search on their phone, or they might try to find some information, or maybe use the phone within a store, but they won’t actually make a purchase through their phone.
We find that this is because it’s quite difficult to see the product and manipulate the image. The technology is not quite there and it’s not the same as what you have on a PC or laptop. So if retailers want to increase their m-commerce revenue, then they need to enhance the online product strategies that they currently have.
So one of the ways to do that will be to try and improve image interactivity. To make that experience more beneficial for the consumer. Not only will it help them to find out more information about the product but, you know, if you’re using your fingers it kind of has more of an experiential effect and consumers enjoy that part of the shopping experience; being able to play with an image and manipulate it. So it simulates the actual product and you can imagine having it right in front of you.
Sounds exciting! So how did you first get interested in your research area?
Well I did my MSc last year and then I went away for a few months and tried to have a normal working job. I got into merchandising in the fashion industry. But I think I always wanted to come back and do something related to online shopping. I think it’s a big area of retail and there’s still so much research to do.
So I got in contact with my supervisors and they told me they had this project on image interactivity and online shopping – well mobile shopping really – and it just sounded really good. And the more I thought about it the more it seemed to make sense and the more I wanted to look into it.
So yeah, they had the idea and I really liked it so I went along with it.
Going back a bit further, then, could you tell us what first inspired your interest in fashion?
I think it’s just because it’s really creative. Every year there’s something new, something that catches your eye. Because I worked in retail for a long time and I think you do get really excited when you work in a place that’s supposed to be really trendy.
So yeah, I definitely love learning about new trends and seeing what’s going on in the fashion industry.
And moving away from work a bit, what do you get up to in your spare time?
Well currently I’m living as a residential tutor in halls, so that in itself is sometimes like a job. I’m on duty once a week and one weekend in every five. And my responsibility is…because we don’t have a reception desk in those hours, so if you have any problems or concerns then I get a phone call. It sometimes buzzes and I’m like ‘okay, what’s going on?’
So, yeah. I live with the students and have my own floor with them. We do lots of activities with them, like last year we went to watch the fireworks in Platt Fields Park and went to see Mockingjay at the cinema. And we had a very busy time during Welcome Week, when the students arrived and we had all sorts of activities planned. And every evening I sit down with the other tutors and we discuss what’s been going on, so that does kind of feel like a job. You sometimes feel like you live in a little family home, but it’s also a job at the same time.
Other than that I just try to keep myself active. I joined the gym recently, and I’m trying to get into running again. I did the 10k two years ago and I’m going to do it again in 2016. Possibly with the tutors, if I can get them involved. We can do a hall’s team run, which should be fun!
Sounds like an interesting and slightly stressful thing to get involved in! So, going back to work, how has being here in Manchester benefited your work and research?
Yeah, well I’ve been involved in a few events already. I got involved with MOSI (The Museum of Science and Industry). I’ve also been to an event held by Fashion Network. It was great because it was in Manchester and they were looking at mobile retailing, which is very relevant to my work.
So I got to meet some people from industry and got talking to them. And actually, I’m planning to meet one of them quite soon, in the next few weeks, because he works in digital marketing. A lot of his clients are retailers and he does a lot of work for them in terms of marketing, so potentially there might be a project there. So we’ll see how that goes. And they’re based in Manchester, which is great.
And I think Manchester’s changing so much, so I think there’s lots of potential here to do loads of fashion, in terms of marketing and retailing.
It’s all going on here!
It certainly is, Sobia – couldn’t agree more. And as someone who has spent a fair few hours looking at trainers and coats on my phone only to give up and go to the shop, you’re research sounds very exciting. Please keep us informed of how it’s going.
Thanks for reading, everyone. And please keep coming back to the blog for more from the School of Materials. #MondayMaterials will be back in two weeks, when we talk nanomaterials with Dr Sarah Haigh. It’s gonna be a good one!