Matthew Douthwaite, electrical and electronic engineering MEng student

Matthew Douthwaite has already gained some great experience, having taken part in an Engineering Education Scheme project during his A levels, then a Year in Industry placement with DSTL. He’s now studying at Imperial College.

Matthew Douthwaite Matthew Douthwaite got into engineering because he had always been interested in how machines and appliances work. When he was younger he spent a lot of time building things out of Lego and K'Nex and as he got older he became interested in technology and gadgets, which naturally led him to pursue an education in engineering.

“I took a design and technology subject called systems and control at GCSE and A level which I loved because it gave me the opportunity to create electronic models and devices, including a lighthouse and an electronic bike-lock,” he says. “I knew I wanted a job where I could do that kind of thing, so I applied for engineering at university.”

Taking part in an EDT Engineering Education Scheme project

Douthwaite took A levels in maths, further maths, physics and systems and control, walking away with four A* grades. During his final year of A levels he was also given the opportunity to take part in an EDT Engineering Education Scheme project with Wellstream International Ltd., a company that manufacturers flexible piping for the oil and gas industry.

“I was part of a team whose task was to design a tool to remove excess polymer which was left in a tube during an extrusion process. I had the opportunity to use 3D modeling software and to test the designs with facilities at Newcastle University. We also wrote up the project, which gave me my first experience of an official engineering report,” he explains.

“Finally, we presented our results to members of industry and the EDT who made up the judging panel. As well as giving me great insights into both the practical and administrative aspects of an engineering career, I also gained teamwork and leadership skills from working as part of a group.

Taking a Year in Industry before starting university

Before starting his electrical and electronic engineering MEng at Imperial College London, Douthwaite undertook a Year in Industry.

“I worked for DSTL, an organisation providing the main source of science and technology advice to the Ministry of Defence,” he says. “The year was a great experience, as I found myself with the roles and responsibilities of a full time employee and took part in a wide variety of projects. I got to apply my knowledge of maths and science learnt at A level to real world problems and contributed to work that would ultimately save lives of the armed forces.

Given the same responsibilities as a full time employee

“My tasks ranged from practical testing of equipment, to analysing data, to report writing. I also got a lot of training on how to operate equipment. For example I learnt to use an electronic theodolite used for building surveying.

Going hands on with MATLAB

“I also had the opportunity to teach myself to use MATLAB; industry standard software used for data analysis and simulations. I wrote a program in MATLAB to compare coordinate systems and created a user interface and graphical output so that the program could be used easily after I have left. This tool should greatly reduce time spent analysing data, and make life easier for my colleagues. My experience with MATLAB will also benefit me in my university course, as I am about to start using it in programming, and my skills will give me a head start to the term.

Developing personally

“The year also allowed me to develop personally as I was living away from home for the first time, and had to sort out all aspects of living, like bills and food, before I had even been to university,” he continues. “Overall, my year in industry was a hugely rewarding experience and will continue to benefit throughout my future career.”

Currently in his first year on the MEng Douthwaite gained something else from the company. DSTL has sponsored him and he’ll be given the chance to return and further his experience with the company during the summer break.

Life as an engineering student

Life as an engineering student is a full time job according to Douthwaite. Studying electrical and electronic engineering at Imperial College London means he’s at university five days a week and working almost all day, something he didn’t expect.

“It's tough but enjoyable,” he says. “I find almost everything I'm doing interesting and it’s especially good when I see examples of the kind of things I'll be doing when I graduate.

“I am interested in many areas of electronics, so at the moment I do not have any definite ideas about where I would like to work. At some point I would like to do a PhD, and I intend to become a Chartered Engineer (CEng). Ultimately, I would like to get into research, to help develop cutting edge technology to make a difference in the world.”

Benefits of IET student membership

Douthwaite joined the IET in September 2011 after being awarded a scholarship, however he’d intended to join for some time. The main reason is so he can get guidance and support as he works towards professional registration as a CEng, however he’s eager to attend more IET events and being in London also places him near to the IET library at Savoy Place, which should be useful to his studies.

“As a student, I believe the IET library will help me during my course as a source for course books, extra information, and a quiet place to work,” he notes.