James Dolan

James DolanWhen applying to Oxford as an undergraduate, I fully anticipated that I would specialise in mechanical engineering. However, after the first two years of the course, in which we were exposed to all of the main disciplines, I chose instead to specialise in electrical, electronic and control engineering. That the course allows such flexibility is one of its great advantages. However, the value of a general engineering education, even if you do not change eventual specialisation, is immense. My degree allows me to confidently model and analyse a huge range of physical systems, not just the electrical and electronic, drawing inspiration from seemingly disparate areas of study whilst doing so. I am convinced that it is this combined breadth and depth that has allowed me to engage so readily with the interdisciplinary work demanded by the Nano Science & Technology Doctoral Training Centre (NanoDTC) at the University of Cambridge, where I am currently completing a PhD.

I found my time at Magdalen College and the Department of Engineering Science immensely enjoyable, both socially and academically. Being part of a college allowed me to develop close and lasting friendships with people studying a range of different degree subjects, including the arts and humanities. This served as a constant reminder of the different ways with which to view the world and the various perceptions of the role of science and engineering within it. The small number of engineers in my college (as with most) all became good friends and were always my first point of call for help with understanding the lecture material. This friendship ensured that college tutorials, either in pairs or as a larger group, were relaxed, supportive and very often highly humorous. Of course, this was helped by the wonderful tutors we had the great luck to be taught by. We owe much of our understanding of engineering to their patient but challenging teaching, for which we would thank them by arranging regular trips to the pub. The department, too, offered some exceptional lecturers and supervisors throughout the course. My involvement with the Joint Consultative Committee as student representative on the department’s Undergraduate Studies Committee allowed me to witness first-hand the passion and commitment of the faculty to providing exceptional quality undergraduate teaching.

Keen to promote engineering outwith the course, I became involved with the Oxford University Engineering Society (OUEngSoc) from the end of my first year. As one of the largest undergraduate societies in the university, OUEngSoc seeks to serve engineering students and other interested members of the university by providing them with a wider overview of the various aspects of the profession, and allowing a deeper insight into areas of engineering that are otherwise outside the scope of the course. The society does this through various events such as lectures, debates, workshops, trips and networking events. As Secretary, Sponsorship Officer and, in my final year, President, I was responsible for many different aspects of the running of the society. It pleases me no end to see both it and the Oxford Energy Society, which “spun out” of OUEngSoc following a particularly successful run of energy-related events, continuing to thrive.

During my time at Oxford, I was lucky enough to be awarded scholarships by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and Magdalen College, as well as an award by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng). Such funding was extremely useful and I would strongly encourage any potential Oxford applicants to apply for similar support.