Andy Smith

Current student

PhD Student
Study area
Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering

Each day provides a new learning opportunity whether it is from teaching undergraduates students, learning to use new software to run experiments or speaking to experts in your field at conferences or meetings with industry.

What is your research project about?

The project focus is to identify and optimise refrigeration cycles in which air is used as the refrigerant. The technology is most widely used in air conditioning and cabin pressurisation packs within aircraft and the same thermodynamic cycle can be applied to alternative refrigeration cycles in a multitude of applications. The origins and motivation behind the work are two-fold:

  1. As technology progresses and becomes more powerful the generation of heat proportionally rises. The project sponsor, BAE System wish to manage the thermal loads on their aircraft effectively and efficiently.
  2. The Montreal Protocol is phasing out the use of environmentally harmful refrigerants used within the vapour compression cycle, the most widely used refrigeration cycle. As a result, alternative refrigeration methods or fluids are required to meet increasing thermal management and energy demands.

What were you doing before you started your PhD?

My PhD started following a 5 year aeronautical engineering undergraduate course at Loughborough University. This was a Masters programme which included a sandwich placement year that I completed during the 2013/2014 academic year at Intelligent Energy, a company that designs and manufactures hydrogen fuel cell systems.

Why did you chose Loughborough for your doctoral research?

Staying on at Loughborough following my undergraduate course seemed like an obvious progression as I already knew the university and the people within it. The facilities available and the links with industry are two of the many reasons I chose Loughborough University as a potential undergraduate student and were the deciding factor to stay on at Loughborough to do a PhD.

How are you funding your studies?

The PhD is an Industrial Cooperative Award in Science and Technology (Industrial CASE PhD) which is fully funded by three bodies:

The Government – Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), an Industry Partner – BAE Systems, and a University – Loughborough University.

What do you enjoy the most about studying a PhD at Loughborough?

What I enjoy most about studying for a PhD is the ability you get to learn from each day. Unlike a normal job, consecutive days in research study are very rarely the same and as a result, each day provides a new learning opportunity whether it is from teaching undergraduates students, learning to use new software to run experiments or speaking to experts in your field at conferences or meetings with industry. Almost every day you stumble across new information which answer questions you previously hadn’t thought to ask.

Describe what it is like to study a PhD, and how this differs from undergraduate and masters study?

I can only speak from a years’ worth of experience but the two biggest differences are the lack of daily structure (or routine) and the corresponding increase in responsibility. The motivation at undergraduate level usually originates from wanting to obtain an acceptable degree mark whereas postgraduate motivation requires the want to become a worldwide expert in the particular area of study.

Describe a day in the life of a PhD student?

Each day of studying for a PhD are likely to be different depending on how far through the course you are. The earlier days are likely to involve lots or reading and knowledge acquisition as well as software and hardware training. There may be sequential days where you are sat at a desk however these are likely, particularly with an industry led PhD, to be offset by days spent in a lab hardware testing. I have had many days out of the office meeting and presenting to project sponsors and potential industry partners too. Whilst each day is likely to change from the previous, there are always opportunities to improve yourself as a professional.

Why did you decide to undertake a PhD in your area?

The year in industry I undertook during my undergraduate studies working with Intelligent Energy had a focus on thermal management and I enjoyed that a lot. My interest in aviation suggested that moving the application of thermal management from hydrogen fuel cell applications to aviation applications and beyond would still be appealing. Furthermore, thermodynamics, or the management of energy, is an area I believe will have increasing importance in the future of sustainable life on Earth making it a fascinating area of study.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

As a hobby I enjoy flying light aircraft and in 5 years time I hope to be working within the aviation industry either as a commercial pilot or as a flight test engineer. I also have a particular interest in propulsion and therefore, as a back-up, I’d enjoy any job working with aeronautical or automotive engines, either on test or design.

If you could give one piece of advice to a future PhD student, what would it be?

One piece of advice I’d give to a future PhD student would be to make sure the area of study will keep you interested and motivated to continue making progress throughout the duration of the PhD.