Engineering

Everything you are about to read has been written by current and recently graduated students at the University of Cambridge, to give you honest information about what it’s like to be a student at Cambridge.

Engineering is all about applying science and solving real world problems, and Cambridge is one of the best places to study it. There are around 300 students per year, all taught in the Engineering Department close to the centre of Cambridge. It’s a really challenging, scientific course, but it also has a strong focus on practical experience and real world applications.

Engineering Credit: Cambridge University

What about the Engineering course at Cambridge appealed to you?

Ruth, Engineering, Peterhouse College, 1st Year
Ruth
Peterhouse, 1st year

The course at Cambridge is broad-based for the first two years: you cover a wide range of subjects before you have to choose a specific area (eg: Civil, Mechanical, Electrical). This was great for me as I didn’t know which specialism I preferred and wanted to keep my options open. This also means that the course is really varied and interesting, and that there’s something for everyone. There’s also a good balance of theory and practical work: lab experiments really help me understand some of the difficult concepts we get into in lectures, and the team projects we do are the highlight of the course for me.

How have you found the structure of the course?

Ruth, Engineering, Peterhouse College, 1st Year
Ruth
Peterhouse, 1st year

Covering several areas of Engineering means the structure is pretty broad, but the pace is also fast enough that you get into detail in lots of subjects quickly. So if, for example, you’re pretty sure electronics is your thing, you won’t be held back - by the end of your degree, you will have done as much electronics as you would’ve done at a university offering a specialised course from day one. The pace can be challenging, but there’s never a dull moment. I also really believe a broad-based course is the best way to study; most engineers will end up working in companies and on projects involving multiple areas of Engineering, and having experience of all these will be really useful.

What is your faculty/department like?

Ruth, Engineering, Peterhouse College, 1st Year
Ruth
Peterhouse, 1st year
The Department

In first and second year we spent most of our time on the main department site, which is pretty centrally located and easy to walk/cycle to from any college. Pretty much all your lectures are in one big lecture theatre, and then there are lots of different labs you’ll work in throughout the year. There’s also the DPO(Design and Project Office), a computer room where we go for computing and drawing labs. You can also go to the DPO at weekends to work or use the computers. In the new Dyson Centre there’s 3D printers and other equipment that we’re allowed to use in our own time. We also do a structural design project here.

What types of work do you have to do?

Alex, Engineering, Peterhouse College, 1st Year
Alex
Peterhouse, 1st year
Types of work

The work for engineering is split between question papers on topics taught in lectures, and work based on the labs. The papers are used as the basis for supervisions, so students can get comfortable with new subject material and ask any questions. Supervisions are a useful way of demonstrating how the theory works in practice, and how theory from lectures applies to real-world situations. For laboratory work, we are usually asked to write-up a short report on what we investigated/observed/accidentally destroyed, to demonstrate our understanding of the objectives and apply the theory. The university has a resource site called moodle, which has everything you need to tackle the papers or lab work, as well as extra resources.

Do you have career plans?

Alex, Engineering, Peterhouse College, 1st Year
Alex
Peterhouse, 1st year

Choosing a career so early on is a daunting task, however being this course allows you to explore all the options before making a decision. During my first year, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Formula Student team, ‘Full Blue Racing’, who are building a car to compete at Silverstone. Working on the car has opened my mind to the possibility of entering motorsport at the highest level and forging a career in Formula 1. Ruth: I’m pretty sure I want to go into Structural Engineering, but I’ve got no career plans yet. As part of the course i’ve got to find a work placement over the summer, and I’m hoping this experience will inform my career choices.

What about your course would you change?

Alex, Engineering, Peterhouse College, 1st Year
Alex
Peterhouse, 1st year

The first thing to remember is that the course is so broad, and covers so many topics, that there will inevitably be a topic or lecture that you don’t like. The one drawback in the course is you don’t get much choice in first year topics. Unlike other courses, all first years cover the same course material, however, by second year you begin to tailor your course to what suits you. So although it seems a bit irritating at first having to do a topic you know you won’t pursue, it all helps to broaden your understanding of engineering. And also help you make the right choice in future.

Typical timetable of a 1st year Engineering student

- Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9am Lab Lecture Lecture Lecture Lab
10am Lab Lecture Lecture Lecture Lab
11am Lecture Computing Lab - Lab Lecture
12am Lecture Computing Lab - Lab Lecture
1pm - - Lecture - -
2pm - Computing Lab - - Drawing Lab
3pm - Computing Lab - - Drawing Lab
4pm - - - - -

What has been going on at Engineering?

- Recent Events -

Cambridge Science Festival preparation

Plans are underway for the Cambridge Science Festival, where the Engineering Department holds a flagship event. Student volunteers will help families make rubber-band powered aeroplanes and test how they fly!

Engineering Society Elections

The Cambridge University Engineering Society 2016 elections are about to start, to elect a committee to organise next year’s industry talks, careers fairs and social events.

New Facility

The Dyson Centre for Engineering Design opened in January; it’s a great new space to do projects, and it’s got lots of equipment you can use in your free time.

Course Gallery

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Please note that as student volunteers we are unable to answer questions on admissions requirements - e.g. school/college qualifications needed to apply. You are best asking these questions to admissions@cam.ac.uk