Tag Archives: newcastle university

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.

The Importance of Combating Desertification and Drought

The 17th June marks the United Nation’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. The day serves as a reminder of the international efforts taking place to combat land degradation – these efforts are incredibly important to the livelihood of not only a huge number of ecosystems, but to millions of humans worldwide.

Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. Degradation processes can be fueled by a number of factors, including temperature and rainfall changes resulting from climate change and human-induced drivers of change such as soil erosion.

As the land begins to degrade, the benefits it once provided begin to diminish and the climate can be affected due to “many forms of land degradation releasing carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.”

Research conducted by Professor Mark Reed, Newcastle University, and Professor Lindsay Stringer of University of Leeds highlights how the effects of climate change may be far greater for the world’s poorest people than previously feared due to the devastating consequences desertification can have on food production.

“It’s easy to think of land degradation as a problem of the developing world that doesn’t affect us here in the UK,” explains Professor Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University.

“But if we continue to lose productive forests and rangelands around the world, then the carbon that they once locked up will be released into the atmosphere where it’ll drive further loss of productive ecosystems and more climate change.

“This will leave even more people vulnerable to the combined effects of climate change and land degradation.

“It’s a vicious cycle and one that will affect everyone living on the planet if we don’t start doing more to avoid runaway climate change by properly looking after our land.”

In order to tackle this problem, Professors Reed and Stringer explain that we need a more collaborative approach between researchers, local communities and international policy-makers to create timely and cost effective solutions.

Find out more about Newcastle University’s agricultural research here.

Eight Days at Seathwaite Valley

A vital part of many of our courses at Newcastle University is practical work; giving student’s the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge is essential in helping them to progress. Today, Geomatics student, Sheoma Richards, tells us about her experience of a field trip to Seathwaite Valley.

Every year first year students on the Geomatics courses embark on an eight-day field course to Seathwaite Valley in the Lake District. The purpose of this trip is to allow students to practice the stills learnt in a lecture room to accomplish real world tasks. The overall aim was to produce a detailed topographic and contour map of a given area by triangulation, levelling, traversing and detailing.

Day 1

We arrived to Glaramara House which was our base where we would process our data, have meals and spend the night. GIS (Geographical Information Systems) students set out to create a sampling regime to capture soil moisture values and analyze these values based on a quantitative and qualitative hypothesis against soil moisture. SMS (Surveying and Mapping Science) students practiced setting up a total station, taking angle measurements and completed a two-peg test. We all had an evening lecture and then savored one of the many astounding three-course dinners provided by the hotel.

Day 2

GIS students collected their points and returned to the hotel to upload and process them for analysis. SMS students occupied a specific control station and sited to other visible stations within the triangulation network. They also drew a witness diagram for the station that they occupied and created abstract sheets for horizontal and vertical angles.

Dr. David Fairbairn using a Leica Zenos.

Day 3

GIS students presented their findings and proceeded to Seathwaite Valley to measure 12 rounds of observations for horizontal angles. SMS students did levelling at the valley to confirm that the values from OSBM remained unchanged over the years. In the evening, all Geomatics students were now joined and divided into four groups to establish a control network scheme. The Lake District showed us its true potential as we were showered with rain for that entire day.

Day 4

To my surprise, we were greeted by a bright yellow object in the sky that we definitely did not expect to see. A set-up challenge was performed to determine the location that each group would have to survey. Group two celebrated as they proved to be victorious on this challenge and were able to get the first choice. After the challenge was over, each group went to their respective sites with ranging rods to complete reconnaissance. We headed back to the center for lunch and later returned to the valley to start traversing. We placed pegs into the ground to create the control stations and drew witness diagrams to be able to locate them for future reference.

Nominated member of each group performing the set-up challenge.

Day 5

At first, we were very worried that we would not be able to do any traversing as there was thick fog everywhere! However, a few minutes after arriving to the valley, the fog suddenly vanished, making way for the sun. We continued our traverse observations and computed our traverse for horizontal and vertical misclosures. Levelling was also completed to known benchmarks to make sure that our vertical values of two stations matched those of the OSBM.

Day 6

Despite the soggy weather, more levelling was done, and groups began to detail points of their site to be able to map the area. These detail points were entered into a spreadsheet to generate the coordinates of each point for plotting. We also created 2D and 3D excel spreadsheets of our traverse observations.

Levelling through the rainy weather.

Day 7

Groups continued to detail while some members remained at the hotel to start the process of plotting. Later that evening, we were visited by two representatives from Leica Geosystems who demonstrated some of their software and equipment to us. One of the representatives was a past student of Newcastle University and also educated us on life beyond Geomatics.

Day 8

There was a set-up competition between the representatives from Leica Geosystems and two staff members. The winner was Dr. Mills who currently holds the record for the fastest set-up time! We proceeded with our plotting while some members got additional information for detailing. Once the plotting was completed, it was impressive to see the finished product of a topographic and contour map of Seathwaite Valley for each site. As a feeling of contentment came over us, reality struck when we realized that this meant we would be leaving tomorrow morning.

Representatives from Leica Geosystems competing against two staff members for set-up competition.

Although it was eight days filled with work, it was one of the most enjoyable things that I have done on the course thus far. I would advise prospective students to make the most of this field course and appreciate the method of processing by hand. Only when you understand what is done by the instrument and software, would you truly understand what you are doing. If you are looking for a degree course that not only teaches you what you need to know but also challenges you to think outside the box, Newcastle University’s Geomatics courses are for you!

Find out more about Newcastle University’s Geomatics courses here.

International Day for Biological Diversity

With threats to wildlife constantly increasing, conservation policies are being put in place in order to protect biodiversity. However, with limited resources available, these policies have to attempt to prioritise certain species according to their “value”. New research, led by Newcastle University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the British Trust for Ornithology, has shown that prioritising based only on one key species “value” could put some of our best loved wildlife at risk.

The research, which focuses on UK farmland birds, categorises according to three core values – conservation priority value, economic value (consumers of weed-seeds) and cultural value, measured through poetry.

Mark Whittingham, Professor of Applied Ecology at Newcastle University, explains:

“Considering one value in isolation gives you a very skewed picture of what’s important and what isn’t.

“Birds such as the chaffinch might consume large numbers of weed seeds which helps farmers, but they aren’t rare and compared to other species they barely feature in poetry.

“Conversely, the crow isn’t rare and isn’t particularly useful for eating weed seeds but we found it features frequently in poems down the ages which suggests it is intrinsically linked with society and culture. The question is how you put a ‘value’ on this.”

Professor Whittingham says that although this study only looks at a small selection of the potential ways individual species can be valued for different purposes, based on the evidence the more values that are considered the more species are likely to be important.

“Prioritisation makes sense when you have scarce resources but there is an inherent danger that by going down that route we take our eye off those species that are just as valuable to us but in less tangible ways.

“What we have demonstrated is that the more ‘values’ you take into account the more you realise that every species is important and has a part to play and so we need to be considering this in our policies and strategies for natural resource management and future planning.”

Protecting biodiversity is a pressing issue with habitats and species being lost at a devastating rate. Ensuring that the most valuable species are prioritised is vital to the success of certain conservation policies,  however, as Newcastle University research proves, placing “value” on a species can be a tricky process and a whole range of things need to be considered in order to best grasp the impact an animal has both culturally and environmentally.

Find out more about Newcastle University’s ecology and conservation research here.

World Bee Day | Bee Facts

It’s World Bee day and we’ve compiled some interesting facts about our flying friends. We’ll try to keep the bee puns to a minimum because bee puns always sting. We really don’t get what all the buzz is about!

Fun facts about Bees:

Honey bees beat their wings around 190 times a second; that’s 11,400 times a minute! The speed of their flapping wings is why we hear the “buzzing” noise when they fly past.

The average worker bee will only make around 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

It would take 1,100 bees to make 1kg of Honey, and they would have to visit 4 million flowers!

Newcastle University research has shown that the initial sweetness a bee tastes when they feed on nectar can last up to 10 seconds – this is much longer than in other insects! Find out why bees have such a sweet tooth here.

In every hive there is a queen bee, the queen bee can live up to five years. The summer is the busiest month for her as she can lay up to 2,500 eggs a day.

Did you know bees are also excellent dancers? When a worker returns to the hive, it will give it’s hair a quick brush with a ‘honeycomb’… and will perform a “waggle dance”. The bee will move itself in a figure of eight motion and will waggle its body to indicate where the best food source is.

Fossil evidence is sparse for these tiny creatures, but scientists believe bees have been around for more than 100 million years!

Not so fun facts:

Unfortunately the number of bees is declining very fast, in the past 15 years, whole colonies have been disappearing. Billions of bees across the world are dying, this is called ‘colony collapse disorder’ – in some regions 90% of bees have disappeared.

The reasons why bees are declining in numbers are very hard to determine although one known cause is the pesticides farmers are spraying on their crops. These chemicals are entering the hives from the worker bees who are out collecting pollen; if the chemicals are too toxic they will kill the bees.

Another factor leading to bees disappearing is the Vaorra mite. This mite attacks the worker bees and infects it with the varroosis disease. This disease will then kill the bee.

How you can help?

Make sure you are not using pesticides on your plants and you are carefully checking your plants to see if they have been pre-treated with any harsh chemicals.

If you are going to plant flowers in your garden or local area, always use bee friendly plants that bees can use to make more honey. Some examples are Crocuses, hyacinths and English marigolds. Surprisingly no bee-gonias!

You may not have known this but bees are thirsty; so along with all the beautiful flowers you are going to plant, place a small basin of water beside them and allow your busy visitors to have a drink.

Remember bee puns are good for your health, they give you lots of vitamin Bee!

 

 

Work/Life Balance as a Mechanical Engineering Student

Ever wondered how to balanced a degree like Mechanical Engineering with social activities, relaxation and part-time work? It can seem tricky, but second year student, Will O’Donnell, has got it covered. In today’s blog post he explains how he manages his time. 

Life at Newcastle
I’m currently studying for a BEng degree in Mechanical Engineering, and as a Stage 2 student I remember what was important to me when choosing a university to study at. Something that mattered a lot was the work/life balance wherever I decided to go, which, thankfully, resulted in me choosing Newcastle. It is often difficult to see how to manage your studies and extra-curricular activities when looking in from the outside, which was true for us all as applicants. Fortunately there is no shortage of things to do here, as well as your studies (though as a Mech Eng student, the work is plentiful). Contrary to popular belief, there is definitely room for a life outside of an Engineering Degree, and it is remarkably easy to find a nice balance between the two aspects of university life when you get the hang of it.

Stage 1
First year of Engineering, while undoubtedly a step up from school teaching, is not the hellscape it’s cracked up to be. Sure, there’s several new subjects that you’ve never considered before (e.g. Thermofluid Dynamics, Materials Science etc), but it’s important to remember that these are new to everyone else too. I worried that not taking Further Maths at A-Level would severely hinder me, but the point of Stage 1, I soon realised, is to bring everyone to the same level. For the Further Maths students the topics were very familiar, but the lecturers did a fantastic job of making everything clear and understandable for those of us who didn’t know our imaginary numbers from our eigenvalues. This was also true for mechanics, as the material taught was familiar to many, but not to the extent that it became boring or overly simple. There’s a lot of practical work, no shortage of trips, and enough fresh content to keep you on your toes. Busy though the days may be with learning, there’s still plenty of time after to blow off some steam in the various societies on offer, or in a nearby pub. I never felt particularly overwhelmed, and there was invariably room for relaxation and enjoyment over the year.

Stage 2
Second year is a bit of a gear-change. The complexity of the course content steps up, and the amount of work is greater than that of first year. While this may be the case, and it is certainly unavoidable, it was not the death of my life outside of the lecture theatre. In fact, I joined the Water Polo Society, and trained regularly every week. Keeping active helped me focus and introduced me to a bunch of new people. The nature of Stage 2 meant that our course spent a lot of time together outside of teaching time, and we became significantly closer as a result. More so than Stage 1, the sense of community in our year was present. Luckily we are all quite similar, with enough differences to keep life interesting.

Winding Down
Getting out of lectures and feeling the fresh air on your face is a wonderful sensation, unless it’s past October and the temperatures have plummeted again. The rest of the day is waiting to be filled, and provided I’ve done all my work (even occasionally when I haven’t), I go and enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation. As with most students, Netflix is my friend at times like these. If it’s sunny, some of us will go to the Moor and pass out for a bit/play a game of something.

When I want to do something more active, we will go the gym (for some unfathomable reason we’ve started going at 6am, but I feel great afterwards and oddly have more energy during the day) or hit the climbing wall. There’s also a local pool that’s great for a swim whenever I’m feeling particularly restless.

Part-Time Work
In second year, I got myself a teaching position in the local pool. It’s easy to fit around my studies due to the short hours, and the people there are fantastic. I wouldn’t say its strictly necessary to get a job in first year, as there’s a lot to take in and a job can only add to that feeling. That being said, it’s never a bad thing to have an income, and it takes some of the pressure off finances.

Time Management
I’ve certainly had some trouble with this, especially at first. Being by yourself for the first time, while liberating, is a minefield of potential pitfalls. In first year, it is crucial to develop some good habits in terms of self-discipline, as these will carry forward into future years. It’s tempting to stay up till all hours on a binge-watching session, or go out four times a week, but as the year goes on this can affect the uni side of life. I found it useful to work away from the flat, and especially in second year it is much easier to focus in the library. It’s also easier to go somewhere and do impending work straight after lectures because, lets face it, if you go home intending to do some work later it’s never going to happen. Basically, so long as you use some common sense and, that critical thinking that Mech Eng imparts, you can’t go far wrong.

Work/Life Balance as a Chemical Engineering Student

Amelia Pettitt tells us how she balances her Chemical Engineering degree with competitive running, hobbies and part time work.

I’m currently in my fourth year of study of Chemical Engineering, specialising in sustainable engineering to complete my masters degree. I am also a highly competitive runner and therefore when I first came to university I was unsure of how I would manage the work/life balance of studying an intense degree like engineering with my sporting commitments. However I soon realised that although this would be a challenge, my involvement in both would complement each other.

In stage 1 the typical contact hours were 9-1 each day, which I found worked really well for me. As the course requirements weren’t too intense, I enjoyed going to the gym at 1 after my lectures to give myself a break, before completing tutorials and any assignments later in the afternoon. I was catered therefore I had another break to go to dinner with my flatmates. I didn’t realise it then, but all these breaks were really benefiting my studies and I felt I was constantly socialising!

Being surrounded by other students in halls with less contact hours didn’t phase me and I didn’t feel I missed out. If I wanted to go out, I could often manage one night a week, which I found was enough for me. I would always choose the sport night on a Wednesday as this allowed me to see my running friends as well as my flatmates. My flatmates would often go out more than this, but my halls were so big that there were other chemical engineers nearby that wouldn’t be going out, and there is something quite satisfying about seeing them hungover and missing out on a free breakfast when you wake up feeling fine.

In stage 2 the contact hours increased slightly, but the days were more spread out with lectures spanning the day 9-5 with multiple breaks. From stage 2 onwards I began to work in uni 9-5 and complete my training and gym sessions outside of this. I found this worked really well for me, as I could switch my brain off and socialise with friends not on the course after a full day in university. I found I had less time to go out, but this was mainly because of my training commitments rather than the course. I became more disciplined and structured with my time, and this provided me with a healthy lifestyle. I also applied for a placement year for after second year. I found I spent a lot of time preparing for interviews with help from the careers service. The course was structured to enable this, with majority of the weighting of the year based on January and June exams rather than assignments, giving me time before Christmas to secure my placement. I still worked at weekends if I needed to, however this probably wasn’t essential – definitely if you aren’t applying for placements and training once or twice each day!

After my placement year I found the 9-5 routine was ingrained in me and I wasn’t looking to change it coming back to university! It is difficult to have every weekend off, as things do come up in the week and I always want to try to make up for this lost time. However overall, now in my last year of study, I tend to take weekends off. I’m either travelling to races or exploring Newcastle – making the most of my last year in the city.

I’m also part of the baking society. I enjoy baking as its almost like engineering in the way you have to plan in advance and follow a schedule to ensure your bake will be successful. However I also find it very relaxing and a chance to be away from the computer for a little while. I bake on the university campus which is ideal – the society provide all the equipment and ingredients and I just bake for a couple of hours and head back to the library with my fresh library snacks. It’s perfect, and doesn’t take up too much time out of my day. I find adding hobbies into my day at specific times really helps my studies as I am more motivated to work hard if I know I need to leave at a set time.

Engineering has a lot of contact hours, which although this may lead people to believe it would be less social, it actually results in having a lot more friends! I know everyone in my year at university and I live with Chemical Engineers. This is ideal for asking for help and feeling at home at university. If I need help, I can always find someone in the computer cluster. I have other friends too, from the university triathlon team, cross country team and baking society, all of which hold social events for when I do want a break from any chemical engineering talk. I’ve been to Edinburgh, Sheffield, Stirling, Brighton, Manchester, Leeds, and London – all over the UK with the teams competing.

If you are worried about the financial side of university, Engineering opens doors to many scholarships which are definitely worth working towards! If you feel you need a part-time job, then there are many opportunities on campus including those to be a student ambassdor and street scientist. As a student ambassador I show future students around the university. As a street scientist I perform simple science experiments to explain everyday concepts to children aged primary school to A level, on campus and at local schools and events. I thoroughly enjoy them both, and they add to my communication and presentation skills, as well as my scientific knowledge!

If I was to choose to come to university again, despite how challenging chemical engineering can be at times, I don’t believe there is a better degree to do. Chemical engineering gives you so many transferable skills, providing a technical background and supportive learning environment. There are so many opportunities to get involved in through extra activities on offer at university, and with an engineering degree, you can still fit these in by prioritising the most important which is an essential skill to set you up for the working environment.

Find out more about Newcastle University’s Chemical Engineering courses here.

 

Meet the Expert | Dr Richard Bevan, From Penguins to Puffins

Today, we talk to Newcastle University’s Dr Richard Bevan about where his research has taken him throughout his career. In order to better understand the overall ecology of animals, Richard Bevan’s research focuses on the way that animals interact with their environment both physiologically and behaviourally. Richard’s specific areas of study include: the physiology, ecology and behaviour of aquatic animals; foraging behaviour of seabirds; animal conservation.

   

Describing how his career began, Dr Bevan says: “Born and bred in the valleys of South Wales, I ventured to the north of the country to take Zoology at Bangor University. After completing my BSc, I spent a couple of years in Denmark working on an animation film, “Valhalla”, before returning to the UK to start my PhD on the physiology of swimming and diving in aquatic vertebrates (Tufted Ducks, Barnacle Geese and Green Turtles) at Birmingham University.”

Luckily, Richard finished his PhD at the right time to take up a post-doctoral position studying the energetics  of the higher Antarctic predators. This involved him spending three summer seasons on Bird Island, South Georgia on a joint project between Birmingham University and the British Antarctic Survey. This small island, just 4.9km long and 800m wide, is home to hundreds of thousands of birds – making it one of the world’s richest wildlife sites. Among it’s diverse population of wildlife, it is home to some 50,000 breeding pairs of penguins and 65,000 pairs of fur seals. Richard spent his time on the island studying Gentoo Penguins, Black-browed Albatrosses and Antarctic Fur Seals.

Richard continued to study penguins and other seabirds, but moved on from Bird Island: “This was followed by a project studying King Penguins on Possession Island, Crozet Archipelago; a joint project between Birmingham University and CNRS. I then spent a couple of years as a Principal Scientific Officer with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge where I was in charge of the their fish-eating birds research (mainly inland Cormorants and Goosanders).”

“In 1998, I moved to Newcastle to take up my position as lecturer in what was the School of Biology, Newcastle University. It was early in the new millennium that I first became involved with the Farne Islands and I have been conducting research on the birds (Puffins, Shags, Arctic Terns, Kittiwakes etc.) and grey seals since then.”

Much closer to home than the likes of Bird Island or Possession Island, the Farne Islands are just a few miles from the coast of Northumberland. Touted by David Attenborough as one of his favourite places in the UK to see “magificent nature”, the Farne Islands are rich in wildlife. The Farne Islands are one of the best places to see and study puffins, now a red listed bird, meaning that there has been a severe decline in the population of puffins over the last 25 years. Some of Richard’s research on the Farne Islands has involved attaching hi-tech tags, which include GPS, geo-locators and time/depth recorders, to puffins. These tags provided a detailed record of the bird’s locations and habits to help understand why the puffin population is in decline.

A lecturer for many modules within Newcastle’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Dr Richard Bevan includes a trip to the Farne Islands in his “Introduction to Marine Vertebrates” module, which provides students with a first hand encounter of a range of seabirds and seals, allowing them to make observations of marine vertebrates in their natural environment. If you’re interested in finding out more about the biology and zoology courses that Newcastle University offer, you can do so here.

Work/Life Balance as a Civil Engineering Student

The latest in our work/life balance series sees Jasmine Tendaupenyu discuss how she manages her time as a second year Civil Engineering student at Newcastle. 

I’m currently studying BEng Civil Engineering at Newcastle University and as a stage 2 student I remember deciding what mattered most to me when choosing a university to study my passion.  One thing I often get asked is how I find the work/life balance.

In stage 1 we mostly did theory, I found it to be interesting in general, but especially because we occasionally had guest lecturers. The workload wasn’t too intense and that gave us the opportunity to get to know our lecturers and learn more about the different sectors within Civil Engineering. One of the aspects of stage 1 I found to be quite difficult was not knowing where lecture rooms and offices were and not knowing how to go through certain procedures like sending in a PEC form.

This year has gone much more smoothly as I know more about the city, the university and the course. The workload, however, has increased tenfold. One thing that I have been able to do this year is manage my time better so that I can focus on my academics and my social life while not putting too much on my plate. There is a lot more group work this year which takes some time to get accustomed to, but it is a good way to meet other people from your course who you might not normally interact with. There is also a lot more lab and practical work, being able to put the theory that we learn into practice is one of my favourite things about the course and stage 2. I also really appreciate that in stage 2 there are several opportunities put together by the university for us throughout the year to meet people who are working in industry.

I think being part of societies and organisations that I really enjoy is helpful, so participating in their events is one way for me to switch off. I also go to the gym and watch a lot of documentaries.

I had a part time job in the first semester of stage 1. I hadn’t learned to manage my time well yet, and I had taken on a lot of hours. I also worked as a student ambassador for the school and participated in a number of societies and on a committee. It was definitely fun, but it didn’t leave a lot of time for hobbies or just to relax. This year I still work as a student ambassador and I’m committed to only a couple of societies – this gives me more time for myself.

I’ve come to realise that managing my time is a lot easier when I organise my priorities and deadlines by writing them down. I try to start all of my academic work as soon as I can and make sure that I complete it before I go out to do something fun. If it’s a larger piece of coursework and there are weeks or months before the due date I break the work up into smaller tasks and set mini deadlines to meet. If I am quite busy I try to use the little breaks that I have between lectures for things like meeting friends for lunch.

Find out more about Newcastle University’s Civil Engineering degrees here.