Though I always had an interest in space and astronautics growing up, I didn’t realise that a career in Aerospace was possible for somebody like me, and I wasn’t informed on the steps that I could take to get into the industry until I had started sixth form and had to seriously ask myself what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Through the UCAS website I realised that becoming an Aerospace Engineer was just a click away: the choice of institutions that offer the course is wide, but ultimately I chose the University of Manchester.
Living in Manchester for three years has allowed me to develop on a personal level as well as academically, and moving away from home, like many other students, was a big step that forced me to grow up. The university is amongst the largest in the UK, and is one of five universities within Manchester, allowing for a large student population that is both diverse and welcoming, so making friends and finding things to do was never too much of an issue.
In my first year I often found myself in lectures shared with students from other engineering disciplines, so the number of people in a lecture hall would easily surpass 350, which also made it easy to meet people with similar interests while studying the basics of engineering and developing some general skills. As the years progressed, lectures became smaller and more focussed on specific branches of engineering, with ample opportunities to work with real machines and state of the art technology, like flight simulators and turbojet engines.
12 modules a year allowed me to explore the breadth of engineering and develop skills in many different areas. As someone that wasn’t fully decided on the exact route I wanted to go down when I entered university, this gave me plenty of time to figure out what I enjoyed most before choosing a project to undertake for my dissertation in my third year. My own focus has been on aerospace design, and I have completed projects with aircraft, spacecraft, micro-aerial-vehicles (MAVs) and robotics over the years. My dissertation project was centred on the design and build of an insect inspired MAV, where I had the opportunity to work in the esteemed microsystems lab alongside PhD students and established academics.
Through university I have gained the capability to use numerous software packages for varying uses, including computer aided design (CAD), modelling and simulation, spacecraft mission analysis, MATLAB programming, data acquisition, system automation, data processing and analysis, all while developing my communication skills through writing technical reports and working effectively in small teams.
The links with industry at the University are something that I appreciate in particular: renowned companies in the engineering industry such and Rolls Royce and Airbus work closely with students, offering industrial placements directly through the university, working in conjunction with students on dissertation projects and sponsoring many engineering societies with software and funding to buy new equipment, which has allowed them to maintain their success at national and international competitions over the years. These companies often present at careers fairs and hold CV and employability workshops throughout the year. As a student at the University of Manchester, the opportunities to take advantage of these links exist throughout your time as a student, up until you graduate. I credit much of my own success in securing industrial experience to these links and will undoubtedly be using them during my final year to secure a graduate job.
To give a bit of advice to those wanting to study Aerospace Engineering or similar fields at university, I’d say work hard- excelling in maths and physics at a-level is a requirement for most universities that offer the course. If you aren’t studying both of these, don’t worry- there are other entry routes to university, including higher apprenticeship schemes and BTech courses. Requirements for each university can easily be found on the course pages on university websites, usually along with a breakdown of the modules you can expect to study and the structure of the course itself. This is also worth taking a look at when deciding which university is for you- some courses are more specialised than others or allow you to tailor your experience more by giving you optional modules. The application process can be daunting, but if you feel like you aren’t equipped to make the right choice with the information you have, make sure to talk to your teachers and attend as many open days as you can. It’s better to be informed rather than going into the course blindly: your experience at university can easily affect the type of work you will do for the rest of your life.
On a final note, make sure to get some work experience while you are studying. While finding real Aerospace work can be difficult, showing general skills that are characteristic to an engineer will be a massive help when writing your CV. Skills like data processing, organising, communication, time management and team working are some of the most important tools for success in the industry, and can be developed in many jobs that aren’t necessarily technical in nature. Volunteering at local charity events and fundraisers or mentoring younger students at your school are easy ways that you can show your initiative and willingness to work when you are very young as a starting point, but one of the best ways to get experience as a student is to simply ask for work- do not underestimate the power of networking; the earlier you start communicating with those in the industry the more comfortable you will be asking for opportunities in the future.
Tanya is happy to talk to students through her LinkedIn which can be found at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tanya-shaban-3078a3194/ . Her kind and hardworking attitude make her a perfect example of a great student, and I look forward to following her space journey.