Changing the way our world is built
1. Who are you? And what is your passion?
I am originally from Tavistock, a small town on the edge of Dartmoor. Coming into the 'big city' was a bit of a culture shock after living in the middle of nowhere. My passion for engineering was sparked by travelling through the Channel Tunnel.I have found it fascinating learning about the built environment over the past four years. Gaining an understanding of how to design infrastructures we use every day and take for granted, from buildings to bridges and roads to railways.
I am studying civil engineering because I want to have an impact on the built environment, helping to improve the life of societies.
I am motivated by the fact my knowledge and learning can be used to help the country by working on civil projects.
2. What does studying engineering in 2019 look like? How does Plymouth lead the way?
Plymouth’s wide range of experimental facilities and strong industry links was a huge pull compared to other universities. This makes the teaching tailored to the current industry needs, making Plymouth engineering graduates extremely employable.
Plymouth boasts the largest industrial advisory group for civil engineering in the country.
The range of facilities includes the Brunel and Smeaton Laboratories and the Marine Building. I still remember creating concrete mixes and testing them in the labs during my first year, while conducting pipe flow experiments later in my course.
I have the knowledge to design structural elements in steel, concrete and timber.
Field trips to current active construction sites and engineering landmarks such as the Tamar Bridge have given me the chance to see civil engineering in practice.
All the skills and knowledge I have gained from my degree has allowed me to get an industry placement.
3. What is a fear you’d like to conquer?
I have a fear of public speaking in front of large audiences. I would really like to conquer this fear, as a large part of engineering is communication.
On a daily basis, engineers have to accurately communicate problems and solutions to the clients and people on site.
Many of the people you come across you have never met before. Studying engineering and working on placement has allowed me to begin overcoming my fear by presenting to larger groups.
4. How do you respond when faced with a problem?
When faced with a problem, my first step is to stop and fully understand the situation. I gather up all the information available into one place, then step by step work through different solutions.
My approach is methodical, which has helped me while studying for my course and out on placement.
During my industrial placement last summer, I was helping to plan the partial removal of a bridge in Bristol over a railway.
Practical problem-solving skills are something that studying civil engineering at Plymouth has taught me.
Overhead power lines drastically limited the working room above the bridge deck, reducing the size of plant that could be used.
I looked at the constraints and suggested suspending the deck sections individually, to be removed from the remaining bridge, meaning smaller machines could be utilised.
I am looking forward to putting these skills to use in practice over the remainder of my studies.
5. What do you know of that you believe could really change our world for the better?
The use of sustainable materials in construction and the full life cycle assessment of new projects. Over the past 100 years, most civil engineering projects have used traditional materials such as steel and concrete. Concrete is the second most consumed substance in the world next to the water, accounting for approximately 5% of annual global CO2 production.
With our growing population, this is expected to rise. The global construction industry needs to find more sustainable materials or more environmentally friendly versions of concrete to reduce the CO2 production and consumption of our natural resources. Certain additives can be added to reduce its CO2 impact or using more sustainable materials such as timber.
Engineers need to design structures with a whole life cycle approach, thinking of the project from cradle to grave. Many old structures are filled with materials that are hazardous, or that cannot be reused or recycled. Engineers must provide solutions for construction, operation, decommissioning and recycling. Specifying recyclable materials that are not single-use and have a lower carbon footprint is the key to reducing the impact of the construction industry on our suffering planet.
6. What do you want the world to look like in 10 years
In 10 years’ time, I want to see a world without waste. A world where humans manage to reuse or recycle the majority of our waste and remove our reliance on single-use products.
It is on us to compromise on our needs now, so we can meet those of the future.
This will preserve our finite natural resources and protect the environment.
Civil engineering projects; roads, bridges and buildings, created from sustainably sourced materials, with the environmental impact of these projects being the primary focus, not cost.
7. If you had the chance to share one message to the whole world, what would it be?
Think. Think about how your choices impact the environment. If everyone made the smallest of changes to their everyday lives, we could easily make an impact.
Inspired by this story?
For more information about MEng Civil Engineering please visit our MEng Civil Engineering course page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics please visit the school page.
Want to find similar alumni?
If you would like to find out what other relevant alumni are currently doing, please visit the engineering and robotics interest area.
University features in film celebrating Plymouth’s engineering prowessThe Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) presents Engineering Plymouth. A film celebrating how civil engineers have helped to shape Plymouth over the last 500 years.
The film tells the story of Plymouth through its engineering milestones. From laying the foundations for a new town to the introduction of the Great Western Railway and the impressive Royal Albert Bridge. Through the Blitz bombs and on towards new horizons - robotics, artificial intelligence and the use of drone technology - we see how engineers are tackling problems and safeguarding the future for generations to come.