Minefields of Engineering
My name is Omar, and I am second year PhD student in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE). I’ve always had an interest in engineering but after finishing my A-Levels back in 2006, I was really struggling to choose one discipline of engineering to pursue. I’ve always enjoyed physics and mathematics which is utilised by all disciplines of engineering in different ways. After lengthy deliberation and discussions I decided to go for electrical and electronic engineering. The fact that EEE is involved in everything we do in modern life was fascinating, not to mention the fast paced development it has been displaying in the last 10 years producing some of the most exciting developments in the last decade or even century.
I joined the University of Manchester as an undergraduate and completed a Masters in Engineering (MEng) degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. During my final (fourth) year I was lucky enough to find myself working on an exciting project that was trying to help a charity, Find A Better Way (FABW), develop better tools for detecting landmines in countries affected by wars and previous conflicts. I was then offered a PhD studentship to continue my research upon graduation.
There are currently 110 million active landmines in place that would require around £20 billion and, more importantly, 1,000 years to clear using current clearance technologies. These mines are scattered across more than 65 countries and have been left behind as an enduring legacy of previous conflicts and wars. They continue to kill and maim civilians (particularly children) worldwide, thus the charity was launched with the focus of funding research to develop innovative ideas and technologies to aid the de-mining procedure.
Current demining procedures typically utilise mainly metal detectors to locate mines by interrogating the metal content within a mine. This method displays an imperative weakness as every metallic object needs to be treated as a mine, whether it is a nail, bullet shell, a can or in fact a mine (the picture to the right shows the relative size of a mine, compared to a bullet shell and a screw). In areas of previous conflict this metallic clutter decreases the rate of clearance severely as well as increasing the cost of clearance and risk. Hence, a number of projects have been launched at the University to try and provide the de-miners with more information about the objects detected in an effort to confidently eliminate clutter, speeding up the process and saving cost and lives.
Throughout my study at university I have gained vast knowledge and developed vital skills that will hopefully help me when looking for a job. During my undergraduate and research degrees I was able to learn about the world of EEE, opening the opportunity to pursue a career in some of the most exciting firms that are involved in technological developments around the world, from Apple to Jaguar to Airbus. Engineering naturally helps to develop an analytical mindset and heightens your attention to detail: values that are sought out by employers in every sector. I have also developed my team working skills, as well as problem solving abilities, through the numerous projects I undertook during my undergraduate degree. So, hopefully, with these recent additions to my skill set, I am looking to pursue a career in consultancy and engineering. The fast paced nature of consultancy and the broad exposure you get for the sector is an attractive aspect; however, a departure from the engineering world still seems like an upsetting prospect so I will also be looking for opportunities within it. In a way, that is the beauty of engineering; the fact that you can always pursue it as a career path but, if you feel like moving to something different, all other industries are keen to employ you as a result of the unique set of skills it nurtures.
For more information about EEE at the University of Manchester, visit the department's webpages.
If you would like to find out more about Find A Better Way (FABW), the projects it funds and the work it does to help communities affected by mines, click here.
The Institute of Engineering and Technology will help you discover more about EEE and its career prospects. You can also find out more about study and careers in Engineering through the Brightside Trust's Bright Knowledge pages.