Maria's diary entry - Spring 2011

Maria's finding her postgraduate routine is more like that of a worker than a student. She's getting practical training on-site at Rolls-Royce, learning new programming tools and going on a variety of technical visits.

Maria and snowman I have carried out the plans that I mentioned in earlier diary entries: I moved to Bristol, England last October to start an Engineering Doctorate (EngD) at the University of Bristol, in conjunction with Rolls-Royce. The topic of my doctorate is non destructive testing (NDT), specifically dealing with using ultrasound to locate and characterise complex cracks.

My day to day routine is very different to that of an undergraduate or even a taught postgraduate student because I work for approximately eight hours every weekday and have evenings and weekends off. It is much more like being out at work than being a student, which I like, because each week I have sufficient leisure time whilst getting lots of work done. Also, this routine makes the prospect of still being a full-time student at age 26 or 27 less daunting!

Meeting students on the same programme from across the UK

There are students doing the same EngD programme as me in various universities all over the UK and we meet a few times a year for lectures. In October we had an introductory course at Imperial College London. This was a very important and interesting course because we learnt about various NDT techniques and applications. Some of which we will not deal with in our individual projects, but nevertheless it is important that as future NDT experts we have an understanding of them.

At the end of that week we visited Didcot power station and Airbus and Rolls-Royce in Filton, Bristol. These visits complemented what we had learnt during the lectures.

Learning to use MATLAB and getting practical experience

In November we had a course in MATLAB at Bath University. I am new to MATLAB but in my undergrad studies I used other programming languages and I think it is very true that you can transfer programming skills to new languages

During the first week of February we had a course at the University of Bristol about ultrasonics and acoustics, and as I write this I am on the train to Yorkshire for two weeks of NDT practical training at a NDT consultancy company.

I have spent only two weeks at Rolls-Royce in Filton so far, but this will change once I begin to dedicate more of my time to my actual project and less time to familiarising myself with the existing material on the subject. Filton is only about 15 minutes drive away from Bristol's city centre, which is very convenient

Apart from the weeks spent away on courses and a couple of weeks leave over Christmas, I have spent my time at the university. I spend my days reading journal papers, programming in MATLAB and performing experiments in the lab. I use an ultrasound array controller in the lab, which is connected to a computer on which I run my MATLAB code, so there is a strong link between the code I write at my desk and the experiments I perform in the lab. This set-up means that things generally either all go well or all don't go well.

I look forward to updating you on my progress in the next diary entry…