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Student View - Engineering is for Everyone

by YPU Admin on May 28, 2020, Comments. Tags: Engineering, materials, materials science, science, STEM, and student view

Introduction

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 it!

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:


 

Student View – What is it Like to Study Mechanical Engineering?

by YPU Admin on May 27, 2020, Comments. Tags: careers, Engineering, mechanical engineering, Research, STEM, student view, and UoM

Introduction

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 pay. 

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 degree.

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:


 

Can we cure back pain in the future?

by YPU Admin on September 21, 2017, Comments. Tags: Engineering, masters, medicine, and STEM

Introduction

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 intervertebral discs.



In Depth

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.

Going Further

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LgGrc6182g

This research is a hot topic now and we even managed to somehow feature on the daily mail a few years back!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1267326/Growing-new-disc-help-relieve-pain.html

Feature on medical news today about future and techniques of regenerating the spine:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263496.php

Interested in studying medicine here is a good website to look at:

https://www.bma.org.uk/advice/career/studying-medicine/becoming-a-doctor/introduction

Interested in becoming a scientist? Look at this website for a step by step explanation:

http://study.com/articles/How_to_Become_a_Biological_Scientist_Education_and_Career_Roadmap.html

A detailed scientific paper explaining disc degeneration and processes of regeneration:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3008962/


 

Mimicking Nature to Create a Chemical Sensor

by YPU Admin on June 14, 2017, Comments. Tags: Electronic, Engineering, PhD, Polymers, Research, STEM, and UoM

Introduction

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 opposite!

In Depth

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 the environment.

Going Further

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):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGcBaXobEh4&list=PL50KW6aT4Ugy7sAKZGa4o4J39Os5L5tTl&index=3

A link to some of our research here at the University of Manchester involving chemical sensors for use in Agriculture:

http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-themes/newe-agri/

http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-themes/newe-agri/people/

 

Chemical Engineering and Clean Water

by YPU Admin on March 3, 2016, Comments. Tags: chemical engineering, Engineering, Research, UoM, and water

Introduction

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 September 2014.  

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. 

In Depth…

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.

Going Further

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:  http://www.mub.eps.manchester.ac.uk/ceasblog/

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