Autumn 2009 - The start of the final year

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like bananas. I've been saying this quote to myself a lot lately, as time is flying by. I can't believe I'm in my 4th and final year at university.

Maria Felice For those of you who haven't read my intro article - I am a B.Eng. (Hons.) Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Malta.

I am working towards a Mechanical Engineering degree, but this actually covers mechanical, materials and manufacturing engineering. My 4th year is split up into two semesters and during this first semester I am studying eight different subjects across these main topics. The assessment of sic of these subjects is by exam and assignment, one of them is just assignment-based and the other is just exam-based. Phew!

I am also working on my dissertation (final year individual project). My title is 'A Modular and Ergonomic Surgical Instrument Handle Prototype'. I am focusing on the instruments used during minimally invasive plastic surgery.

So far I have read a lot about engineering design as well as about minimally invasive plastic surgery and the ergonomic issues faced by surgeons. It all involves a lot of work but I am enjoying it. It's nice to have a project that is not part of a fixed curriculum because I have a lot of say in what I do and when. For example I chose the specific type of surgery I would focus on. As my co-supervisor says, "research is a leap in the dark".

Helping confirm my graduation plans

My most memorable semester was my first semester of Year 3, which I spent at a university in Scotland on the Erasmus exchange programme. Last summer I spent two months working at the same university. I worked as a research assistant, which was a great challenge and very rewarding. I met many wonderful, inspiring researchers and I learnt so much that I was wondering whether I could somehow attach an external hard disk to my brain!

This experience whetted my appetite for more research and was confirmation that a doctorate degree course (in the UK) is what I want to do once I finish my undergraduate degree course. I am looking into Engineering Doctorate courses - an EngD is similar to a PhD but more industry-oriented. Reading and inquiring about courses takes time and applying takes even longer and sometimes I wonder whether it will all be worthwhile but I know it will be - eventually.

Keeping social - its not all work

After approaching members of the Insite committee towards the end of Year 3, this year I joined Insite (our local student media organization) and regularly write articles for their website. Last year I attended the very first meeting of the Malta Student Ramblers and have been active with this organization since. We held two walks this semester that were both in very beautiful, secluded parts of tiny Malta. It is very satisfying to see many people attend the walks and we look forward to soon becoming an official student organisation.

The thought of graduation

This semester is very hectic but I am so excited about graduating now and I try to use that to spur me on. The extremely noisy graduation celebrations that take place in Malta serve as a reminder of the sense of relief I will feel when I complete my course. In Malta students graduate in November despite completing their course in July - so it is only a few weeks ago that we had all the noise and partying on campus!