Second year PhD student here at the Department
I really enjoyed my A Level subjects (Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry), and have always loved problem solving, so Engineering was a natural choice for me. I was thrilled to be offered a place at Cambridge, as it would allow me to obtain a world-class Engineering education in an academically stimulating environment. I was also lucky to receive a James Clayton Undergraduate Scholarship, from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Similar scholarships are usually available from all the professional Engineering Institutions to help support students for the duration of their course.
Many practical problems are of an interdisciplinary nature, combining mechanical, electrical and software engineering techniques. I think that some of the most interesting design challenges occurs at the boundaries between disciplines. The structure of the Cambridge course, with its 'general' first two years, has provided me with a very good foundation for such work.
I have always wanted to use my skills to help people with physical disabilities – possibly by designing wheelchairs or prosthetics. I therefore chose to specialise in mechanical and biomedical engineering modules in my third and fourth years. For my fourth year project I designed an ankle replacement (similar, in many ways, to a replacement hip joint), collaborating with surgeons in the University Anatomy Department and in a local hospital. It was good to have their expertise, as making mechanical devices work within the human body requires a detailed knowledge of medical as well as mechanical issues.
After graduating I received an Arthur Shercliff Travel Scholarship (awarded through the Engineering Department). This allowed me to spend three months in Bangladesh, volunteering in a hospital for the rehabilitation of the paralysed. I helped to redesign the wheelchairs they produced, making them easier to control and cheaper to manufacture. I also helped them to set up a new orthotics unit. Orthoses are devices, such as braces and splints, that support or assist the function of damaged or paralysed limbs. I used my knowledge of the ankle to train their technicians to make ankle-foot orthoses.
I am currently a second year graduate student here at the Department. I am looking at the microstructure of skin, considering it as a fibrous network of proteins. One of the aims of my PhD is to produce a computer model capable of predicting the mechanical properties of skin. This would have various medical applications, for example in the design of needle-free injection devices.
I'd strongly encourage you to consider applying to Cambridge – it's a wonderful place to live and study, with a rich variety of academic and extra-curricular activities on offer. I've loved it here, and I'm sure you will too.