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Undergraduate Profiles

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Yuvna Hemoo
1st Year

 

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Christophe Maingourd
3rd Year
Control Engineering

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Sheenaanne Law
1st Year

 

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Steve Lupini
3rd Year
Manufacturing Engineering

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Hong Xuan
1st Year

 

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Elliott Furminger
4th Year
Structural Engineering

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Archie Reid
2nd Year

 

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Liz Gaunt
4th Year
Electrical Engineering

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Liz Kistruck
3rd Year
Mechanical Engineering

 

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Katie Taylor
4th Year
Manufacturing Engineering

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Aki Laakso
3rd Year
Mechanical Engineering

 

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Caroline Westall
4th Year
Manufacturing Engineering


 

Yuvna Hemoo – interviewed in her first year

yuvna_hemoo.jpgI am an overseas student. I come from a very sunny island called Mauritius. I attended a girls' only school and did Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A Level and French at AS Level. I did not have the opportunity of doing Further Maths because it simply was not available in my home country. 

I first decided I wanted to be an engineer when I saw a documentary on TV about nanotechnology. I was completely fascinated about the use of nano-structures to enhance the quality of everyday human life. This is such a noble cause that I decided this is the job I want to do, improving the quality of life for everyone! 

Everyone in my family and at my school chose to go to university. I applied to six different universities in the UK, all for Engineering courses. I tried my luck at Cambridge, because the Engineering course is broad for the first two years, and then we get to decide in which field we wish to specialise. This suits my needs very well since I still don't know what I want to do exactly. Unfortunately I don't have any industrial experience. But this situation will soon be rectified, I'm already starting to send out my applications to several companies, and I'll probably work in the next summer holidays. 

I love Cambridge. I particularly appreciate all the green spaces which make me feel closer to nature. I don't do any sports mainly because I'm lazy, but when I have the time, I go running, and the city is absolutely perfect for that in the early evenings. I also love cooking. I experiment a lot with new dishes every weekend, and I'm mostly enjoying myself being away from home for the first time!


 

Sheenaanne Law – interviewed in her first year

sheenaanne_law.jpgI went to a girls' comprehensive school in Liverpool which had a mixed sixth form. Only two of us chose to study the Maths, Physics and Chemistry combination at A Level - most of the other girls opted for Biology rather than Physics. I decided to study Engineering as a result of a visit to Liverpool University's Open Day. I was very attracted to the idea that engineers can change people's lives and help to create a better future for society. It is not all about mending cars and getting greasy.

I applied to Cambridge following a talk given at our school by a former pupil who had come here. She talked about what an attractive city it is, and how the stereotypical images we all believe of Cambridge are untrue. She was quite right in both of those things.

I came to Cambridge straight from school: I would have liked to take a gap year, but did not get organised in time, so I spent the vacation before starting helping in my parent's shop to earn some money to help me through. I did not take Further Maths at A Level (it was not offered at my school) so I have a lot to catch up on and I have found the course very intense in terms of the workload, so far. However, the people are all very friendly, and I enjoy being part of a small college near the city centre which means I can walk everywhere. We have supervisions in groups of two, which makes it easier to sort out problems. I don't feel at all in the minority studying Engineering, even though I came from a predominantly female school, as around a quarter of the undergraduates are girls.

I play women's football and rugby for my college team, and have just taken up rowing - that has to be part of the Cambridge experience for me. We are already starting to make arrangements for our industrial experience, which is part of the course, and I am hoping to get a placement at a local company as I just don't want to leave.


 

Hong Xuan – interviewed in her first year

hong_xuan.jpgI decided to study engineering at a very early age. My father told me that it was the most interesting thing in the world. I believe that’s what he really thought because he loved his job working on projects and research on thermodynamics, but I didn’t take it seriously. I have sketched my future differently at different stages of time, and as I grew up, but I now believe that engineering is the best choice for me. I feel that studying engineering will make me live like an engineer – efficient, logical and professional.

Unlike many overseas students, I came here straight from China. I took part in the Chinese National College Entrance Examination then spent the next 2 years studying Electrical and Information Engineering at a Chinese university. When I discovered that the University of Cambridge holds interviews for local Chinese applicants, I couldn’t wait to have a try. Although some people ask me if it is really worth giving up two years in university, I always answer with a firm “yes”, and what I have experienced in Cambridge proves that I made the correct decision.

As an overseas student, I should say that I was somewhat at a loss on arrival. What I had to face was a totally new environment, a different language, and a different mode of teaching. But things went very smoothly. Teachers and students here are all very kind. After two months, I am now able to catch up with the lecturers’ words, and have managed to understand all the relevant routines. I am now enjoying cycling to the Department, making notes on lectures, doing experiments, discussing problems with supervisors and having fun with my new friends here. Some of what I am taught in class and example papers we have been given are not very difficult for me because they are what I have learnt in China, but the demonstrations of practical applications in the lectures, learning to put together presentations and the structural design project are all new to me. What impresses me most is that whatever knowledge we learn, we are always encouraged to use this knowledge to analyse real problems, which not only stimulates me to understand the theories better, but also makes me expect more of what I will do in future as an engineer.

There are a lot of things I do besides lectures and coursework. Many seminars are open for students, talks and social events are held for new members of different societies. Going to the Careers Fair to seek a summer vacation placement is a brand new experience for me. I have signed up for voluntary practical projects which I am interested in. Life here is busy and colourful.


 

Archie Reid – interviewed in his second year

archie_reid.jpgI come from an engineering family. My Dad has a workshop making various components from valve plugs to security screen rollers. He started off as an engineer at sea, and I followed in his footsteps joining the Merchant Navy at 18. I was in the Merchant Navy for 6 years, working on P&O cruises for 4 years and then working on oil tankers for World Wide Shipping for 2 years. It was a great experience. I got to see a wide variety of different machines, but I only learnt how to fix them; not to explore the theory behind how they worked. I decided to do a degree in Engineering and went for the best one available.

I had done A Levels at 18 which included gaining a B in Physics. I decided to study Maths and Further Maths A Levels while working on the oil tanker. Studying while working was very tough, so I took a gamble: I quit my job and enrolled in a college and got an A in both subjects.

My practical experience of engineering has helped me with problem solving in the practical coursework and given me an insight into how the theory is applied bringing the subject to life. Being a bit older and nominally more mature means I am more focussed on my studies.

One of the big advantages of Cambridge for me is the supervision system, because you have someone who will sit down and explain anything you are struggling with. The supervisor will also push you further in the subjects you find easier. This has been particularly helpful to me as a mature student. There is also a very good mix of students here which has made it easy to fit in.

Various courses interest me for next year but I am particularly drawn towards the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (MET) programme as I would like to set up my own company some day.

There is more to life in Cambridge than Engineering and, as a mature student, I have had the opportunity to be a member of my College’s Middle Common Room with the graduate students, which gives me a chance to mix with people with a wide variety of academic interests.

In my first year I continued doing Judo and represented the University in the Varsity match, winning my half blue. I am on the Staff-Student Joint Committee (SSJC) which has been a good way to meet people across the Department and to have an influence on its running. I am also a member of the Engineering Design Club working on projects in my spare time.


 

Liz Kistruck – interviewed in her third year, studying Mechanical Engineering

liz_kistruck.jpgLiz did Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry A Levels.

"In the sixth form at school, I applied to several universities to read Electrical Engineering as I was attracted to the idea of working in the communications industry with mobile phones etc. I'm so glad I didn't do that now, as I have discovered that is not where my interest or aptitudes lie! I now have a strong interest in Fluid Mechanics. It is a very visual subject - you can see flow patterns, and these are relevant to my other great loves which are rowing and sailing. Applications include looking at the flow of pollutants in rivers and in the air. I am keen on the idea of using my engineering skills to improve the environment.

Rowing has been the highlight for me at Cambridge. I have been selected to be in one of the University Ladies' boats this year, which is very exciting. I don't think it is any coincidence that a lot of the rowers in the Blues' boats are engineers. Rowing at a high level involves a massive time commitment - the engineering course is so well organised that you can manage your time effectively to fit other things in. An engineering training also helps you to manage your time effectively.

I spent my gap year working with ICI and they are sponsoring me too. Their one-year pre-university training course was excellent and included working in Germany, which was good experience as I want to work abroad. Since then I have done three summer placements with them. 

The students on the Engineering course are very friendly, and you get to know lots of people by working on labs together. There is no problem being a girl on the course, although we are in a minority. It is not an issue. Coming from a girls' school I never had any sense of engineering being a subject I shouldn't do. Often people are surprised when they hear I am studying engineering, but that is a problem with society."


 

Aki Laakso – interviewed in his third year, studying Mechanical Engineering

aki_laakso.jpgHaving moved from Finland to the Netherlands at the age of 13, I spent five years at school in the Hague where I found myself fascinated by the science courses. After choosing to do Higher Level Maths, Physics and Biology in the International Baccalaureate (IB), I was well on my way towards a career in science. The decision to study Engineering, however, did not happen until a few months before applying. Even then, three of my six UCAS choices were to study biology-related subjects rather than Engineering. By the time I was invited to an interview in Cambridge, the doubt had faded away. I realised that not only did I want to study science, I wanted to use what I learned to design and create.

While I found my first year at Cambridge very challenging, I was comforted by the realisation that I quite enjoyed working on the assigned problem papers. I think the IB science and maths courses work well as preparation for studying Engineering because of their focus on the importance of clarity when working through problems, explaining what you are doing and applying learned concepts to some more abstract problems.

The Cambridge course is a special one because of the nature of the first two years. I always felt that studying a broad range of engineering areas suited me well, but it was not until the end of my second year that I came to fully appreciate this system. Giving students two extra years to choose their specialisation is invaluable. The range of topics and the depth in which they are covered is very impressive and provide what I feel is an essential appreciation and understanding of fundamental engineering principles in many areas of expertise.

Applying what you learn in lectures to something useful was a large part of the allure in being an engineer for me. The lab work and the industrial experience program both allow you to do this in various ways. During the summer after my second year, I worked in Finland on a fluid dynamics problem related to turbulence. This was a very positive experience and made me realise that, after just two years of studying Engineering, I could communicate with professionals and specialists and was treated as a valued member of a team.

For my third year, I chose mostly courses in Mechanical Engineering as well as some business modules and a brilliant module called "Design Methods". It was nice finding that, after two years, I had not been discouraged from studying difficult things but instead had become interested in learning more about problems we face as engineers.


 

Christophe Maingourd – interviewed in his third year, studying Instrumentation and Control Engineering

christophe_maingourd.jpgChristophe studied Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Economics, Norwegian and English for the International Baccalaureate in Norway.

"Engineering is a very common career choice in Norway at the large technical schools there. I am attracted to the practical aspects of being an engineer - I do not want a desk job. I applied to Cambridge because of the flexibility of the degree course, and also because having an English qualification opens up the international job market for me. Being half French meant that I qualified for home fees too, which is financially beneficial.

I took two gap years: one while still at school, so that I could study in the French system for a year, and then I had to do my compulsory military service in the Norwegian army before university. Initially I thought I would become a civil engineer, but now, having visited a number of different companies, I have come to the conclusion that the biggest job opportunities are in Control Engineering or Electronics so those are the options I have chosen in my third year. 

As well as the core modules for this option, I am also taking courses in 'dynamics and vibrations' as well as some micro-economics, management, modelling and risk assessment options. These options tend to involve quite tough mathematics, but once you have a grasp of these principles you are pretty employable in a number of market sectors.

For my work experience I worked with a company making remotely operated submarine vehicles for inspection and repair of offshore installations, and I also gained some workshop experience making parts for hydraulic motors. I very much enjoyed the hands-on work.

I enjoy student life here at Cambridge - it is very easy to socialise and have a good time. I have played a bit of squash and football, but nothing too intensive. I have also joined the Scandinavian Society. My main passion is skiing - I have been on a couple of trips with the University ski club in the vacations, and, of course, it is something I can pursue at home. The Engineering course is pretty intensive, but the holidays are long, which is a chance to catch up and let the work sink in."


 

Steve Lupini – interviewed in his third year, studying Manufacturing Engineering

steve_lupini.jpgI decided to become an engineer in my first few years at comprehensive school. I always liked taking things apart and building models. I did Double Maths, Chemistry and Physics at A Level, and I also took part in the Engineering Education Scheme, whilst in the sixth form. Through this scheme I worked with a local company on a project which involved finding a safe way of loading steel coils on and off ships (to prevent them falling on people). By the end of the year we had 'patent pending' on the device we made, and the working environment was much safer.

I applied to several universities, mostly to study either mechanical or aerospace engineering. I visited Cambridge on a 'Headstart' course, whereby I spent a week based at Sidney Sussex College, and really liked it. I applied to Cambridge because of its high reputation as a university, and also because I had compared lots of different Engineering courses and decided that Cambridge was the best.

I would have been quite happy concentrating on my original subject choices but it was nice to have a taster of all the different engineering areas and be more knowledgeable about the whole subject.

I chose to specialise in Manufacturing Engineering for my last two years because this course covers everything to do with manufacturing processes and combines that with learning managerial skills and a wider picture of industry. We spend about one day a week going on trips to all sorts of industries ranging from steel makers to electronics or doing workshops. We find out a lot about how different companies operate, and we can ask questions relating to our lectures on industrial practice to see how the things we learn about are applied.

Away from work, I play basketball (as I have a considerable height advantage) and am heavily involved in the Life Saving club. We do a lot of pool work and learn resuscitation skills as well as taking part in competitions.


 

Elliott Furminger – interviewed in his fourth year, studying Structural Engineering

elliott_furminger.jpgLike a lot of people I know, I studied maths and science for my A Levels and ended up unsure what to do afterwards. In the end it was the fact that I just enjoy knowing how and why everyday things work that drove me towards Engineering. I chose to come to Cambridge mainly because the course was general for the first two years, allowing me to find my feet and decide what I really wanted to do. After all, how many people really know what they want to do so early on?

Before university I took part in the ‘Year in Industry’ scheme, which was great fun and equally good experience. It was also vindication of picking a general engineering course as I had felt that the engineering work involved in the job wasn’t quite right for me.

One of the best things I found was the hotbed of talent and enthusiasm in the Department, which is not something to be intimidated by. The students and staff are friendly and approachable and really allow you to develop your ideas and understanding.

I became interested in Sustainable Development during my time here which resulted in an expedition to India during the summer after my second year called ‘engINdia’. Myself and some fellow students sought out interesting project work for university engineering students by working significantly with Vigyan Ashram, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) near Pabal, Maharashtra. The expedition was organised by six students with great support from the University and the Engineering Department.

Now that I’m in my final year I am very happy with my choice to study Structural Engineering. Although the course is strongly academic, the project work available has given me the chance to get hands-on understanding, and it has even allowed me to get a bit more creative with an excellent Architectural Engineering project I did in my third year.


 

Liz Gaunt – interviewed in her fourth year, studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering

liz_gaunt.jpgI went to a comprehensive school, and did Maths, Physics and Chemistry A Levels. I enjoyed Maths at school, and liked the idea of applying it for engineering. My school did not have a history of sending people to Cambridge, and I was delighted to get a place.

I took a gap year, during which I worked with an electrical engineer for National Power at the Drax power station - that convinced me that I wanted to study Electrical Engineering. It was really good getting a flavour of all the different types of engineering in the first two years at Cambridge - I particularly enjoyed mechanics and structures. I did find the Maths quite difficult but I got a lot of support during my supervision periods.

I spent my third year at MIT as part of the undergraduate exchange programme. I wanted to try something different and it was a good chance to live in another country. About 25 of us went, and we all had a great time. It has not been at all difficult to slot back in to the Cambridge course for my fourth year. I am now quite keen to go to the USA again.

Although the work I did in my gap year was sufficient to cover my industrial experience, I have also worked with engineering-related companies in the summer vacations. At the end of my second year, I worked for Corus in Scunthorpe and then at the end of my third year, for a small research-based company in the Cambridge Science Park. 

My fourth year project is making micro-motors - these are extremely small machines that fit on to a silicon chip. Although such things have been made before, there are a number of operational problems to sort out - such as making them last longer by improving the bearings. I am now quite attracted to the idea of a research-based or academic job once I graduate.

I did a lot of ballet before coming to Cambridge, and now do contemporary dance - there is even a 'dancer in residence' at my College who runs weekly classes. I have taken part in a couple of shows, and I help to organize the dancing classes. I also learn Japanese, as it is offered by the Department of Engineering's Language Unit. That appealed to me as I thought it was a really bizarre thing to learn! Anyhow, I'm now hooked and would very much like to go to Japan to try it out.


 

Katie Taylor – interviewed in her fourth year, studying Manufacturing Engineering

katie_taylor.jpgKatie studied A Levels in Maths, Chemistry, Physics and French.

"I always liked sciences at school but also loved building things and applying science in a practical way. When I was applying to university, I looked at doing a civil engineering degree. I had previously spent a few days doing work experience for a civil engineering company, where I got the opportunity to visit a building site. I came to Cambridge with my parents to visit the Colleges and I really liked the atmosphere and the city so I decided to apply. Before starting university, I took a gap year and went travelling to Central America. 

The course here is general for the first two years which meant that I did not have to make a decision about my specialisation straight away. During work experience after my first year, I realised what I really enjoyed doing and this guided me to choose the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (MET) for my third and fourth years. I am very interested in the design process and product design. The course gives a grounding in both business and manufacturing processes. I really love the manufacturing course here as we get the chance to work with people from industry as well as academic staff. We have made a lot of visits to factories and I really feel that I have learnt not just the process of manufacturing but also how to apply it to make a viable business. I recently completed an industrial placement in a factory that produces medical devices. Working within medical regulations to find a solution to the problem we were set was very challenging. It was exciting to work in a real company and know that our results will change the way they do business. 

Next month I am going to Zurich to take part in a series of seminars. MET will fund over half of this trip I will fund the rest of the costs. I will meet students from other European manufacturing courses.

I will be going on the end-of-year study tour, a research trip overseas for which the students participating must find sponsorship from engineering and business companies. This year's proposed trip will be to Southern China, South Korea and Japan."


 

Caroline Westall – interviewed in her fourth year, studying Manufacturing Engineering

caroline_westall.jpgCaroline studied Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A Level with Further Maths and French at AS Level.

"I had always been encouraged to study engineering by my father, but I wasn't sure which type of engineering to do. I applied to and was awarded a student scholarship through the Institution of Electrical Engineers when I was in the sixth form and also took part in the 'Year in Industry' scheme through which I got a work placement with a company making agrochemicals during my gap year. I worked in the engineering design department and got some experience using computer aided design (CAD) programs as well as experience of mechanical engineering.

The course at Cambridge meant I did not have to make a decision about my specialisation straight away. I chose Manufacturing Engineering in my third year because I am very interested in the design process. The course is both management and business based - we get a grounding in economics as well as subjects such as materials selection and processing, human resources and organisation.

In my third year we went to Italy to attend a seminar on engineering management and met students from other European Universities - it was great fun. I was able to use some of the money that I was awarded under the Engineering Leadership Awards scheme to fund my travel expenses.

I have greatly enjoyed making use of the language facilities at the Engineering Department - I learned French in the first year, and then German in the second. I have been on trips to Paris and Munich as part of this scheme - we visited a number of different engineering companies in France and Germany which was fascinating. I am now learning Japanese.

We take part in many external industrial placements during the course, which is extremely interesting (for instance I have just been in Manchester making turbochargers). I am in charge of organising the end-of-year study tour this year, which will be in the Baltic States. I hope one day to set up my own company - one thing we learn doing the manufacturing engineering course is that there is no limit to what you can achieve with sufficient motivation.

In my spare time I play violin with the Cambridge University Symphony Orchestra which is totally student run. It's a very nice way of meeting different people and doing something creative and relaxing. I also play football - that is very useful for picking up skills in leadership and management!"