As a prospective student with options in both physics and engineering, Paul Muchatuta is grateful of the support given to him by Lancaster University. "They gave me an opportunity and I've never looked back."
A perfect match
When Paul began his search for a university, he found himself in a unique predicament. “While I liked the look of Lancaster, I was torn between studying physics and engineering,” he says.
Despite his original desire to be an engineer, Paul had applied to study physics as his recent results were stronger in the subject. Lancaster University recognised his potential in both subjects, however, and were willing to take his personal aspirations into consideration. The University invested in his talent and determination by offering him a place on the Engineering programme. “I took the opportunity and have never looked back,” says Paul.
When considering his options, Paul believed that Lancaster University would provide a fitting environment for him to study in. Just like Paul himself, Lancaster is adaptable and constantly developing. “I chose Lancaster because I admired how it wasn’t stagnant,” he claims. “It’s a Top 10 university, and yet it continues to climb and prove itself on the world stage. And what better place to forge the beginnings of my career than in such a dynamic, challenging environment?” Compared to other universities that “just teach you what has to be taught and then push you out into the job market,” Paul is impressed with the way in which Lancaster University is “constantly trying to improve and build upon itself in order to support students in achieving their goals and potential.” As Paul discovered for himself, it is never too late to change direction and rise to new challenges.
Learning to learn
Whilst settling in at Lancaster, Paul is thankful for the way in which support has been given when necessary. “If I ever need help I know I can always go and speak to my lecturer outside contact hours. They are always so welcoming. Being such experienced educators, they understand what it’s like to be a student trying to grasp a difficult subject,” he explains. “They really do appreciate it when students show the drive to learn, and this in turn made me happy to go ask for help.” Paul is also impressed with the level of support between students, and claims that “the Department has been developing relationships between different years by starting up a full mentorship scheme that benefits mentors and mentees.”
In combination with the assistance offered by tutors and peers, Paul believes that Lancaster’s choice of engineering course options has been instrumental in enabling him to focus on his preferred subject. “The nature of studying a module that constantly tests me is the very reason why I chose to study Electrical and Electronic module from my second year,” he says. Paul has been inspired by the diversity of subjects that the Engineering Department covers. “My personal favourite topic so far has been the control units,” he explains. “They show how engineers go about controlling whole systems. They’re applicable in electronics, mechanical, chemical engineering, and any kind of system really.”
Additionally, Paul feels motivated by the business and management focused modules. “They offer insight into a different part of engineering than those we often envisage. It’s good to be reminded that engineers don’t just design, make, and test things, they’re also highly sought after to work in management, finance, and business roles due to the skills we have – ranging from problem solving, numerical skills, and technical knowledge.”
An array of facilities
Speaking of the facilities at Lancaster, Paul is keen to encourage prospective students to discover what Lancaster’s Engineering Department has to offer. “As an electrical and electronic engineering student, most of my practical time is spent either in the electronics or computer labs. Study ranges from using circuit design, programming, or modelling software to good old fashioned soldering and circuit building based on previously made designs,” he says. “At the moment I’m involved in my third year project making signal tracking antennas, which consists of some heavy radio frequency antenna design on CST studio. I’ll be fabricating them and the circuit that connects the antennas, in order to design a system that controls its behaviour via code. I’ll then get to analyse the results once functional.”
Looking to graduation and beyond, Paul understands the importance of finding a programme that prepares students for what follows. “It’s not just a matter of doing your work and getting good grades,” he says. “There are always opportunities at Lancaster to get involved in something unique and interesting. I’ve been involved in doing part-time student ambassador work as well as a term time placement through the University's Employment Services.”
Paul has recently discovered the benefits of work placements. “I took a term time placement with a local power engineering company involving programming via a simulation program, Matlab's Simulink,” he recalls. “I was required to model a system containing a lead acid battery and a solar panel array with the goal of being able to produce a report and presentation on my findings from my simulations. It was a lot of hard work and drew heavily on what I was learning at the time – especially so for the electrical and Matlab portions of work. The placement gave me experience of working in a real engineering role, and it required me to rapidly develop some very disciplined time management skills.”
During his time on campus, Paul has been involved in a number of social outlets such as the Cricket Club and the Engineering Society, in addition to receiving responsibility as a JCR Executive. “I feel as though Lancaster prepares me best because it has so many opportunities to get involved with,” Paul says. “It’s probably harder to not get involved with anything!” When asked about his overall university experience, Paul is enthusiastic about his time at Lancaster. “It’s given me the chance to not only work towards making myself into a very competent engineer, but also the chance to amass valuable skills beyond engineering and become a well-rounded individual.”