Case Study: Manjot Chana
“I’ve always had an massive affinity for solving problems, for me life itself is a series of micro problems which need to be solved or optimised”
From robots to degree apprenticeship
Manjot grew up in Wolverhampton. As a young child he remembers being a big fan of Power rangers and playing with LEGO. He was always curious about how the robots fitted together. After his A-levels he decided to “break the norm” and applied for a degree apprenticeship at Jaguar Landrover instead of going to university.
‘You get paid and you get your degree, and I thought this is incredible! […] I need to start money ASAP to help out the family as oppose to purely the knowledge and the experience of a university degree.’
It took him 6 years to complete his apprenticeship. During that time Manjot, gained a lot of “hands on” skills which allow him to progress in his career.
Changing lives and help tackle climate change
Manjot works at H2GO Power, a company that is developing technology to capture and store surplus hydrogen generated from renewable energy sources. He joined this company as he wanted to use his engineering skills to help tackle climate change, and improve the quality of life of millions of people worldwide who don’t have access to a reliably source of energy.
As a senior integration system engineer Manjot needs to be logical as he makes different parts of systems to work well together:
‘I ensure the subsystems are communicating together: the data is flowing, the wiring is correct, the software is correct. As an integration engineer you need to know a lot about everything but only a shallow amount.’
The data never lies
Manjot is also extremely organised at work as he enjoys “closing loops” of pending tasks. He also believes that the data from experiments never lies and that it has a story to tell us. We just need to make sense of it! In reality, Manjot is obsessed with collecting data from life in general.
Break the norm and follow your dreams
Outside of work Manjot loves to read. If he could get a superpower it would be the ability to read and retain information faster. He also encourages others to take chances, to stay truth to themselves and to follow their dreams.
Case Study: Sian Cleaver
“Going back [to the Moon] is going to be inspiring for a whole new cohort of people. A large proportion of the world will being seeing this for the first time and I hope that will inspire young people and do wonders for the world of engineering.”
An astronaut in the making
Sian grew up fascinated with the vastness of space: she even remembers a book about astronauts that was at her nursery! When she was five years old she had an opportunity to visit the Kennedy Space Centre with her family, and from that day onwards her mind was set on becoming an astronaut. She joined an astronomy club in school, built and launched rockets in the local park: all of her education journey was shaped around her ambition of one day becoming an astronaut.
“Because I always wanted to be an astronaut and was interested in space, that end goal shaped my career. I did certain GCSEs and A-Levels (physics, maths), I chose certain hobbies.”
Sian hasn’t achieved her dream job yet, but for her it’s all about the journey:
“Whether I achieve that or not [being an astronaut] it allowed me to carve a really, really interesting career and I feel really lucky that I’m doing the thing that I am doing purely because of a decision that I made when I was 5 years old.”
Sian is a spacecraft engineer at Airbus working on the Orion Programme: part of a series of missions which will return humans to the moon.
She is currently working on the support module, which is the bit of the spacecraft just behind the capsule where the astronauts live and work. The support module is a critical part of the vessel, as it provides water, oxygen and power… and propels the spacecraft to the moon. It is powered by four solar panels.
Sian has to be organised and logical at work because part of her job is to manage a list with every single step that is required to put the module together. It’s a bit like the instruction booklet that comes with a Lego set, but Sian’s list tracks 20,000 pieces and 12 kilometres of different-colour wires that needs to be put together in a very specific order, all inside a compact cylinder.
“I think it’s beautiful! It takes my breath away how complex it is, but how beautiful it is at the same time!”
Sian is also responsible for ensuring all the equipment going inside the module arrives on site at the right time so that her team can build it in the correct order. If there is something wrong with an individual part it needs get resolved so it doesn’t compromise the rest of the assembly.
Beyond the Moon… Mars!
Going back to the Moon is a stepping stone to the next stage of space exploration: Mars. The Orion Programme plan is to build a space station around the Moon. Once infrastructure is up and running – perhaps even using resources from the Moon – then future Orion missions could go from the Moon onwards to Mars. That’s something Sian hopes to see in her lifetime.
“There is a generation of people who weren’t alive at the time of the Moon landings. Going back is going to be inspiring for a whole new cohort of people. A large proportion of the world will be seeing this for the first time, and I hope that will inspire young people and do wonders for the world of engineering.”
That said, Sian also believes that the time has come for a more diverse group of people to have the chance to experience the Moon and contribute towards the development of space technology:
“Now is the time for women to go to the Moon. It’s time for Europeans to go to the Moon. It’s time for a whole diverse crowd of people to start accessing the Moon and opening up to the whole world!”
The power of languages
Sian learned Russian at secondary school. She thought the language was super cool and linked well with her love of space.
“When I was younger, I was very dismissive of languages. I wanted to be a scientist, I wanted to do physics and really didn’t think I needed languages. But now, I’m like: of course you need languages! The more languages you know in Europe the more opportunities it opens up for your career!”
Working in the space industry often requires a global collaboration between many countries such as Europe, Russia, USA, UAE – all sharing knowledge, working together for a common goal. Sian really enjoys this side of her job, as it makes her open-minded to others from different backgrounds.
“You learn about food, culture and jokes in other languages, it’s really fun. It adds a whole new dimension to the office having people from different nationalities and cultures.”
Outside of work
When she’s not building her way to space, Sian enjoys gliding and scuba diving. She says Scuba diving transports you to another world, and is the closest experience on Earth to being in space!
logical, open-minded, organised
A-Levels, Degree, Physics
Water quality scientists ensure water quality standards for safe drinking water are met. They test and analyse water samples and ensure these meet the water quality standards. They may specialise in working with drinking water, ground water or surface water including rivers, lakes and estuaries. Water quality scientists may need to work closely with businesses, the public or other water industry professionals.
Attributes: communicator, logical, observant
Electronics engineering technicians design, build and maintain electrical components. They are very hands-on and enjoy trying out different circuit set ups, and are very good at spotting problems and fixing them so that the components work correctly. Electronics engineering technicians enjoy doing practical work, being organised and helping electronic engineers test their designs.
Attributes: logical, creative, observant
Case Study: Sophie Robinson
“One of the good things about engineering is that there are a lot of opportunities where you can use your skillset to make a difference, and make a difference in lots of different fields as well!”
Sophie grew up in a working class family from a mining village in the North of England. As a child, she remembers wanted to be an astronaut and being fascinated with Lego (she claims to have had the equivalent of her body weight in Lego!) and Meccano. Her parents encouraged her to go to university: they saw it as a good route to a professional job. Sophie recalls:
“When I was young I was always really into maths and science. I would have done a pure maths degree but there was something always nagging in the back of my mind […] I always wanted something more practical.”
With this combination of academic interests and practicality, she thinks engineering became an “inevitable” career path.
After she finished a PhD in flight mechanics from the University of Liverpool, Sophie got involved in many projects as an aerospace engineer. It’s a job she describes as being involved in the whole lifecycle of anything that flies: design, certification, operation, maintenance and safe disposal (decommissioning).
Sophie’s currently a senior flight dynamics engineer at Vertical Aerospace, a company working on creating the world’s first commercial eVTOL aircraft – electric vertical take-off and landing. It’s planned as an air taxi, to transport people and goods on short journeys.
Vertical’s aircraft will be 100% electric, affordable, and could help ease road traffic in densely populated areas.
“All of the technologies to make this kind vehicle happen exist, we are not conjuring things out of thin air that don’t exist at the moment. It’s all about bringing those technologies together into a package to make it happen.”
A lifetime achievement
In her current role Sophie is responsible for the simulator that will train pilots to fly the aircraft: she needs to be creative and logical. She also studies the performance of the air taxi, in particular how manipulating the controls translates into aircraft motion. The air taxi will be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for Sophie and her colleagues, so she tells us that hard work is essential.
“Why did I become an engineer in first place? Because I wanted to be involved in projects like this, it’s completely innovative! That is human nature, we always want to find the next step, the next new thing. How can we put together the different technologies we’ve developed?”
Nothing great is easy
Outside of work. Sophie enjoys travel and particularly swimming. In 2012 she swam the English Channel, inspired by the first person to do so, Captain Webb, who said, “Nothing great is easy”. She has his quote as a tattoo.
“I am a mermaid when I’m not an engineer!”
She often colours her hair a different colour as this makes people notice and remember her. She says it‘s a good conversation starter!
Case Study: Emmanuel Olaiya
Emmanuel is a particle physicist working at the Particle Physics Department with STFC.
A passion for physics and travelling
Emmanuel studied maths, physics and chemistry for his A-levels. However it was his passion for physics which push him into university and beyond.
“Physics was always my favourite subject and for further education I wanted to do something that I enjoyed so I studied physics at university and then completed a particle physics PhD”
After finishing his degree at university, Emmanuel continued to study towards a PhD in particle physics. This opportunity allowed him to travel the world. He lived in Geneva in Switzerland for a year to do his PhD. Then after that he moved to California, USA to work on a particle detector for 4 years.
“Another one of the great things about my job is it has enabled me to live in other parts of the world.“
He lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for a year to do his PhD. Then after that he moved to California, USA to work on a particle detector for 4 years.
Being a particle physicist
According to Emmanuel the job of a particle physicist can be described as follows:
“I investigate the smallest particles and the forces they interact with. To do this I work with physicists around the world on experiments that detect what happens when you collide particles together at very high energies.”
Emmanuel is logical as he programs hundreds of computers to help him identify particles that are produced in accelerator collisions. He needs to be self- motivated because these experiments create so much data which needs looking through carefully. Emmanuel looks through the data creatively hoping to find missing particles that can explain how massive the Universe is.
“My main ambition is to detect particles that could explain Dark Matter which we believe form the majority of particles out there in space.”
Always learning new things
Emmanuel is always learning physics through his job. He also gets to teach physics and write research papers which he enjoys a lot. Other tasks involve spending time computer programming and working on detector development which he finds very interesting.
“I really love how varied and stimulating my job is.”
In his spare time, Emmanuel loves to explore his beautiful surroundings by hiking or cycling. He also loves to go skiing, something that he found he really enjoyed whilst working in Geneva.
creative, logical, self-motivated
A-Levels, Chemistry, Mathematics, PhD, Physics, Physics, Research
An operating department practitioner (ODP) is one of the team who look after patients before, and after, an operation.
The ODP will help the patient get ready for the operation. They also prepare all the instruments and equipment that the surgeon needs during the operation.
After the operation, the ODP will look after the patient until they have recovered from the anaesthetic, and will make sure that they are ready to go back to the hospital ward.
Attributes: Collaborative; logical; hard-working
Professor Jane Entwistle
Jane is Professor of Environmental Geochemistry at Northumbria University.
How pollution impacts our health
Jane travels the world to collect samples of environmental media such as soils, plants, lake sediments and dusts, which she brings back to her laboratory for analysis. She is interested in understanding how environmental pollution is linked to health, and the samples she collects help her examine this connection.
“We need to explore these relationships in more detail. Environmental exposures to pollutants are complex; complex geochemically and complex geographically.”
As research linking the environment to human health is starting to mature, Jane and her colleagues across the world are starting to understand the many ways we come in contact with pollutants in our everyday lives, even before we are born!
Geography, allotments and dust
At primary school Jane’s favourite subject was geography, as she was keen to learn about the earth and the environment. She took geography, biology and geology as A-levels and went to study physical geography at university.
“Learning about soils and plants at school inspired me to go to University, where I was encouraged to go into research, a career I had never considered until then.”
More recently Jane has been studying the levels of lead in soil across urban agricultural sites, like allotments. In high concentrations, lead can be bad for your health. Jane is also interested in studying indoor pollutants by studying dust samples from people’s houses.
Jane’s advice to young people
“Stick with it. Decide on an area of particular interest but keep your reading and learning broad; the environment needs people who see issues holistically.”
Jane enjoys being outdoors as much as she can. She particularly likes running and gardening. Here’s a photo of her in an allotment collecting soil samples.
Professor of Environmental Geochemistry
curious, logical, self-motivated
A-Levels, biology, Degree, Geography, Geology, PhD, physical geography
Linzi Dodd is an Electronics Engineer working for Northumbria University. She creates electronic devices small enough to be sewn into clothes, which check how healthy people are. She often works as part of a team, and in the past designed tweezers as thin as human hair. With her free time, Linzi is a Scout Leader and keeps tropical fish.
Linzi Dodd is an Electronics Engineer working for Northumbria University.
She creates electronic devices small enough to be sewn into clothes, which check how healthy people are. She often works as part of a team, and in the past designed tweezers as thin as human hair.
With her free time, Linzi is a Scout Leader and keeps tropical fish.
Linzi’s most magnificent thing
“Electronics and sensors are everywhere these days and they can be very flexible and adaptable. If you want to build a simple circuit have a look at this page and build your very own bulb circuit using a pencil!”
More details can be found here
hard-working, logical, organised
Harri has just finished her engineering degree at university. She studied how the weather affects how much energy wind turbines can capture. Harri is curious to find new ways for people to use renewable energies in their everyday lives! She just started her first job in an engineering company which produces batteries for hearing aids. In her new job, she studies which are the best materials to build batteries from, for different weather conditions. You might think you have cold ears, but batteries hate the cold even more than you do – so cold conditions can make hearing aids stop working.
Harri has just finished her engineering degree at university. She studied how the weather affects how much energy wind turbines can capture.
Harri is curious to find new ways for people to use renewable energies in their everyday lives!
She just started her first job in an engineering company which produces batteries for hearing aids. In her new job, she studies which are the best materials to build batteries from, for different weather conditions. You might think you have cold ears, but batteries hate the cold even more than you do – so cold conditions can make hearing aids stop working.
Harri’s most magnificent thing
“I really love this activity because you can put weights in the paper cup to see just how amazing wind power can be!”
logical, organised, passionate
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