My name is Gabriele and I was born and raised in the marvellous lands of
Lithuania, but for the past 2 years I have been living in the UK. I am a second
year Materials Science and Engineering student at The University of Manchester.
Many people ask me what Materials Engineering is and why I choose this subject.
Well, I have always enjoyed Physics, Chemistry and Maths and I was searching
for a course combining all of them. Until, nanotechnologies and graphene popped
into my radar and without a second thought, I applied to the university where
graphene was found. As a teenager, I was always striving for challenges so studying a course with so many different fields (biomaterials, tissue
engineering, polymers, alloys, ceramics) was exactly what I was looking for.
Why I Like Being an Engineer
Engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM; therefore, whenever
I tell people my degree, I receive stereotypical questions about
being a female in engineering. Engineering captivates me as I am in lectures
with world-class researchers and this inspires me to improve personally, contribute
to society using tools of engineering and make a difference. Being so
interested in the academic world, I asked my favourite lecturer if I could do a
summer project in his team. After my first year at university, I got an
internship at Manchester Institute of Biotechnology where I conducted research
on self-healing polymers, made from oxidised lactose.
Imagine getting a one-page long description of an experiment, where no
measurements, concentrations, catalysts are given and you have to make a final
product, which in theory, when pressure is applied, should be able to recover
the tears. I was working with extremely time-consuming and expensive products
and every small mistake could cost a lot of money but because of my hard work,
the results of this extremely challenging project surprised the PhD students
and raised eyebrows of post-doctorates. No one expected the first-year university
student to succeed and be able to contribute to the academic paper – but I did
Why I Joined a Society
Universities are famous for their range of different societies. As I was
interested in Aeronautical Engineering, I joined Flight Simulation society where
I soon became a part of the committee. During my time here I expanded my
knowledge by designing my own aircraft with some help from Aerospace Engineering
students and in my second year in the society, me and my teammate (we were the ‘strangest’
team, as I was the only female participating and he is a first-year student)
designed a vertical take-off and landing aircraft and were chosen to represent
the university at an aircraft designing and handling competition in the United
States of America.
It is such an amazing feeling to be surrounded by like-minded people who
are passionate about their field of studies and it has encouraged me to learn
more and participate in discussions about new concepts. In the beginning, it
was difficult to be a part of this society as I had no knowledge how an
aircraft works, but slowly I became equal to all other members and involved in
socials and events. This year, I taught first-year members how to
use flight simulators, shared my experience about ‘living conditions’ in the
simulator room and got to fly my aircraft in it with the full motion power – I
felt like I was a real-life pilot!
What Lies Ahead?
During my second year at university I found out that Rolls Royce
together with Target Jobs were conducting a competition for Female Undergraduate
of the Year. Over 800 applications were sent and only 20 students were invited
to attend an assessment centre in Rolls Royce. Proudly, I can say that I was
one of those females. They were 2 amazing days, filled with networking, getting
to know the company and finding out possibilities for after I graduate. One of
Rolls Royce’s goals is to have more senior female engineers and attract them to
the engineering world. This company conducts a wide range of projects where you
can put yourself in a position of a real engineer and what it feels like
working there and I really saw myself undertaking the challenges in a world-leading
company and who knows – maybe in a couple of years I will go back there and
lead a group of apprentices into the engineering world.
I cannot imagine studying another subject. Engineering
intrigues me every day with new technologies, new materials being invented, and
it gives me many different opportunities to improve.
Read more about engineering here:
Hi, my name is Abdullah. I am 21 years old and currently in
my second year studying at the University of Manchester. I study Mechanical Engineering
which I find exciting, inventive and fun! So, what is it like and what can you
do with an engineering degree?
Why I Chose Mechanical Engineering
First, let’s see the many reasons for studying it. I chose
the course so I could become an engineer primarily because I enjoy STEM subjects.
Studying engineering has enabled me to use the topics I liked the most in one
course: Maths, Physics and Chemistry. Furthermore, being an engineer provides
the opportunity to apply your knowledge to real-world situations and be
creative every day, solving real-world problems. Additionally, the rapid and
constant developments mean the subject will only become more interesting and
engineers will be more and more sought after. There are always plenty of jobs
and you will never be bored with what you do.
A Day in the Life of a Mechanical Engineering Student
On a typical day, I wake up at around 7.30 am and travel by
bus to the university which starts at 9 am most of the time. With around 6 or 7
hours at university, the day is made up of a mix of lectures and tutorials
spread over 2 campuses: Main Campus and North Campus (where engineers are
mainly based). On North Campus, lectures are always in the Renold Building. Also, there
is the George Begg Building with exceptional computer facilities. This is where
I prefer to work with friends; 2-3 hours of study is required each day. Finally,
to research for assignments, I go to North Campus’s Sackville Street Building
library for books.
In terms of work outside classes, this contains coursework,
reports based on previous lab sessions or rewatching lectures once uploaded
online to further grasp the concepts. In addition, there are tutorial sheets
that I need to attempt before the tutorial class. These are questions based on lectures
in the past week of that module then the class tutor goes through the solutions.
While this seems like a lot, there is still plenty of free time if you chose to
study Mechanical Engineering!
What Can You Do With a Mechanical Engineering Degree?
Using the Careers Service and career fairs at the
university, I have learnt about options you have after you finish the course in
lots of detail. The obvious one is to become a mechanical engineer which most
students do. Mechanical engineers are mostly hired by the aerospace, automotive
and manufacturing industries. After the course, you can also do a Master’s
degree which is another 1-year degree. With this, engineers are able to become
chartered engineers in the future which means faster career progression and increased
Surprisingly, there is considerable demand for engineering students in investment
banking too. Generally, it is working as an analyst to predict market trends
because students are taught the numerical and analytical skills applicable to
the role. Alternatively, I learnt at a university career fair that there is
also scientific research in engineering as an option but this requires an extra
Overall, I would conclude that studying Mechanical Engineering
has a lot of benefits and an extensive range of excellent career prospects that
it leads to. To learn more, details can be found on the university website in
the links below:
Hey, my name is Farah Farzana and I am a
medical student at the University of Manchester. Last year after I completed my
third year, I decided to take a year out of medicine to do a Masters in
Research degree in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. This is known as an intercalated degree, that
many medics opt to do if they have further interests in research or any subject
in general. After completing this
Masters, I will go back to medical school to complete my final remaining two
years and hopefully graduate and become a doctor.
I never imagined or really anticipated
during the first few years of Medicine, that I have any interest in research.
To be honest, I was always scared by the prospect of going into research and
imagined it to be pretty intense and hard. However during my third year I
started becoming more interested in regenerative medicine, especially cell
based therapies and the potential of regenerating tissues. The growing area of
research that focuses of regenerating damaged organs or tissues, so in effect
you are giving them a new life every time they are damaged intrigued me. So I
decided to look into regenerating the structures within our spines known as the
What is the intervertebral disc and how does it cause back pain?
The intervertebral discs are structures that make up our spine,
and helps in overall mobility. With progressive age the spine goes through
trauma and increase pressure due to many factors such as obesity, because of
which these discs slowly starts to breakdown gradually. This causes severe pain
and discomfort for suffers and is known to be one of the major causes of back
pain. The pain occurs mainly because the discs are no longer mobile enough to
support our range of movements, such as twisting and turning or even sitting
which puts pressure on our spine. It is estimated
that approximately 60-80% of people will at some point in their lifetime
experience back pain. Despite the condition not being life threatening, it
imposes a huge economic burden on our health care system, as well as being one
of the foremost causes of disability due to chronic pain between the ages of 45
and 65 worldwide. Current treatments are costly and only offers
symptomatic relief for the patients and most treatment available are a
temporary fix to the underlying problem. Therefore research is now focussing on
understanding the disease process itself of why the breakdown of the discs
occurs and what cells are involved in such disease. Identifying the exact cells
involved in the process that leads to breakdown of the discs will allow
researchers to target such cells and stop them from causing the breakdown.
What does my research focus on?
Researchers have discovered that some cells act to maintain the
discs health, which can be also targeted to restore the damaged disc. My research
is looking to find out more about the types of cells present within the
innermost layer of the disc. Some cells within this layer of the disc have the
ability to stimulate rejuvenation of the damaged disc, when given signals.
These findings of how these cells function and what signals they need to
remodel the damaged disc will further guide upcoming research that will look at
developing treatments by manipulating such cells to regenerate the discs. Such
treatments will target the underlying disease itself in order to give patients suffering
from back pain a permanent cure to back pain caused with progressive age. Such
discovery in the future can even lead to developing treatments that can
potentially cure back pain forever and change millions of lives.
I made a video on studying medicine and how it is like to be a
medical student, if you would like to have a look:
This research is a hot topic now and we even managed to somehow
feature on the daily mail a few years back!
Feature on medical news today about future and techniques of
regenerating the spine:
Interested in studying medicine here is a good website to look at:
Interested in becoming a scientist? Look
at this website for a step by step explanation:
A detailed scientific paper explaining disc
degeneration and processes of regeneration:
Hi! My name is Chris Storer, I’m a fourth (and final) year
PhD student here at the University of Manchester. I’m originally from
Warrington, in the North of England, and I came to Manchester to study an
undergraduate degree in Biomedical Materials Science.
I find the interaction between nature and science to be
fascinating, especially the way that new, cutting edge technologies take
inspiration from biology. Evolution has already provided ingenious solutions to
challenges that engineers face every day.
This led me to pursue my PhD in polymer sensors, where I try
to understand how the sense of smell and taste work in nature. The aim is to
use this knowledge to create a portable chemical sensor – just like the hand-held
sensors you see scientists using to scan things in Sci-Fi movies!
How I got here
At school, I studied biology, chemistry, physics and
geography at A-level. I really enjoyed all the different aspects of the
sciences and didn’t want to specialise too much early on.
This led me to studying Biomedical Materials Engineering at
university – an interdisciplinary science that gave me a lot of freedom to
study a range of topics and keep my options open.
Following this I started my PhD in Polymer Sensors, in the
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering here at Manchester. It really
does go to show that you’re never stuck in one area of science – quite the
My research takes inspiration from the binding sites found
in the olfactory cells of the human nose. These very specialised receptors
allow us to detect chemicals in the air and give us the sense of smell.
I recreate these receptors by imprinting the chemical
molecule that I want to detect into a plastic material, called a polymer. You
can imagine this is a bit like pressing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle into a piece
of play dough, but on a microscopic level. When I take the chemical molecule
out, only that unique shape will fit back in place. And hey-presto, you’ve got
a chemical receptor!
The tricky part is how you then turn this into an electrical
signal to send to a computer to measure – like how a nerve cell sends
information to your brain. For this I use a capacitor to measure the build-up
of charged molecules on my sensor. This acts as a transducer – changing the
chemical information into electrical information for measuring the chemicals in
A great video clip by Brian Cox on how animals use chemical
sensors to navigate their environment through sight, smell and taste (BBC,
“Wonders of Life” documentary):
A link to some of our research here at the University of
Manchester involving chemical sensors for use in Agriculture:
Hello, I’m Emily, a second year PhD student in Chemical Engineering at the
University of Manchester. I have always been a keen scientist studying
Chemistry, Biology and Maths at A-level before coming to the University of
Manchester in 2010 to study Chemical Engineering. I completed my four year Integrated
Master’s degree before continuing on with my studies by beginning a PhD in
My research focuses on the
development of fuel cells, in particular Microbial Fuel Cell which uses
bacteria found in waste water to clean wastewater whilst generating small
quantities of electricity. The main purpose of this research is to identify and
develop a system of cleaning waste water which is less harmful to the
environment compared with methods currently used.
Every day we use water. To drink,
to cook, to clean, etc. We are very lucky that when we turn on our taps at home
the water that comes out is clean and safe to use. However, when the water
leaves our homes it is contaminated and cannot be used again unless it’s
cleaned. So, how do we clean this water?
Current methods of treating
wastewater are expensive as they either require large quantities of air to be
pumped through the system (activated sludge reactors) or large areas of land
for large reactors (trickle filter bed). They also produce large quantities of
waste sludge which requires further treatment. The quantity of energy required
for pumping, the damage to large areas of land and the production of sludge
also makes this technology damaging to the environment highlighting a further
need for a better method of cleaning water. An alternative is the use of
microbial fuel cells.
Microbial fuel cells use the
bacteria found in wastewater and starve it of oxygen. This prevents the
bacteria from breathing and forces them to ferment, break down organic
materials in water, in order to gain energy and survive. As the organic
materials are broken down protons and electrons are formed. This occurs on one
side of a fuel cell called an anode. These newly formed ions are forced to
travel from the anode side of the fuel cell to the other side, called the cathode,
following two separate routes routes. In between the sides of the fuel cell is
a proton exchange membrane, this allows the movement of protons from one side
to the other but blocks the movement of electrons. Meanwhile the electrons flow
through wires externally of the fuel cell from one side to the other. The ions
are then able to re-join on the cathode side; here they are mixed with oxygen
to produce clean water.
This movement of ions is able to
generate small quantities of electricity. The anaerobic nature of the anode
greatly reduces the quantity of sludge produced which reduces the amount of
further treatment required. The reduction of waste sludge, reduction of energy
needs and the production of electricity make microbial fuel cells an ideal
alternative to current wastewater treatment systems. As well as its use as an
alternative wastewater treatment system, other research is ongoing which uses
this technology specifically for power production or as bio-sensors.
This is a great website for general information on what it’s like to be a chemical engineer and how to become one: http://www.whynotchemeng.com/
This is the official blog by
students in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science; it
highlights work by both staff and students:
This blog highlights work being
done in fuel cell technology and is run by the Governments Office of Energy,
Efficiency and Renewable Energy: http://energy.gov/eere/hydrogen-fuel-cells-blog
Another blog about different types
of Microbial Fuel Cells and how they work: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/2014/03/microbial-fuel-cells-on-the-hunt-for-renewable-energy.php
A short video explaining microbial
fuel cells by Bruce Logan, a world leader in this research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZotwUJAb8R4