Study Engineering

Advice from three GEMS Alumni who have gone on to study around the world

gems schools engineers on site

Rajesh Rangarajan is a Research and Development Engineer at Baker Hughes. He went to Our Own High School and studied Engineering at Penn State University

What led you to study engineering?
I want to bridge the gap between technology and customer needs. In order to be a strong and worthy bridge having technical expertise is necessary. Studying engineering gives individuals a better perspective of life and also the ability to branch out to do more.

Whereabouts do/did you study engineering? Would you recommend it? What insights would you offer into studying engineering in your institution?

I did my Mechanical Engineering from Penn State. American education system trains their student to become leaders. Penn state gave me practical exposure to science and technology in addition to improving my interpersonal and intrapersonal attributes. The institution has the best career fair in the nation with over 150 companies having their booth. The institution is famous for mechanical engineering and very popular for Material Science and Engineering.

If you are already working in engineering, what is your career like? What do you actually do on a day to day business? 

I am currently in the Oil and Gas industry working as a Research and Development engineer. My role is to check for reliability in manufactured tools and parts and also design new tools for effectively producing Hydrocarbons from the earth. The Oil and Gas business is complex and me being in the service industry give a larger perspective of how things work before the end product reaches he consumer. With my engineering degree I intend to gain experience and slowly transition to a manager or upper management position.

If you are studying engineering, how do you feel about your future employment possibilities?

Staying in the field of engineering and technology definitely ensures job security. An engineer's opinion is very valuable and is often treated with respect. The degree is not just a feel good degree but also something very meaningful as it is the backbone for survival.

What are your future aspirations? How would you see your career developing?

My aspirations are to gain technical knowledge and eventually get my MBA in Marketing and Finance. A blend of technology and business will widen my horizon and I can either start a company or keep climbing the corporate ladder faster than anyone and eventually become the executive leader.

If you could share one thing with your younger self about pursuing engineering, what would it be?

It is the only field that can be transferred to any other industry or business in the world.

Timothy Murdoch is a Research and Development Engineer at AP Racing which supplies Formula 1 Brakes and Clutches. He is a former student of Jumeirah College and studied motorsport engineering at Oxford Brookes University.

What led you to study engineering?

I’ve always been interested in how things work from a young age, especially cars. I started go-karting in year 10 along with helping out at the Dubai Autodrome which further fuelled my passion for engineering.

Knowing what you know now, how has your perspective of studying/working in engineering changed from when you were at school?

I often found it hard to relate what I did in class to the real world but getting a hands on experience and by making things in subjects like Design and Technology really made it more obvious as to how and where what I learnt in class could be linked to the real world.

Whereabouts do/did you study engineering? Would you recommend it? What insights would you offer into studying engineering in your institution?

I studied Motorsport Engineering at Oxford Brookes University. Although I didn’t get the grades to go straight into the BEng course at Brookes (you needed AAB to get in), I choose to take the Foundation course for a year that would then let me start the BEng course.I would recommend my course and Oxford Brookes as an establishment to anyone as I thoroughly enjoyed not just the course but also the city and people I met. The engineering teaching staff were all good and it was easy to see that a lot of them were passionate about engineering as a whole.

Oxford Brookes is currently redeveloping the main campus and other parts which will severely improve the facilities the university can offer. Furthermore, you can get access to some of the Oxford University libraries from your second year onwards. The engineering campus is just outside Oxford and is roughly 6 miles from the main campus which is near the centre of Oxford.

I wouldn’t advise to live at the engineering campus as the accommodation isn’t as social as that of the others which are near the main campus. It’s also a pain to get back to the engineering campus after nights out in the city centre! You receive a bus pass as part of your rent for halls in your first year which makes it easy to get to and from the engineering campus for lectures.

Have you specialised in a particular field of engineering? If so, what led you down that path? 

I specialised in Motorsport simply because that’s where my passion lies for engineering. Although I like to understand how lots of things work, I prefer finding ways to make things go faster – such as race cars. It was this that led me to choose motorsport engineering. Although I choose engineering, the first 2 years of course were exactly the same as people undertaking Mechanical engineering or Automotive engineering, both of which Oxford Brookes offers.

This will be the same with most universities that offer a wide range of engineering courses. This is extremely useful, as it means you can change your course to specialise in another engineering sector if you find that the one you had originally chosen is no longer your desired choice.

Anything else you wished you’d known about it before you applied?

I can’t think of anything that is imperative to know before you start engineering but in general terms of university, make sure you use your first year to join all the social clubs/sport clubs you want to because it’s hard to maintain it as your university course becomes more intense in later years. Also, it’s definitely worthwhile to visit as many universities as you can before you make your decision. A university can be a lot different to the pictures you can see on the internet, plus people have different expectations and experiences at university, so just because one person tells you a university is good, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you.

What have you found interesting in your study of engineering? What has been least interesting? 

In terms of motorsport engineering, I’ve found vehicle dynamics and general CAD design to be the most interesting parts of the course. Throughout the course you are given various design projects to do within a group. These projects often last for the whole academic year and are worth a significant part of your grade. However, they are highly enjoyable as you can work with friends to design something.

Within my time at university we designed a water pump from scratch whilst also designing the chassis and front end of a racing car. These were huge design tasks which took loads of time to design but with no restrictions on design you can come up with imaginative designs – as long as you have theoretical proof the idea might actually work!

What skills and requirements make a good engineer in your opinion? How would a prospective engineer know if they were well suited to a career in engineering?
Hands-on experience really is key to being a good engineer. The best way to understand how something works is to take it apart and see it for yourself. It’s much easier to link the theoretical side of engineering to the practical side of it, if you understand how something is made and constructed.

If you are already working in engineering, what is your career like? What do you actually do on a day to day business? How would you reflect upon your work?

I am currently working as a Research and Development engineer for a company called AP Racing which supply brakes and clutches to the majority of Formula 1 teams. They also supply brakes for armoured vehicles and other motorsport categories. My day to day tasks range massively with everything depending on different projects that need to be completed.

My job is to basically solve complex problems that might arise within the company or external problems that may occur with motorsport teams. For example, I have done work for several F1 teams to help determine which clutch will be best and which allows them to have the best start at a F1 race. Internally, I have designed fixtures and complex parts for AP Racings in house brake dyno (a machine to simulate braking on a race car), amongst other things.

How do think employability and opportunities vary within different sectors of engineering?

I think employability within engineering is currently very good, even if you finish your degree and you no longer have the desire to work in engineering, it doesn’t appear to be difficult to secure a good job within another sector. Lots of my friends from university chose to study Motorsport Engineering only to find that they had lost their desire and interest to work within engineering. One has become an accountant, another works in finance and cost control. A lot of what you learn at university can be easily transferred to other jobs.

What are your future aspirations? How would you see your career developing?

Like a lot of children, I aspired to be a Formula one driver, however due to my lack of talent and the money required to progress it wasn’t to be. None the less, the engineering side always drove me on to discover the best design or the quickest way to do things. The next best thing after being a Formula one driver is being a race engineer. Within my role as a R&D Engineer I work on a wide scope of projects which allows me to identify what areas I prefer to others. It also means I can direct my personal development on areas I think I need to improve on.

Dhrish Bahirwani is currently studying engineering at Georgia Tech. He is a former student of Jumeriah College.

What led you to study engineering?

Engineering is a broad combination of a variety of technical skills that I connected with. In addition to enjoying Math and the Sciences, I loved exploring new ways to complete a process or construct something better. With this mindset, I knew engineering was the field I should pursue. Engineering also gives a variety of job opportunities in the future, not only in the technical field. Hence, I knew there would be something that I would enjoy doing after I graduate.

Knowing what you know now, how has your perspective of studying/working in engineering changed from when you were at school? Engineering is not easy. I thought it would just be a lot of math and physics, nothing too difficult. But engineering involves A LOT of coding to solve problems.

Whereabouts do/did you study engineering? Would you recommend it? What insights would you offer into studying engineering in your institution?

I am studying at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). I would definitely recommend it for any engineering program as it does rank in the top 10 for any engineering field. In terms of insights, don’t procrastinate. It might have worked in high school, but it will not work here (course load has been ranked as the hardest out of any American university.)

What skills and requirements make a good engineer in your opinion? How would a prospective engineer know if they were well suited to a career in engineering?

If you’re good at Math and Sciences, you will get the basic engineering principles fairly easily. In addition to that, it is important to have a curious approach to engineering. In the end, you want to engineer something significant, and that can only be achieved if you’re curious/ passionate about your field.

If you are studying engineering, how do you feel about your future employment possibilities?

Engineering has great employment opportunities in the US. Many companies need engineers for a variety of technical tasks. Also, engineers can handle other jobs such as finance, consulting, and healthcare pretty well. In fact, many employers prefer how engineers solve problems compared to finance majors so the field for employability is vast.

If you could share one thing with your younger self about pursuing engineering, what would it be?

Learn a coding language (Python or MatLab) before pursuing your undergraduate degree. It helps to be ahead of the game in a field that is rarely offered as an A level in Dubai. It gives you a great boost in your application to colleges as well.

Rantilini Samaratunga is a Graduate Electrical Engineer at Renishaw. She is a graduate of Jumeirah College who studied engineering at the University of Warwick.

What led you to study engineering?

It was more a process of elimination. I knew what I didn’t want to be (Doctor/Lawyer) and the subjects that interested me such as Maths and Physics fitted perfectly into the ‘STEM’ stream. And when I started researching degrees to apply for, Engineering seemed to be the recurring theme – it involved using hypothetical theories and making them realities.

Knowing what you know now, how has your perspective of studying/working in engineering changed from when you were at school?

I never had much exposure to electronic engineering as a career and knew nothing of the role. I now know how rewarding it is and how varied the work is.

Whereabouts do/did you study engineering? Would you recommend it? Have you specialised in a particular field of Engineering?

I studied at the University of Warwick (School of Engineering) and entered on the Computer Engineering BEng course. It was the perfect course for someone like me who was still undecided about what to do. The first year was general so I got a taste of all the different streams.

Second year was still relatively general, and was split into two pathways; electronics/computer/systems or Mechanical/Civil/Automotive etc. it was only in the 3rd year I chose to specialize in Electronics. 4th year is then the Masters year in which you truly go in depth into the subject.

I would recommend it for someone who is unsure about the field they would like to specialize in. In terms of electronics, there is a lot of heavy content in ASIC design and not so much in upper level embedded hardware or FPGAs. If you already know what stream you want to pursue then this course is not ideal. I would also recommend taking a year out in industry as most of my course-mates found this very beneficial. When I joined the workforce I too saw the stark differences between Uni life and industry. The course is IET accredited so it introduces students to professional bodies and supports them as graduates in order to obtain chartership etc. later in life.

Anything else you wished you’d known about it before you applied?

I wish I’d known that certain Lab facilities were not always available to undergraduates. There is a lot of red-tape you have to get through to do the simplest of things sometimes, but it definitely helped to prepare me for the real world afterwards. I also wish I’d known that lecturing is very different to teaching, lecturers are not always accessible and sometimes different lecturing styles can truly impact the way you perceive a module/topic. I also found it much more challenging to absorb information in lectures in comparison to seminars/tutorials/labs.

What have you found interesting in your study of Engineering? What has been least interesting?

The application and implementation of theory. Using the Software/Hardware tools available to us to design and build practical solutions. Seeing the end-product was the most rewarding. Studying engineering is a mix of lecture content and lab work. I had approx. 24 hours of contact time per week so it is very structured, so you don’t do as much self-study as say a content-heavy vocation such as law.

If you are already working in engineering, what is your career like? What do you actually do on a day to day business?

I am a graduate on a 2-year grad scheme. A typical work day would consist of a project progress meetings, some desk work and some lab work. For every new project I would do a bit of desk work (simulation, analysis, report writing, circuit design and board layout) and then go ahead and test out my design by making a PCB (printed circuit board) on one of the in-house machines, do a bit of component soldering and finally testing/troubleshooting/debugging. I find my work very rewarding as it is very varied and I don’t have to sit behind a desk all day, and the graduate scheme allows me to go on constant training schemes courses.

How do you think employability and opportunities vary within different sectors of engineering?

In general there is a global shortage of engineers compared to other disciplines. However I found, amongst my course and across other universities as well, students studying electronic and electrical engineering are few and far between, and with the growth of consumer electronics there are huge demands for professionals in this sector. The general trend was that the job market for the older, more established streams such as Mechanical and Civil tended to be much more competitive (more exposure to these careers in school). However it varies region to region, definitely in the Middle East, there is a higher demand for these streams but not so much for electronic engineers.

If you are studying engineering, how do you feel about your future employment possibilities?

When I was studying I really did think it would be highly competitive especially since I would need a work visa to be sponsored by my employer (Many of the electronics jobs in the UK were for companies in the aerospace and defense sector and employees would need to be citizens and go through thorough vetting procedures) However I underestimated the huge incentives that are being put into place for the industry to hire more female engineers. When I interviewed for Renishaw, it was my one and only interview in the UK and I found out that they wanted me the very next day, hence why I always encourage more females to pursue this career.

What are your future aspirations?

I would like to continue working in industry and work towards Chartership and perhaps further study in some topics I’m interested in, perhaps pursue a doctorate. I am also part of a STEM ambassador network promoting STEM careers in schools (including women in engineering) and hope to expand this to places like the Middle-East and the Indian sub-continent to help support local initiatives there.

How transferable do you see your skills as being in an international job market?
I would say, very transferable. Working in teams is a truly beneficial skill, as well as having the good communication skills everyone keeps talking about. Usually I am the only electronics engineer in my team so communicating your findings and work in a non-condescending fashion and without being too technical is a true asset to have. As we use industry standard design tools (software) at Uni these skills are easily transferred. A love for sciences and maths is definitely a good indicator as to whether you should be an engineer.

If you could share one thing with your younger self about pursuing engineering, what would it be?

Don’t worry so much about not getting a job, just know your stuff. Engineers in general are in high demand especially female engineers!