When I chose my A Levels of Double Maths, Physics and Chemistry, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to be a doctor, vet or mathematician. I was keeping my options open. After 'Insight into Engineering' work experience whilst at school, I was convinced that engineering was the right career path for me. I still wasn't sure what sort of engineering I wanted to do, however, except that it would certainly not be Chemical or Civil Engineering. And now I work for Arup (civil engineers!).
The course at Cambridge was attractive to me simply because I didn't have to make choices until I had found out more about each area. In fact, even by the third year I still didn't want to specialise. However, I had by then discovered that Civil Engineering was a lot more interesting than I had thought - not all to do with pouring concrete!
I spent half my gap year working for Yorkshire Electricity, to obtain some industrial experience before university. This was sufficient to cover the experience needed for the course. Then, at the end of my first year, I got a vacation job working with Balfour Beatty as a site engineer on the A1/M1 link road project. Site is a pretty male-dominated environment and I found working there quite different to my experience at Cambridge, where gender was not an issue at all. However, there was always a lot of support around, so it was never a problem. Balfour Beatty then agreed to sponsor me through the rest of my degree course, which was great.
In my fourth year I did a really interesting project working on the aerodynamics of long span bridges in wind tunnels. This combined my interest in both aerodynamics and structures. Structural dynamics is something I am still working on now that I have my job with Arup, where I am working in the Advanced Technology Group. I am doing similar work to that I did in my fourth year, but on real problems that need to be solved.
Most of my work is office-based using computer simulations, but I do go out on site to measure the movements of structures that I have to analyse.
Basically we get all the interesting problems to deal with. These range from fixing large span floors that are too bouncy for comfort, but wanted for architectural reasons, to how big to make a railway tunnel so that your ears don't pop when the train goes through it at high speed. I have found my general engineering knowledge invaluable in my job due to the variety in the projects I have been working on.
I still keep in touch with my fourth year project supervisor, Dr Allan McRobie, and he keeps me posted on the research he is doing in the area of bridge dynamics.
I had a great time at Cambridge. The free afternoons mean that you can choose to play sport and then work in the evenings: I managed to play hockey four or five times a week. The College system makes sport far more accessible as there are teams playing all sports at all levels.