Leonardo Impett, University of Cambridge MEng engineering student

Awarded a 2011 National Electronics Council Scholarship, Impett is working towards a possible career within aerospace. Here he shares his thoughts on student life and how it is important to maintain a variety of interests.

Leonardo Impett Currently studying engineering at the University of Cambridge, Impett has a passion for aerospace, but is still trying to decide what area to focus his career. With that in mind he’s very glad that his course is quite general until the final year, giving him a chance to try out many different fields.

“In terms of industries, none has excited me more than aerospace. For a few decades, the world's most ambitious engineering projects were in this field - both aeronautical and astronautical, and it seemed like the dawn of a new type of civilisation.

“Whilst the public might have lost a little ambition, areas like fluid dynamics, avionics and propulsion are of great interest to me. However, I still have only a vague idea of what work or research in these fields consists of at the moment, and am thankful I chose a course that stays general for the first two years,” he explains.

What to expect from life as a student

Now settled into university life, Impett is keen to highlight to upcoming undergrads that student life will never be as you expect it.

“When a large part of your recent school life has been concerned with getting into university, it seems such a distant target that it couldn't possibly bear any resemblance to life as you know it. However, it's not so different to sixth form: you have your maths, mechanics and electronics lessons, with a bit of homework in between. Fewer lessons and less homework, some have pointed out!

“Having said that, the atmosphere is completely different,” he says. “Being surrounded by leading academics and students of all disciplines, and having access to such a wealth of resources and events, you really get a chance to develop your interests.”

Projects and work experience

To improve his skill set and future career opportunities, Impett has wisely undertaken projects and gained work experience as and when he could.

For example he recently built a Metatrumpet for use in computer music, used at King's Place, London.

“The Metatrumpet, which is part of my father's music research, is a system of sensors and software that extends the instrument into a computer, capturing the sounds and actions of the performance of the instrument as compositional material to be processed during the performance. I made a new version of the hardware for it, using an onboard microprocessor to communicate the sensory information via Bluetooth to the computer,” he explains.

On the work experience front, he was fortunate enough to be given several weeks of work experience in the R&D department of Agrex SpA, near Padova, Italy.

“I applied for the placement some months in advance, and was put in the design office: the company were making a transition from 2D to 3D modelling and I was involved in that process. 3D models aren't just useful for analysis, they also present a much quicker and easier way of showing new or customised products to clients,” he notes.

Maintaining a variety of interests is key

Imprett is hugely proud of the fact that he’s managed to get to this level in his studies - that is, the very start of university - whilst maintaining an interest in things other than engineering and believes it is important to have a wide range of interests - and therefore skills - to support his early career.

“I like to keep myself involved in areas of study other than engineering. I'm secretary, for instance, of the Ancient Literature society at Cambridge, and am also involved in the labour movement, having worked with trade unions and community organisations on the Cable Street 75th anniversary march and having worked as an archivist at the Marx Memorial Library. I also represent first and second year engineering students at the Engineering Faculty Board and the Students' Union Council,” he says,

How the IET supports student members

Impett joined the IET towards the end of his time in sixth form, not just for the chance of a scholarship, but also for the learning resources the IET provides.

“There are always IET events both at university and in London, and membership offers the opportunity to be part of a truly global engineering institution, which you may well be with for the rest of your life. I've had the chance to meet both world-leading academics, and industry figures - even Adrian Newey of Red Bull F1,” he enthuses.

“The IET also publishes books, magazines and journals: many of which you'll use at university - and there's obviously a healthy discount on these. Later on, the IET will be invaluable for career development,’ he adds.