Alumni Profile March 2021

 

Name: Ruth
From: Ilsington, Devon
Secondary School: South Dartmoor Community College
Attended EMS: 2014 – 2016
A-level Subjects: Maths, Further Maths, Physics, World Development
Next Step: MEng Civil Engineering Loughborough University
Currently: Graduate Bridge Engineer in Birmingham

What is Bridge Engineering?

As the name suggests, bridge engineering involves designing new bridges! However, it also involves the design of retaining walls, culverts and gantries, as well as assessment of existing structures to make sure they’re not going to fall down soon. Its very varied and no two projects are the same; for example, one project I worked on involved designing a fire protection system for some aluminium scaffold being erected in a historic train station.

What attracted you to it?

I chose civil engineering at because I’ve always found the idea of creating the built environment around us interesting and you get to build some massive things! I was able to have a summer placement in a bridges team through the QUEST scheme and I really enjoyed the variety of work and how so much of it is still done with hand calculations. Every structure is so different you can’t rely on using the same method again and again, it really makes you think! I also like having the opportunity for site visits.

What does a standard day look like?

A standard day in the ‘office’ (my lounge) currently involves writing reports, talking to sub-contractors and clients, planning site visits and looking at various design codes and standards. I’m working on a project in Glasgow involving inspection of 82 bridges and retaining walls which is keeping me very busy! I’m off to Glasgow again this week to look at more structures which involves cherry pickers, pontoons and taking lots of photos.

What skills do you need?

The most important thing is a willingness to get stuck in, have a go, and ask for help when you need it. Uni doesn’t teach you everything you need to know and so there is a lot of learning on the job. For design work a strong mathematical ability and ability to think critically and problem solve is very important. You can do a calculation perfectly but if you don’t consider all the calcs you need to do the bridge isn’t going to last long! Technical report writing ability is another useful skill but one I’m still working on….

What has been your highlight so far?

Finding a suitable product for fire protection of scaffold, presenting it to representatives from multiple companies, liaising with the manufacturers and then seeing it be installed a couple weeks later. It was a short, intense project but very rewarding – no one in my bridge team had ever done anything like it before! You can see it here:

https://twitter.com/networkrailwest/status/1375373891745542150

What is next for you?

I’m moving to work for Mott Macdonald in June as the office is much closer to my home once I’m allowed into the office. I’ll be working in a rail team doing some similar, and some different, projects

What advice do you have for those interested in Civil Engineering?

If you’re applying to do civil or structural engineering at uni, check out the ICE QUEST scheme. You get some money each year, paid summer placements and a job at the end. It’s also possible to get apprenticeships with companies like Stantec if you just want to start working. It’ll take a while, but you can do uni courses funded by the company part time and get a lot of relevant experience at the same time (and no debt!).

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