Day in the Life of an Engineering Student
Sally Croysdale is currently in her third year studying Engineering Science.
Originally from Leicester, Sally is a keen musician and in her spare time sings in her College’s chapel choir and plays clarinet in the university orchestra.
When did you first start to consider studying Engineering and why did it appeal to you?
I realised that Engineering was for me around Year 12 (age 16). I really loved maths and physics, especially the applied mechanics elements. Everything around us, from the laptops we use, to the cars we drive, and the water we drink has been carefully designed by an engineer, and I love that the ideas I have can be applied in the real world, and make a noticeable difference.
What’s a typical day like for you studying Engineering?
Most mornings I’ll have two lectures on the topics I’ve chosen. The lecturers are academics that do research in the areas that they lecture in, so it’s always really exciting to hear how the concepts we learn about are applied in current research.
Then in the afternoons, we have either labs or private study time. Labs are always fun in Engineering – I’ve done everything from building a bridge and soldering a radio to designing a walking robot!
At Oxford, there’s a big focus on private study. We get set two problem sheets a week, based on our lectures. Our tutors then mark these and lead a tutorial with just you and one other student. These are useful as you get to discuss concepts that you’re interested in, or find challenging, in depth.
In the evenings, I almost always have a choir or orchestra practice or I just chill with my friends. After such a busy day working it’s important to unwind!
What has most surprised you about your degree/life at Oxford?
Initially, the quantity of work was quite a shock. There’s a lot more private study time than at school, and some questions that you’re set are challenging, but you definitely get used to it and realise that it’s OK to ask for help.
Engineering can sadly still be quite a male-dominated industry. What is it like studying as a woman and what support is out there for women in STEM subjects at university?
At Oxford, the ratio of women to men on the undergraduate degree is over 20% now, which is an improvement, although there’s clearly a long way to go! I don’t really notice day to day that I am in the minority in terms of gender; however, I’ve had very few female lecturers and lab supervisors and so it can be difficult to find female role models.
There are so many inspirational women engineers out there that are making a real difference in their fields though – for example, Dame Ann Dowling, the first Woman President of the Royal Academy of Engineering! We have “Women In Engineering” Events and an annual Tea Party for all women in the department, it’s so great to talk to other women and see that it’s not a man’s world at all! Check out the Women’s Engineering Society, particularly their “Top 50 Women in Engineering” campaign if you’re looking for some inspirational women!
How easy is it to balance your degree with extra-curricular activities?
I sing with my college chapel choir which is quite a big commitment outside of Engineering; we sing 4 times a week! But this has really helped me to relax and find friends that really support each other through uni. It requires organisation to make everything work, but for me, it’s crucial to take some time off work every day and have some fun!
What are your future plans? Do you intend to pursue Engineering further after your degree?
I love Engineering and as I specialise more I’m getting really excited to apply my knowledge in the real world. It’s a discipline that’s constantly evolving so I hope to work in industry once I graduate, either in the Civil or Biomedical Fields.
How would you suggest someone hoping to apply to study Engineering prepare?
If you’re interested in Engineering, it’s good to stay up to date with the latest discoveries in the news. However, I think the best way is to find an engineer (perhaps a friend’s mum or dad) and talk to them about what they do and why they love it.