Loughborough is a world-renowned university, mainly for sport, but also for its high-achieving academics. I was attracted to the course as it offered both materials science and engineering, in addition to this the university has excellent links to industry which proved useful when applying for my work placement. As an ambitious engineer, Loughborough provides an ideal environment for improvement and healthy living. Nothing is more than a 10-minute cycle away and there are lots of private study areas when the library is too busy.
Throughout school I always enjoyed STEM subjects and problem solving, so from an early age I discovered that an ideal career for me would be in engineering. After completing various placements at Transport for London and the NHS, I was attracted most to materials. Materials are at the centre of most engineering challenges and a key factor for most companies, as we are constantly striving to make things faster, lighter, cheaper, and more sustainable. To advance in research and industry, it is vital to have the ability to create and improve the performance of materials, presenting a strong need for materials graduates in most countries around the world.
Loughborough hosts some of the best research projects and scientists. Regardless of what you are interested in you are more than likely to find a professor with a high level of understanding in the topic. This gives students confidence to try and think outside the box and challenge concepts with the goal to improve.
I have enjoyed completing lots of projects while at Loughborough, but my favourite is my current MEng master’s project where I will be ‘Understanding dynamic damage of armour ceramic nanocomposites’. Ceramic nanocomposite is promising to become the next generation shielding material of body/vehicle armour. However, further understanding its damaging pattern and underpinned mechanism is necessary for improvement and optimization. I have been able to analyse and compare using a scanning electron microscope (SEM), transmission electron spectroscopy (TEM) and Cr3+ Fluorescence spectroscopy silicon carbide (SiC) nanocomposites and baseline armour ceramics. This is a hard to come by experience and have really enjoyed drawing conclusions which can have significant real-world application.
What I enjoy most about my course is having the opportunity to develop theoretical and practical understanding in a wide variety of topics while having access to world-leading research. A course engaging in mathematics, physics, chemistry and design means that I maintain interest. The high level of exposure to different topics on this course keeps a lot of doors open regarding career opportunity and I have found that I have a relevant skillset for a wide range of roles.
Loughborough provides a support network on multiple levels. From day one you are encouraged to bring up any queries either to the cohort leader, personal tutor or individual module leaders who are regularly offering contact methods and some even have an open-door policy. Personally, I utilised the Careers Centre the most where I was able to get feedback on my CV and cover letters before placement applications.
I worked at the General Electric Healthcare Cardiff site for my work placement. It consisted of a manufacturing site producing a range of products, including rapid DNA test kits for global police forces, lab filtration products and high purity PTFE membrane filters called PM2.5 for air monitoring. I was exposed to a wide range of technical tasks including:
- Improving quality control on the PM2.5 filter line using a COGNEX vision system; where I spent time understanding the implications of varying backlight and materials on the output of the camera. I made changes or improved aspects of the line and wrote documents to improve operation which all aided overall equipment efficiency (OEE).
- 3D printing prototypes using CAD software; utilising various resins and metals depending on the application.
- Coding universal Robots; which play a big role in automated/semi-automated processes which require high levels of accuracy and repetitive motion. These robots can increase productivity and help solve challenges, such as labour shortages.
- Designing a new manufacturing line segment as part of a cost-out project; bringing a carbon capsule filling process for a type of Whatman™ filter, which was previously outsourced, in house to save cost. This involved organising and running on-site supplier visits, liaising with engineering sales teams, utilising assembly line design principles from Six Sigma and developing in depth knowledge of the product and process.
In most of these areas I had minimal experience, however, I took interest and applied myself enabling me to obtain transferable skills. Having worked in the manufacturing and the research and development department, I gained valuable experience in labs and ‘cleanroom’ environments, teaching me the importance of safe-working and risk management. I have thoroughly enjoyed working on challenging projects while at university and on placement.
Ultimately, I would like to run my own engineering company focusing on renewable energy or sustainable material production. This year I have particularly gained interest in the heavily researched area of nanomaterials where unique properties are increasing the design freedom of products in multiple industrial areas. My Loughborough degree has helped me develop a range of scientific, technical skills and knowledge in addition to other useful generic skills, such as management, communication, and presentation. While on placement I received a better understanding of the manufacturing industry sector and gave me an insight into the realities of full-time work.
The Materials Science and Engineering is a great course, as it offers both practical and theoretical tutorials as well as opportunity to use industry leading software. I have found it an ideal course for getting into materials engineering as the flexibility offers opportunity to change direction and re-focus as you develop knowledge in a range of areas. The lecture groups are relatively small, allowing lecturers to answer questions in detail and give feedback on projects. You will have the chance to work individually and as a group, where you’ll see the benefits in both. Personally, I enjoy working in a team as everyone can apply their own strengths whereas it is hard to master all these skills on your own.
As someone who wants to achieve academically, have a good social life but also be involved in competitive and casual sport I have found Loughborough’s atmosphere to be an excellent balance. Hosting students from a range of backgrounds makes it easy to meet people with common interests and goals. Furthermore, the campus aspect makes it easy to separate your working and social environment respectively.