I'm amazed of how eager and curious the students are about becoming engineers!
2011 – 2013: Befriender, Autism West Midlands, Birmingham, UK | 2013: STREAM EngD Research Engineer, Northumbrian Water Limited, UK
STREAM Research Engineer
University of Exeter and Northumbrian Water
I’m an EngD Research Engineer (PhD student) working on using weather forecasts to predict sewer flooding
I’m an engineering doctorate student in my second year working on an industry focussed research project that is administered by an Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) called STREAM. Hence, my qualification will formally be an EngD (Doctor of Engineering) instead of the usual PhD – but I’m still a ‘PhD student’ 🙂
I had graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2011 with a BSc Natural Sciences degree which was mainly mathematics with computer science. To jump from a pure science background to studying for an engineering research degree has been quite a steep learning curve for me. However, it has been most exciting and dynamic in terms of how much I’ve learned and especially how I’m applying my understanding to real world problems. What had helped make this degree dynamic is the course structure offered by STREAM which is designed to make us ‘engineers of the future’ who will have solved complex technical problems faced by the water industry, and we’re encouraged to develop our communication, leadership and enterprise skills to a professional level.
My project is focussed on using short range weather forecasts to predict sewer flooding. Sewer flooding is just a specific form of flooding (river flooding, coastal, surface flooding etc) but it can also cause (and can result from) other types of flooding. For water companies, sewer flooding can be a disruptive issue and their obvious concern is to reduce the impact this has on their customers. Now, the big issue related to weather forecasts is that they are forecasts – they’re only predictions and can even be completely wrong. The research I am doing is going to establish a means to accurately convey the uncertainties associated with weather forecasts and to use this to produce meaningful flood forecasts. However, another key aspect is to inform the water company how these flood forecasts can be used to enable them to decide on the right things to do in preventing or reducing the risk of the flood from occurring, all before the flood actually occurs. These different points form the main goals of the project and will assist my industrial company to reform their sewer operations team so that they can deal with sewer floods more effectively.
My Typical Day
I read journals, perform computer modelling, code in C++ and drink coffee
My project is based at Exeter University and is for Northumbrian Water Limited, so I have a degree of flexibility in my working locations. At present, I am working at the water company offices in Durham and I follow normal working hours (9 – 5) .
My typical day would consist of me starting off responding to emails both in academia and in the company, planning my day’s work objectives based on my weekly targets, perform hydrodynamic modelling to carry out core research activities, read several literature from journal,s text books etc. to reinforce my understanding of research gaps and to continuously update my literature review. An important task is to refine my aims and objectives, and whilst this is done once or twice every month in my case, I still review part of this everyday. Being at industry offices, an important day to day task is to maintain communication with people in the business who can help you with your project if it means providing data, or just connecting you to other people. So I also set up meetings, collaborate with other people and departments, and even visit other offices.
What I'd do with the money
Tour around different universities and water companies to promote STREAM and the importance of reducing sewer flooding
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Smart and Confident
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Bryan Adams – during the 80s
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Slept for 20 hours
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes a couple of times, even though I was an ace student in all of my classes
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
Travelled to Taiwan as part of a research collaboration and visited villages to educate them about how to prepare for floods, earthquakes and debris flow
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
Tell us a joke.
Hmm got this one recently.. What does the big chimney say to the small chimney? “You’re too young to smoke”