Engineering: the practical application of science to real world problems

by YPU Admin on March 21, 2014. Tags: aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, PhD, and Research


My name is Craig Morrison and I am a 2nd year PhD student in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. My research is linked to the nuclear industry, using computers to try and simulate what happens to materials in the extreme environment in a nuclear reactor.

In Depth

I enjoyed STEM subjects throughout school and studied for A levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Geography. I considered applying to study Physics at university but was unsure of the jobs on offer after graduation. I was advised that for those who are curious about science and maths but still have an eye for practical problems, maybe stemming from a childhood love of Lego or Meccano, studying engineering can be a good alternative to a pure science at university. So I decided engineering was for me and went to the University of Sheffield to study for a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

For those who don’t know, engineering is the practical application of science to real world problems. Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying; ‘Scientists investigate that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been’. Essentially the science taught at school and university explores the world around us, developing equations and theories to explain why things behave the way they do. Engineering takes the principles developed by scientists and uses them to design and create the man-made world we live in.

Engineers are tasked with solving a wide range of problems, often with significant time, resource and financial constraints. New challenges evolve with the world around us ensuring that the learning and self-improvement never stops. How do we supply food, water and clean energy to a global population that is expected to hit 9 billion by 2040? Where will these people live? How do we combat the effects of global warming? These issues make for scary reading, but provide the fuel from which engineers thrive.

Different branches of engineering exist to cope with the different problems encountered in everyday life. The house you live in and the bridges you drive over were designed by civil engineers. The car or train you travel in were designed by a mechanical engineer to get you there quickly and safely whilst using as little fuel as possible. Aerospace engineers create the planes which fly over huge distances to take you go on holiday. And that’s not mentioning electrical/electronic, materials, manufacturing, bio-engineering or the multiple other engineering disciplines fields that have emerged.

In many engineering industries a skills shortage is imminent as large chunks of the workforce approach retirement age ensuring engineering graduates and apprentices are in high demand. Furthermore, the team working, communication and problem solving skills are sought by other industries as well – business, accounting and finance in particular – a reassuring thought for those interested in the subject but unsure as to whether engineering is their preferred long term career choice. 

Going Further

As a general rule, to study an engineering based course at University will require an A level in Maths alongside a science depending on the branch which you wish to study, e.g. Physics will be needed for Mechanical engineering, chemistry for Chemical engineering, biology for Bioengineering.

Make no mistake an engineering degree can be difficult and challenging but in terms of employability and job satisfaction it remains one of the best degrees you can study. There is also a fun side with societies where students can design and build a racing car (formula student), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV society) or experience piloting and aircraft design (Flight Simulator Society). Whether you want to design rollercoasters, become an astronaut or improve our future by solving some of the biggest issues faced by the world today, an engineering degree could be your first step to an exciting, varied and satisfying career.

Find out more about engineering at the University of Manchester here:

You can find out more about engineering in general and the careers on offer here:

You can find out more about student societies in MACE here:

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