Dr. Chris Peploe
Project Engineer - Crash/Safety Development: Jaguar Land Rover
Chris Peploe studied for BSc and PhD qualifications from Loughborough. Chris talks about how he threw himself into the Loughborough experience and his journey to working in Engineering for Jaguar Land Rover.
Why did you choose to study for a PhD in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Loughborough University?
For me the decision to do a PhD was all about the project and real world application, not the qualification. My research centred around the biomechanics and technique of cricket batting, working in collaboration with the England & Wales Cricket Board, and with supervisors in Sports Technology and SSEHS.
Loughborough’s reputation as a world-class hub for research and sport made it the ideal location for me, and the opportunity to work with some of the best cricketers, coaches, and support staff in the world was too good to turn down. Couple that with the fantastic academic staff I came across, the thriving research community, and the general buzz of the whole university, and you have a fantastic 4-year experience.
I got a lot out of my time at Loughborough, from undergrad through PhD, teaching, research, and consultancy roles, as well as meeting countless interesting people and making a load of friends.
Aside from the excellent support I received throughout my time in Loughborough, for me the most inspiring thing is the people building successful careers across a huge range of industries. The success of our alumni shows that anything is possible, and that the skills you learn at Loughborough can prepare you for whichever route you choose.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
My undergraduate degree was a BSc in Sports Technology, which I only stumbled upon while at an open day for a product design course. I then ended up doing a PhD in Sports Biomechanics, teaching Sports Science, researching cricket batting, consulting on innovation projects with England Cricket, before eventually being recruited into the automotive engineering sector.
Given all that, my bit of advice would be to forge your own path, do the things you love, and enjoy the ride. My 18 year old self would never believe all the things I’ve done and where I’ve ended up, and mine is far from a traditional route to employment, but looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, how did this impact upon your Loughborough experience?
I was very involved in sport at the University, initially playing BUCS Cricket then later getting into Ultimate Frisbee through some friends on the committee. I also coached both these sports at various stages of my time in Loughborough, and took part in a wide range of other activities through the halls IMS sport.
For me sport and social life was key to the Loughborough experience, as you meet so many different people with different backgrounds, and have the opportunity to get involved in a huge range of activities either at an elite or social level.
Loughborough has the best sense of community I have ever experienced, and now being out in the real world you realise that the Loughborough family extends far beyond the University walls. Loughborough students are everywhere, and no matter the generation, you have an immediate connection with anyone you meet with a link back to Loughborough. To me that feels pretty unique.
Although most people think of Loughborough as just a university, there is actually a lot more going on around town than people give it credit for. From developments in town like the bouldering centre, new cinema complex, and multitude of sports facilities, to the amazing countryside and events in surrounding villages, Loughborough is actually a pretty good place to live beyond the University.
Immediately following my PhD, I took a cricket coaching job in Sydney, where I spent 7 months working with a high performance grade team and at a local academy. I was coaching all the way through my studies but this was an excellent chance to apply what I had learnt in a new environment.
Once back in the UK I found myself back in Loughborough working on a consultancy basis with England Cricket, specifically on power hitting and technology innovation projects, as well as doing some part-time teaching and research in SSEHS.
In late 2017 I replied to a recruitment advert, sent by another Loughborough alumni via my PhD supervisor, for a safety engineer role at Jaguar Land Rover. I ended up being offered that job and moved across in November 2017. Although the industry and environment I work in now are vastly different to anything I’ve done before, the problem solving and logical thinking I learnt at Loughborough are immediately transferrable to the challenges of automotive safety and crash simulation.
As well as the role at Jaguar Land Rover, I have maintained a link to the sports world through involvement with a sports garment start-up, consultancy, publishing academic research, and continued cricket coaching. I do like to keep myself busy and as active as possible in this sector, given my ongoing passion for sports performance.
My current role sits within the Body Engineering Department of Jaguar Land Rover. Specifically I work in the Frontal Crash CAE team, building virtual crash models, implementing design changes, and developing solutions to safety issues.
We work to enhance the structural integrity of Jaguar Land Rover vehicles and occupant safety for our customers. Simulations are run in a virtual environment using CAD/CAE and the finite element method, allowing for numerous design iterations to be tested simultaneously and at low cost.
The challenge of doing something new and pushing myself has always been something that appeals to me, and my current role has certainly provided that. While there has been a steep learning curve, the chance to apply my knowledge to real world problems and provide a different point of view to an existing team has been excellent.
I’ve never really been the kind of person who plans significantly into the future, I make my decisions more impulsively based on what I enjoy at the time, and enjoy the uncertainty of where it might take me. Personally I would love to get back into sport at some point and explore the world a bit more, but for now I’m enjoying learning something new and applying my skills in a different sector.
When I was consulting with England Cricket, we set up a day of player testing for the ODI squad using our bespoke technology to assess power-hitting performance. The players immediately bought into the day, enjoyed themselves, and were actively seeking our advice on technique and performance. Not only was leading this project extremely cool personally, but seeing their success over the following months makes me incredibly proud to have played even a small role in that development.