Category Archives: Meet the Scientists

Here you’ll find a collection of interviews and guest posts by real life scientists, engineers and STEM students, giving an insight into their world.

World Animal Day: Zoology vs Animal Science – What is the difference?

To celebrate World Animal Day, we’re finding about the people that study animals – Zoologists and Animal Scientists and finding out what the difference between these subjects actually is.

First of all, both are branches of Biology, the study of all living things. Zoology is the study of the animal kingdom, including the distribution, evolution and behaviour of animals. Animal Science is the study of animals under human control, such as pets and farm animals, but what does this mean to our students?

We quizzed Chess, who recently finished her Zoology degree, and Iona, currently studying Animal Science, to find out what the courses were really like for them.

Why did you decide to study your course?

Chess: I always knew if I was going to university it would be to study Zoology. Sciences were always my strongest subjects and I’ve had a love of animals for as long as I can remember. I explored veterinary at first, but the day to day working life of a vet wasn’t for me. After spending six months training to be a field guide in South Africa I became certain that I wanted to work in either conservation planning or research. Therefore, studying zoology was an essential next step.

Iona: I came across the course on an open day, having come to Newcastle to look at Biology and Zoology. I liked all of the courses but Animal Science stood out for me because it focuses on the physiology, biochemistry and behaviour of domestic animals alongside the issues surrounding the industry.

Iona with her pet dog

Do you get to go on any cool field trips?

Chess: When I was studying the options were Kielder forest, Millport in Scotland, or Crete. I chose to study birds in Kielder forest where we surveyed them by their calls. Other groups studied deer, small mammals, and beetles. There is also the option of a residential field course abroad in an additional module. In my year the group went to Thailand, others have been to South Africa. Everyone who went had nothing but good things to say about it.

Iona: We’ve been to the Northumbria Mounted Police stables, local animal shelters and a couple of zoos. They were all very different and provided unique learning experiences. We have also visited both of the two uni farms to look around the pig and dairy units which really helped to reinforce what we learnt in lectures.

A macaque monkey, photo taken by Biology Grad, Matt Pindar, on his Thailand field trip.

Have you ever done any work experience or a placement related to your degree (either before or during uni)?

Chess:  I did a summer vacation scholarship between stage two and three, and I received maintenance funding to undertake an eight-week research project over the summer. This was an invaluable experience for me. It was the first opportunity to experience what a career in research would involve by working with academics to design and deliver a piece of my own research.

Iona: This summer, I spent some time with a multinational feed company, working with ration advisers, sales reps and regional managers. I’ve also worked with farm managers and herdsmen on large dairy units and sheep farms.

Chess with her research poster the the British Conference of Undergraduate Research

What do you hope to do after your degree?

Chess: I still want to continue into a career in research. After graduating, I completed an MSc Global Wildlife Science and Policy also at Newcastle and I am now just starting my PhD.

Iona: I am currently undecided about what I’d like to do after I graduate but I am looking into livestock nutrition or consultancy roles.  Quality control and marketing also interests me so I’m currently exploring these options.

How much time do you spend in labs vs in the field vs in lectures/seminars?

Chess: The most time is spent in lectures. At stage one there are weekly lab sessions and regular field visits though the amount of these at later stages depends on the optional modules and projects you choose to undertake.

Iona:  I spend the majority of my uni time in lectures and seminars but we’ll have a couple of field trips per term. We had about one lab session per week in Stage one and it varies in Stages two and three depending on the modules you choose.

The great thing about Animal Science is that we are a small cohort so our class sizes range from 20 when it’s just our course to 150 when we take modules with larger courses. You become very close with your course mates but also have the opportunity to make friends on different courses.

A student at Newcastle University’s Nafferton Farm

What do you think the biggest difference between Animal Science and Zoology is?

Chess: The biggest difference is definitely that Animal Science shares a lot of modules with Agriculture, so it focuses on domestic animals. This includes their care and management in an agricultural setting. Zoology on the other hand shares its first year with Biology. Therefore, the focus is on understanding the natural biological systems involving animals.

Iona:  Animal Science mainly focuses on domestic species and the issues surrounding both companion and farm animals. Sustainability is a major theme that runs through the modules and topics are usually linked to current and future management techniques. I think that Animal Science contains the best aspects of Agriculture, Biology and Zoology.

Zoology focuses on mainly un-domesticated animals and their conservation along with physiology, behaviour and evolution.

Most importantly, what is your favourite animal?

Chess: In terms of unexplainable connection, a wolf. In terms of research interest, all species of rhino.

Iona:  The dog! The wide range of dog breeds is incredible and the variety of roles they can play in our lives is endless.

Advice from the Experts

We also asked for an input from the lead academics from the courses what their advice would be for anyone deciding between the two.

Dr. Richard Bevan, a Senior Lecturer for Zoology said:

In its simplest form, I’d say that Animal Science can be thought of as ‘Applied Zoology’ and concentrates on farm and domestic animals while ‘Zoology’ deals with animals (all of them) in the wider context: from amoeba to whale. It is then an easy choice – if you are more interested in fish, sloths, crabs etc. then choose Zoology. If you are interested in how domestication has affected animals then Animal Science would be a better choice

From Animal Science, Dr. Catherine Douglas advised:

Animal Science – it’s not Veterinary or Biology or Zoology – it’s a bit of all of the these and more. I would suggest students look carefully at the topics (modules) covered and the species that each particular university specialises in.  If you love domestic mammals, you don’t want a zoology course that focuses on wild animals, insects and birds.

Richard Bevan with students on the Farne Islands

Career Prospects

Graduates from both our Zoology and Animal Science degrees have gone on to a range of exciting career paths. Animal Science graduates have gone on to work as Animal Nutritionists and Geneticists and many have gone into further study with Masters in Animal Behaviour as well as Journalism and Museum Studies. Some graduates have also gone on to study Veterinary Medicine.

Zoology grads have gone on to work in research as well in education and charities. Their job titles range from Research Assistant to Football Analyst to Events Officer at the Royal Society of Biology.

Find out More…

Explore our course pages to find out more about Animal Science and Zoology. Or if ocean wildlife is more your thing, we also offer a course in Marine Zoology.

Work/Life Balance as a Civil Engineering Student

Ever wondered how to balanced a degree like Civil Engineering with social activities, relaxation and part-time work? It can seem tricky, but recent graduate, Lizzie Templeton has got it covered. In today’s blog post she explains how she managed her time. 

 

I’ve recently graduated from my MEng Civil Engineering degree and as a student I remember deciding on what mattered to me when choosing a university to study my passion.  One thing I get asked about is the difficulty of managing the work life balance and how I found it.

When I first started at Newcastle University in Stage 1, I remember feeling daunted by the number of hours that appeared on my timetable.  After comparing timetables in Fresher’s week with my new flat mates, it soon became apparent that, as Engineering students, we were in the minority with our 20+ hour contact time weeks.  However, any worries soon disappeared once we got into the routine of our new adventure.  The time we were in Uni was very hands on and practical – we were in labs almost every week, keeping things interesting and different.  I remember being surprised how broad the range of modules were, incorporating many subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry, and biology.

The difference from Stage 2 compared with Stage 1 was very noticeable.  Many of the modules in Stage 1 were theory based, teaching us the basic engineering principles that are pivotal to design.  However, from second year there was more of a focus on design standards and applying the knowledge we had previously learnt.  This was particularly noticeable in a second semester module “Steel and Concrete Structures”.  I also noticed a big increase in independent learning, in our 20 credit Design of Sustainable Engineering Systems module (DSES).

The move to Stage 3 saw more design-based modules following on from previous years, with exams in Geotechnical Design and Design of Building Systems. Again, there was a push towards independence and creative, innovative learning in DSES 3, where we had to develop a basic, client Project Brief into our own detailed Brief.

With the intense workload that comes with a degree in Civil Engineering, it is very important to be able to “switch off” and relax, away from the stress of work.  One of my favourite ways to do this was to get out of the house and go for a drink with my housemates. I find it helps to get out, especially if I’d been been cooped up in the library all week.  I also liked socialising with friends off the course, allowing me to really relax and not think about any upcoming deadlines.

With regards to managing my work/life balance, I found it regimented in Stage 1.  The structured 9-5 timetable made it relatively easy to complete most of my work while in Uni, allowing me to often have the evenings off to relax.  However, as I progressed through to Stage 3, more discipline was required from my perspective.  The contact hours significantly decreased, to approximately only 12 hours a week.  Therefore, in efforts to reduce last minute work and stress, I still endeavoured to maintain structured hours in the library, even when I was not timetabled in Uni.  I find this helped me to work without distractions and, apart from during exam period, I often got home to a free evening for my own time.

Successfully following this structure, I had plenty of time to enjoy playing with the Women in Engineering Netball team on Saturdays.  This was a fun, relaxed way to keep up my hobby without the pressure of training and away games with the official Newcastle team.  Additionally, despite the busy timetables and workload, I managed to work part time as a student ambassador.  This suited my work balance extremely well due to the flexibility of the role – allowing me to choose when I’m free to work and for specified hours.

A day in the life of…a Civil Engineering student

First year Civil Engineering student Toby Loveday talks us through what a typical day is like for him studying and living in Newcastle.

Hey,

I’m Toby, a first-year Civil Engineering student at Newcastle University. I remember when I was deciding which Uni to attend; the hassle of writing my personal statement, attending the open days and interviews it was all a bit of a nightmare, until I found Newcastle.  The mix of student life coupled with a word class university was a no-brainer.  With so many different routes into my future career, Newcastle was by far the best option for me. Newcastle not only has great connections with industry but has world leaders in the Civil Engineering industry, which is incredibly inspiring.

Most mornings, I’m up by 8 and in uni for the first lecture of the day by 9. Contact hours vary throughout the year with 4-5 hours being common, but as exams rapidly approach some days can have up to 6 or 7. Although this may seem daunting, it is all beneficial, well that’s what I tell myself! I also try to spend another 2 hours in the library after lectures, catching up with content as well as reading around my course modules.

Being a Civil Engineering student, I study a wide array of modules from engineering maths to environmental systems, which in my view provides a great mix.  So far, my favourite module is design of sustainable engineering systems which continues through the first two years. One of our recent projects for this module was designing and building an aluminium truss, then testing it to destruction.  This was an incredible experience; it taught me practical skills, helped me to appreciate my design and to see if my calculations were correct!

Another important module which I have enjoyed studying is Geographical Information Systems, which allows engineers to model and analyse spatial data. This module is extremely important as it is the future of engineering and planning development. Although challenging at first due to no prior knowledge of ArcGIS, after multiple tutorials and one to one help, I managed to design and present a residential development right here in Newcastle.

Civil Engineers at Newcastle are encouraged to join the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Being a student member of ICE opens up opportunities to attend conferences and improve my contacts into the industry. Through ICE, I have expanded my knowledge and I get the opportunity to speak to experts in the industry.

Outside of my academic studies I am a member of the Cross Country and Athletics team, as well as the Cycling Club. After a hard day of studying, I often find myself going for a run with the Cross-Country team where I get to catch up with some great friends. Being a member of both clubs, I get the opportunity to travel to various events all around the country competing for the university.

Not only do I love to participate in sport, but I also like to watch the ‘Toon Army’ play at St. James Park. One of the best things about the city of Newcastle is the nightlife.  With a variety of student friendly clubs, pubs and venues there is always somewhere to go. When you make the right decision and come to Newcastle you may see me out sometime.

Thanks for reading!

Toby

A day in the life of…a Geographic Information Science student

Second year Geographic Information Science student Sheoma talks us through what a typical day is like for her studying and living in Newcastle.

Hi everyone!

My name is Sheoma and I am a second year undergraduate student studying Geographic Information Science (GIS).

Newcastle University was the obvious choice for me as the city seemed very small and friendly and the quality of the teaching on my degree was extremely high.

My typical day consists of being at university from 9AM – 5PM for lectures and practicals. After, I usually head home to work on assignments. Sometimes I socialise with friends by heading to the cinema or catching student deals at my favourite spots.

Lectures

My course consists of many lectures and modules that are all interconnected and contribute to my overall learning experience. Practicals give me the opportunity to practice skills or theories that may have been discussed in lectures. They also allow you to gain a better understanding of the course content by giving you hands-on experience. Don’t worry if you find yourself saying ‘aha’ during a practical. It is expected that they clarify things that may have been otherwise difficult to comprehend. There are also occasionally a few seminars where specific topics are discussed to stimulate ideas and encourage everyone to participate. Although there are many lectures and practicals, you will appreciate them when you realise that they have equipped you with all the skills necessary to be one of the best in your profession.

Social Life

As a GIS student, you can become a member of the Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEGsoc) society. They organise a variety of events that range from socials to paint balling. A particular favourite of the society is the annual Christmas Ball where everyone puts on their most exquisite attire! If you fancy something else, there are over 160 societies to choose from, as well as the many adventures that await you in the ‘Toon’.

The thing that I find most interesting about my course is the strong links with industry. We constantly have the opportunity to network with employers who value and appreciate the level of academic excellence at Newcastle University. This makes the placement and graduate process more straightforward because we have already been exposed to a lot of different companies and have an idea of what they expect from graduates.

Hope to see you soon!

Sheoma

A day in the life of…a Marine Technology student

Second year Marine Technology student Yanis talks us through what a typical day is like for him studying and living in Newcastle.

Hey guys,

I’m Yanislav, but most people call me Yan or Yanis. I am currently a second year student and I’m studying a masters programme in Marine Technology w/Naval Architecture.

Newcastle was my first choice university for many reasons, the biggest one being the feeling of community and connection between the course and student. It really does feel like your degree doesn’t just matter to you, which makes studying much more enjoyable!

Another benefit of being here is the incredible city itself. From stunning architecture and high culture art installations/indie digs, to the wide array of bars/social spaces, restaurants and shops, it’s easy to find something new to do or a place to relax.

University and student life are, as everyone likes to joke, very different to anything you will have come across before.

Most of my days will start anywhere between 9am and 12pm and typically I will have at least 3 hours of timetabled activity, but this can easily be as much as 7 hours at the busiest times of the semester. The amount of contact time may seem big, but this is a blessing in disguise really! On any given day I will tend to do 2-3 hours of additional work in the many libraries/study areas around the university and I use this to keep on top of the lecture content and complete any additional work needed to do well in assignments and exams.

The lectures and content studied are quite varied; compare pure Engineering Maths with a wordier Production Management module; which provides a nice mix of study. Personally, I really enjoyed the Marne Engineering and Naval Architecture modules, as they had a good balance between the science and maths you’d expect to study.

Something I didn’t expect to do was coding and some of the Computer Aided Design, like modelling a single-cylinder engine. Although not easy to start with since I had no prior experience, I did find both very interesting and satisfying once I got the hang of it.

Outside of academia I am a member of the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS), as a Royal Navy sponsored student. This means I attend the local naval base once a week and develop the skills I will need in order to be a technical officer. Alongside this I also get the opportunity to lead and develop various Adventurous Training, specifically for me Offshore Sailing.

In my downtime I like to experiment with cooking, picking up various bits and pieces to try from the massive Grainger Market. I also enjoy watching the rugby at the nearby Newcastle Falcons Kingston Park stadium and there is also the compulsory night “Ooot in Toon” which you will no doubt experience at least once (a week).

Feel free to send me a message on Unibuddy, you are more than welcome to ask me more about my daily happenings, the course or any concerns you have about the step up to university!

Cheers for reading!

Yanis

Engineering: Graduate Prospects

Third year Mechanical Engineering student Jenny Olsen talks us through the many options that are available to engineering students once you graduate.

So you’re thinking of choosing an engineering degree to study at Newcastle University – great! You’ll learn lots of practical skills and engineering theory that will make you both knowledgeable and employable.

First of all – there are lots of different types of engineering; Mechanical, Civil, Bio-medical, Electrical and Chemical (to name just a few!). That means lots of different career routes, but despite there being lots of different streams of engineering we all study quite similar topics (at least for the first few years of your degree). Often, companies hire engineering graduates from more than one discipline, so try to study what you think you’ll enjoy the most! If you have a set career in mind, look at what types of engineers they tend to advertise vacancies for and consider tailoring your degree towards that.

So what happens after you graduate? You’ve passed all your exams, you’ve been at University for 3-4 years, maybe taken a placement year or Summer internship – what now?

As an engineering graduate, there are lots of options open to you – if you’ve graduated with a BEng and want to become chartered, the next step is probably taking an accredited Masters degree. Alternatively, some graduate schemes are tailored to take BEng graduates straight to being a chartered engineer, however these are harder to find and require a longer training period.

If you’ve taken an MEng and want to be chartered: straight into a graduate scheme or professional job role and you’re on your way to chartership!

There are plenty of places to search for graduate roles or engineering vacancies – using sites like Gradcracker is a good place to start however they generally only list big companies which makes the roles extremely competitive. The University Career’s Service also lists vacancies in the UK and abroad from companies who are actively seeking to recruit Newcastle graduates which is a brilliant resource. Alternatively, asking your lecturers if they know any companies that are hiring is a great way to find out about smaller companies that won’t be listed on the other sites!

But what if you’re not ready to give up Uni life just yet? If you’re one of the many students (like myself) who aren’t quite ready to leave behind the lecture hall, maybe further study is for you? There are plenty of research degrees or Doctorate schemes available, and this is a great time to specialise as you’ll already have had 3 or 4 years to discover what you really enjoy learning about.

Whatever you choose to do after your engineering degree, you’ll be well prepared to fit into a workplace, communicate with your colleagues and tackle the problems of our generation!

Jenny

A day in the life of…an Electrical and Electronic Engineering student

Third year Electrical and Electronic Engineering student Di Muanza talks us through what a typical day is like for him studying and living in Newcastle.

Hi everyone,

My name is Dinduele, known as Di,  and I am a third year student at Newcastle University studying MEng Electrical Power Engineering.

I chose Newcastle University as my first option for many reasons. Firstly, the teaching quality that they provide for Electrical and Electronics engineers is outstanding, which is very important for future engineers. The environment the university creates for all students despite their background, culture and race is also another major reason that made me pick Newcastle as my first choice. As an international student I feel welcome and I enjoy as much as I can because I am part of Newcastle University community.

The university campus is in the city centre and Newcastle is very compact city and everything is close by, which makes it very convenient for everyone living here – especially students! I personally love being able to get around without much effort or need to use public transport.

As an engineering student, you must be committed and ready for anything that you might face.

As a third year student most of my time is spent doing my final project which is a big part of my course and as a result I don’t have many lectures. I do have lectures on Tuesday from 9am-11am and 1pm-3pm, which focus on Electric Drives, where we consider topics such as drive configurations and load characteristic, motor modelling; and Renewable Energy where we talk about renewable energies such as solar, wind and wave energy and many other factors related to energy generation. On Friday I also have two lectures from 11am-1pm and 3pm-5pm; Law for Engineers where we learn the basic law concepts that are very relevant in the life of an electrical engineer; and Power System Operation where we analyse modern electricity network. During the breaks between lectures I might do some work on my assignments or  continue reading up on some topics that are relevant to my project.

It is essential as an electrical engineering student to feel confident with maths because most modules will require you to apply the mathematical knowledge you have and the lecturers expect you to know – especially if you are third year student.

I essentially have the rest of the week free, so I focus on reading and working on my project. I have my own studying program – each day I have a specific module that I consider and I spend 2 to 3 hours working on that particular module. Sometimes I go to the library or student union building to read or I can work at home. My project involves modelling and simulations as well as building a prototype. To model and simulate I use specialised computer software which means I use my personal laptop and to build a prototype I use the university electronics lab in Merz Court for soldering and testing. I work on my project almost every day, and it is a commitment you should definitely consider making as a stage 3 student.

Electrical and Electronic Engineering gives you an insight into communication, power (machines/converters) and electronics and at the same time it provides an opportunity for specialisation in your third year, where you can choose anything depending on what you like the most. I personally prefer power so that is what I chose to focus on.

When I am not in university I get involved sometimes in activities that the various socieities or NUSU (Newcastle university student union) organise, such as volunteering. I also do some occasional paid work that the university offers for students which is an excellent way to gain experience (and earn money) whilst studying.

I enjoy watching documentaries, anime such as one piece and some series I find interesting. I like going out with my friends/girlfriend or just hanging out at home, drinking/eating and play video games (even though I am not very good at them!) Sometimes I DJ and I really enjoy doing that. I also like cooking (my friends have all told me that they think I would make a great chef!) I go to the gym sometimes as I believe it is very important do some sort of exercise and I am currently learning how to swim – it is never too late to learn something new!

Please feel free to get in touch with me @dimuanza (Instagram/Facebook) if you would like to ask me about the course or anything else.

Thanks for reading!

Di

A day in the life of…a Chemical Engineering student

Fourth year Chemical Engineering student Joanna Snape talks us through what a typical day is like when you’re studying and living in Newcastle.

Hi everyone,

My name is Joanna and I’m currently completing my 4th and final year of my MEng degree in Chemical Engineering.

Newcastle wasn’t actually my first choice of university when applying, but now having spent 4 years here, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to have gone anywhere else. Newcastle is, without a doubt, the best student city there is. It’s so friendly here and I always feel safe; even at 3am after a night out! It’s a fun, bustling city filled with all sorts of things to do. Compared to bigger cities like London, living costs are cheap which allows way more room for opportunities to do fun things. I think it’s important to be in a city where there’s lots to do, especially when you’re doing something as tough as engineering.

That is the un-sugar-coated truth: engineering is TOUGH, but it’s also extremely rewarding. It is no understatement that the things you will learn in this day and age will have a huge impact on many of the important industries of the world.

As a chemical engineering student, my schedule always changes. There are a lot of contact hours. There are times where I’m only in for an hour or two and some days where I’m in from 9am-6pm – let’s just say you will definitely get your money’s worth from doing this course. A lot of the particularly long days are due to labs, which typically take about three hours. I like labs because the practical aspect of it means that time goes by pretty quickly and helps with the learning experience. Also, you only have labs every two weeks at most, so it’s really not too bad.

On a standard day, I would go to uni and go to my lectures. On a long day, during breaks I would usually go to the student union with friends to have lunch and maybe even have a drink or two. During the more demanding times of the year, I would spend my breaks working on assignments. A lot of the projects I’ve had throughout my degree have been group projects, so breaks between lectures are the usually the best times to meet up with everyone to get things done. A lot of group-work also means that we are a very tight-knit course, which is really nice because having people to go through it with helps to keep up the motivation. After uni, I would go home for dinner and relax with friends, or sometimes go and get ready to enjoy the famous Newcastle nightlife. Me and my housemates often have games nights or movie nights together.

Chemical engineering offers a very broad learning experience. A common misconception is that it’s predominantly chemistry with a bit of maths. It’s actually a lot of maths and physics with some basic chemistry. A lecturer of mine gave us a great analogy to better understand what chemical engineers actually are: “If chemists are the chefs then chemical engineers are the ones that run the restaurant.” We also have to learn a lot about finance and economics, as well as general safety engineering. The degree also incorporates aspects of mechanical and electrical engineering. We even do a lot of computer programming for simulating processes. This is all great because if you change your mind on what you want to do, mid-degree (or had no idea what you wanted to do in the first place), chemical engineering could get you into anything.

So chemical engineering is pretty intense, but I still have a lot of time to focus on other things. I’m currently in the dance society, I love drawing and playing music, I try my best to go to the gym as much as I can, and also do some tutoring and volunteering. It’s all about time-management, which you will inevitably become very good at as an engineering student. There is so much to talk about when it comes to the whole uni/student experience so if there’s anything you want to ask me, feel free to reach me via email on j.snape1@newcastle.ac.uk.

I hope this was helpful and thanks so much for reading!

ROV Testing Session

The wonderings of an engineering student

Today we are featuring a guest post from Jun Wei Fan – a naval architecture student who tells us about his experience with the Newcastle University Marine Projects Society.

rover (noun) a person who spends their time wandering

Towards the end of my first academic year, I found myself wondering – how do I make my time in university more fulfilling? It felt as though there was just something lacking from my life. Lost, I was. That was until I made an impromptu decision to run for President of the Newcastle University Marine Projects Society, succeeding and becoming Team Captain of the Newcastle University ROVers. Perhaps it’s no mere coincidence that I joined the ROVers to both start and stop roving – as in start building ROVs and stop wandering around aimlessly like a lost soul.

At this point, the unacquainted might be puzzled. What’s a ROV? Who are the ROVers? Well, simply put, the Newcastle University ROVers is a competitive team comprising members of the Newcastle University Marine Projects Society coming together to build a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). 

We started off with our roots within the Marine, Offshore and Subsea Technology group. Initially, the competitions we partook in were very marine-centric and teams comprised of only Marine Technology students, but in the years since, we’ve evolved to take on bigger, more challenging projects. In line with the new integrated School of Engineering, and the Head of School’s (Prof. Phil Taylor) encouragement of interdisciplinary projects, the Marine Projects Society now cherishes the benefits of working in multidisciplinary teams. This has allowed us to harness the full potential of each member from the various field of engineering! Rather than having marine tech students attempting to do everything from ground up, we are now able to draw upon the expertise of students from computing/electrical/mechanical/etc., accomplishing more at a faster pace.

3D CAD model of ROV
Computer Aided Design (CAD) Model of the ROV

In the outside world, employers expect graduates to work in interdisciplinary teams, leveraging on the complementary skill sets of each individual. In university however, us students are, more often than not, confined to working within our respective courses. And that is why the Marine Projects Society has embraced Prof. Taylor’s vision for a truly integrated School of Engineering, with students and faculty working seamlessly across disciplines to produce ground-breaking solutions.

Joining the society has given me the unique opportunity to experience what it’s like to work with other engineers and to understand their concerns; and working on the ROV project has forced me to take a broader view of matters at hand. In the past year, I’ve learnt how to fully consider the different aspects of an engineering project and as Captain, I’ve had to balance conflicting demands from the different sub-teams (electrical, marine, mechanical, systems) to achieve the optimum solution for the ROV.

Team enjoying dinner after a work session
The Team out for a late-night dinner after a long work session

The ROV project has also taught me many valuable skills and lessons – things which you’ll find hard-pressed to pick up in your daily lectures – but most importantly, it has allowed me to become a practical engineer. Theory is indeed important and as engineers, when we set out to design something, we too rely on theoretical knowledge to produce an initial design. But you’ll find that many things often work theoretically and yet fail in reality. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the notion of producing the perfect design.

Realistically speaking however, a number of different factors will hinder one’s ability to achieve that grandeur. Budget, size, material availability, these are all limitations that affected us while designing & building the ROV – and these challenges will differ from project to project! But learning how to work within and around these constraints has allowed all of us to become better engineers, engineers who are not just tied down by theory but are capable of thinking on our feet, adapting to changing circumstances. 

The internal electronics of the ROV
Internal Electronics of the ROV sitting inside our watertight housing

One of the reasons why we chose to embark on this ROV project is the unique set of challenges associated with designing something for prolonged operation in water. Water is a harsh and unforgiving environment, something us Marine Tech students will gladly tell you all about. It’s also common knowledge that water and electricity don’t mix well, which is why our team spent considerable efforts to make sure everything was watertight, and waterproof where we were unable to keep water out. This involved extensive use of O-Rings, silicon grease, stinky epoxy, coating of exposed elements with resin, and slathering sealing points with more disgusting pump grease than we’d like to admit. All that was critical in ensuring that no water could come into contact with electricity for risk of rendering the entire water body live and electrocuting ourselves.

The ROV ready for testing in our towing tank 
The ROV ready for testing in our towing tank

But all that would not have been possible without a few key people. Having a dedicated advisor to guide us on this project was vital in ensuring that we could come as far as we did. Dr Maryam Haroutunian went above and beyond in her role, always setting aside time to advise us and listen to our updates and to join us on testing sessions. She even came back to the labs on a weekend just so we could drop the ROV into the water for ballasting and test runs!

We also have the hydrolabs team to thank for helping us with the more technical construction aspects and for tolerating us. Special mention goes to Bob Hindhaugh and Ian Howard-Row for their continued support in allowing us to use the hydrodynamics laboratory’s facilities and for offering insights from their wealth of experience, and for allowing us the freedom to exercise our creativity even when you know some ideas might not work out ultimately.

The Team during an overnight work session
The Team during an overnight worksession

But, it’s not just all work and no fun! (although work can be equally fun if you’re passionate about it) Members of the Marine Projects Society also had the unique chance to interact with the industry. The society hosted a talk by Nick Ridley, Principal Engineer of Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), and we also got the chance to visit SMD for a site tour and see how they build ROVs up close. Both the talk and the trip gave our team some inspiration and guidance on designing ROVs, and was a delightful experience for all whom attended!

Site Visits to SMD 
Site Visits to SMD
More from the site visit to SMD
More from the site visit to SMD

Throughout this amazing journey, our team has gained valuable experience and knowledge that we now treasure deeply. Armed with this, we’re looking forward to the academic year 2018/19, where we hope to take the society to greater heights! In the pipeline are projects such as the ROV2.0 and other exciting (but still pending) ideas such as a Solar Car/Boat. It is our greatest wish that many new engineers will join us for a thrilling year of roving!

ROV Testing Session For myself, I’m equally exhilarated about starting on Stage 3 – a year where we begin to specialise in more advanced Naval Architecture concepts and reinforce our fundamentals through design projects and more. If anything, working on the ROV project has enhanced my desire to master not just the relevant technical know-how but also the interpersonal skills necessary for working on interdisciplinary projects after graduation! That is something I feel all Engineers should possess!

International Women in Engineering Day | #INWED18

Over the past few years there has been a global push to engage more women and girls in science and engineering in order to reduce the gender imbalance within the STEM industries. However, more still needs to be done to encourage and support women as they enter a STEM career and to highlight the valuable contributions women make to the field.

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, we spoke to some of the wonderful engineers at Newcastle University to find out why they decided to pursue a career in engineering…

Inspired to pursue a career in Engineering? Find out more about our undergraduate Engineering degrees here.