Tell us a little bit about your background.
I spent my childhood in Goodmayes, London, before moving to Wickford in Essex for secondary school. It was a normal, comprehensive school – its sixth form college was small and the number of students that went onto further study was low. Despite this, my teachers were supportive, and I enjoyed my experience there. My family were extremely supportive too and encouraged me to pursue my passions. I knew that I wanted to study at University, but at A-Level I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to study.
I heard about the Sutton Trust through my brother, who’s always been a role model to me. He got accepted onto the UK Summer School programme too a few years prior, so when applications opened for my year, I chose to apply to the Engineering programme at Cambridge. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to help me figure out what I wanted to study after my A-Levels.
What was your experience like on your Summer School?
At first, I didn’t think I was likely to receive a place on the programme, but then one day a thick letter came through the post embossed with the Cambridge logo. I was so excited to find out that I had in fact been offered a place! I almost thought it was too good to be true.
When I arrived at Churchill College, Cambridge I was stunned by the campus and aura of the place. We had an initial welcome talk in the main hall and it struck me how organised and structured the programme was. Everything was covered for you: your meals, timetable and socialising. The programme gave me real hands-on experience of what Engineering is and how many disciplines it covers. We covered fluid mechanics, design, robotics, mechanics.
One of the practical sessions even included taking apart a lawnmower engine and putting it back together again. My Summer School experience was the catalyst that confirmed Engineering was what I wanted to study and opened my eyes to how essential Engineering is in everyday life, it is all around us!
The people I met there stuck out too, I was surrounded by such bright, high achieving students and it opened my mind to how many clever and ambitious people there are. Learning about the places they’ve come from and the things they’d done was inspiring.
Overall, it was an eventful Summer School experience, I made some great friends and it was a valuable insight into Engineering that I was fortunate to have experienced before applying to University.
How did your career develop afterwards?
After my programme, I went on to study a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nottingham and thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I got involved with lots of extracurricular activities, such as the Nottingham Advantage Award employability scheme, competitions and summer placements that made the experience very wholesome and memorable. I was delighted when, in 2016, I graduated at the top of my cohort.
Once I’d graduated, I worked in the Automotive industry for a year as a Project Management Analyst. This was a great experience, however I soon realised how far removed from the technical aspects of Engineering that I thrived on that this role was. That’s when I came across the EngD programme at Nottingham, which led me back to research, creation and innovation in an academic environment. So, in 2017, I started my four-year EngD which is comprised of research and Master’s modules with industrial collaboration.
My research is focused on the use of composites in rail. More explicitly on lightweighting railway vehicles using fibre reinforced composite materials, as lightweighting is essential to meeting the increased need for reliability, efficiency and capacity in the global rail industry. One project I am currently working on is the design and development of a composite railway axle as part of a larger European Horizon 2020 Shift2Rail funded project.
As part of my programme, I have also had the opportunity to be immersed in academia. I have attended conferences, written journal papers and project proposals. I also support teaching within the faculty and believe this is a great way to give back to students. I have just become an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA).
So far, it’s been an amazing experience!
What are your ambitions for the future?
Through the experience of research, I feel I have found my passion and further developed my interest in Engineering. I would like to continue the research I’m doing, through a funded research fellowship, focused on the lightweighting of railway vehicles. I feel there is a lot of scope in this area for further research, industrial collaboration and to deliver value to society.
What advice would you give to a future Sutton Trust student?
It’s okay not to know what you’re doing!
In my experience it’s really hard to pinpoint what you want to do and finding your passion sounds a lot easier to do than it really is. So just go where your interests lead you and enjoy the process rather than focusing on the endpoint.
One of my favourite quotes is: “…You can only connect the dots looking backwards so you must have faith in the future…” – Steve Jobs. I have learnt that success is more about your own journey. Experience as much as you can, put yourself out there, and learn from others and their perspectives, as you can’t take every route on your own.