Now heading back to Blighty
Landscape gardener. Teaching assistant in a school for the disabled. Hand-made sausage salesman with own business. Geotechnical assistant in the Engineering Consultancy Division of Surrey County Council
Lecturer in Engineering
University of Manchester
I use supercomputers to simulate nuclear reactors, wind farms and dinosaur locomotion
I am leading the research and development of the next generation of software tools for engineering design. These tools help engineers test whether the machines they design will work efficiently and safely. You can find out more about this topic by googling “virtual prototyping” or “computer aided engineering” or “computer aided design”.
In a nutshell, the physics that describes how things behave is encoded in mathematical equations. These equations are translated into computer code. The engineer builds computer models of his/her design and then uses the software to test various “What if?” scenarios. The answers are based on the physics we learn at school.
Engineering design combines creative subjects like art with physics and mathematics. If you design medical implants, a knowledge of biology and chemistry is also useful.
My Typical Day
I brush my teeth in the morning and just before I go to bed. In between, I’m at work and anything can happen.
In the past month, I have: (i) Helped my students with their projects; (ii) Interviewed ladies and gentlemen for positions in my research group; (iii) Planned/reviewed my teaching commitments; (iv) Written articles for scientific publications; (v) Given a talk at a conference in Dublin, Ireland; (vi) Been interviewed on camera about European supercomputing; (vii) Given a talk over the internet to a multi-billion dollar engineering company called Alstom PLC – with an audience from the UK, Spain, France, Germany and Russia; (viii) Written a proposal asking for funds to turn a research idea into a medical product for the market; (ix) Written new software for a prototype processor from Intel as part of research into Fusion Reactors and (x) Of course, prepared for the “I’m an Engineer” competition!
What I'd do with the money
I’d buy a laser scanner to help demonstrate “computer aided engineering” in schools.
A laser scanner can be used to create a digital version of any object, inside a computer – including your best friend or your teacher, I’d like to use this technology to demonstrate that computer aided engineering is fun and creative, as well as a key activity in engineering design.
Imagine scanning a premature baby, or a child in a third world country injured by a land mine. You could print out medical devices or replacement limbs that are a perfect fit for the patient, i.e. comfortable as well as functional.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Calm, creative, leader
Who is your favourite singer or band?
D:Ream (the former band of my University of Manchester colleague Professor Brian Cox) and A Wolf Like Me (my cousin Jamie Gamache’s band). Jamie has done a great Gnarls Barkley cover on YouTube (Google him and see if you agree!).
What's your favourite food?
Nanny Joyce’s home made blackcurrant and gooseberry crumble. Tinned mussels in chilli sauce. Thai green curry. Cornish pasty. Fish and chips (in Whitby).
What is the most fun thing you've done?
A parachute jump for charity. (Absolutely terrified jumping out of the plane followed by grinning madly like a lunatic once back on terra firma).
What did you want to be after you left school?
An exploration geologist and hunter-gatherer (think Bear Grylls with an obsession for fossils).
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Erm, often. But detention after school provides a quiet place to do your homework, right?
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
The best thing I’ve done is learn computer programming. It sounds dull, but I now use the biggest computers on the planet to help design fusion reactors, optimise the design of wind farms, develop new surgical procedures and find out how fast dinosaurs can run.
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
A self-employed renovator of stone cottages in the medieval towns of France and Spain (I’d enhance the ancient charm and beauty with some modern technologies).
Tell us a joke.
An engineer is someone who takes a measurement with a micrometer, marks it with a crayon and cuts it with an axe.
The computer I use for work is called ARCHER. It is the UK’s National Supercomputer.
I visited the Titan last year, the biggest computer in America.
In September I will teach engineering in China, using Tianhe-2, the biggest computer in the world!
I design software for engineers to design wind farms.
And I help palaeontologists use engineering to study how dinosaurs used to walk.
Aerodynamics of a Klingon war ship? How did that get on here?