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In this post, Brett Cherry – our Writer in the Lab blog author, talks about the global water challenges we are facing and how Newcastle University is tackling them.

The challenges we face for water are similar if not more critical than that of energy. While both are necessary to survival, water is even more essential to life especially clean water. Access to clean water and sanitation is largely taken for granted in richer countries, while the vast majority of the world’s population struggle to live without them.

But even the UK, where it is often quite wet is threatened by water shortages in the future, indeed some parts of the country have already experienced them and will likely continue to. The main pressures here are climate change which will result in water shortages due to drought and a population increase of 8 million people by 2050.

Think for a moment that while many of you reading this will have access to a working toilet, over 2.3 billion people do not have such a luxury. The consequences of inadequate sanitation are many, not to mention deadly. 1800 children die every day from poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

The challenge for us in the ‘more developed’ world is to find solutions that are not merely scientific, technological or even economic, but also social, educational and governmental. Enter the Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub that brings together 94 organisations from 25 countries to tackle challenges around water security.

Water security for all

If we are to make sure that no one is left behind in making available clean water and sanitation for all then we must work together to achieve this. No single university, government, industry, NGO or individual will be able to do this alone. There are of course obstacles in collaborating with those whose objectives and values may slightly differ, but the stakes are simply too high not to.

Sometimes working together may be easier than originally thought, as the questions from one field may be answered by an entirely different but related one. If authorities ask why a population behaves or acts in a certain way, social scientists or NGOs may be best placed to answer.

The solution is simple: make provisions for clean water and sanitation available to those who need them. But the answer to ‘how do you do it?’ may be far from simple. Similar to the problem of making energy low-carbon, there is no one way to make clean water and sanitation a global reality.

If a community needs a low-tech, low-cost approach to supplying or storing clean water, engineers may have a solution for them. If knowledge of it needs to spread throughout the community then education will be involved. If national policies are needed for it to be adopted in a uniform way across the country, then it involves governance.

The Water Security Hub aims to work in an interdisciplinary way that cuts across disciplinary, national and professional boundaries. It is looking to highlight and enable hidden voices, such as young people, to be heard as they are one of the main stakeholders for SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.

For more info about the Water Security Hub check out this podcast.

https://soundcloud.com/user-634032444/ukri-gcrf-water-security-and-sustainable-development-hub-part-1

Wastewater and sanitation

The impacts of poor wastewater treatment and inadequate sanitation have already had global knock-on effects. After all it should come as no surprise that the combination of concentrated populations in cities, for example, with little to no sanitation, dramatically increases the risk of antimicrobial and drug resistance. It also spreads.

Numerous studies from researchers, such Professor David Graham and colleagues at Newcastle University, have repeatedly shown from their field work that microbial resistance to antibiotics is spreading from regions of the world with high populations, but little to no adequate sanitation facilities like toilets.

As announced late January, AMR genes have been found in the High Arctic, what many would consider one of the last pristine environments on Earth. But as this and other research has shown, there are few if any places in the world that have not been touched by human influence.

To stop the global spread of antimicrobial resistance the world must work towards Goal 6 everywhere. The health and welfare of local communities and the wider global community depends upon it.

Flood risk management

While some parts of the world struggle with not enough water, others struggle with too much water. Water giveth life and taketh away. It is a force of creation as well as destruction. Similar to wastewater and sanitation, managing flood risks also must involve a holistic approach.

Flooding in urban and rural areas alike leads to incredible damage to life, property and livelihood. In the UK the cost of flooding is around £2.2 billion per year. But there are now tools for modelling and better understanding flood risks that enable cities and rural areas to mitigate or at the very least learn to live better with flood hazards.

Flood research at Newcastle University employs high resolution, integrated models for flooding that include the influence of climate change. Climate affects flooding in a big way. In the summer climate change intensifies short bursts of rainfall known as ‘convective storms’ (intense showers formed by rising air).

Forecasting tools integrated with high resolution climate models make possible more accurate forecasts, and modelling the movement of water through a sewer system leads to more accurate simulations of flooding. Not to mention ‘digital twin’ technology which has the potential to create a real-time digital replica of an entire city. This makes it possible to prepare in advance and manage flood risk more effectively.

Climate impacts and adaptation

Climate hazards are numerous throughout the world. They include not only floods, but droughts, heat waves, storms and other extreme weather events. We need to ask the question ‘how much more likely are these events under a changed climate?’ to get a more accurate picture of how climate change affects us.

To improve forecasting research led by Professor Hayley Fowler and colleagues, uses high-resolution climate scenarios that scale down these extreme events to the local areas they impact. All of this work is about improving adaptation to climate change.

Climate change has major implications for infrastructure, such as energy, water, health care and transport. We need to understand also how these different infrastructures are interdependent, for example how a major power outage affects health care infrastructure like hospitals, or blocks emergency services.

Shortages in water affect energy services as it is used to cool down power plants. For these and many other reasons climates risk should be factored into infrastructure planning.

In a recent speech given by Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the UK Environment Agency, he says all water companies in the country ‘identify the same thing as their biggest operating risk: climate change’. This means we need infrastructure that can act as a water sink as well as a water supply, a reason to make infrastructure ‘blue-green’.

Blue-green cities and resilient infrastructure

Green walls, rain gardens and permeable surfaces that serve as buffers for rainwater are examples of ‘green’ infrastructure. Ponds, pond systems, leaky dams or water courses that store water on the surface are forms of ‘blue’ infrastructure. Put them together and you have ‘blue-green infrastructure’.

Blue-green infrastructure is potentially an important tool for allowing cities to adapt to climate change. It also can improve air quality and enhance ecosystems.

Newcastle University research on blue-green cities spans modelling, monitoring and demonstrating blue-green infrastructure. The National Green Infrastructure Facility, led by Dr Claire Walsh and Dr Ross Stirling, based at the Urban Sciences Building at Newcastle Helix, evaluates the benefits of blue-green infrastructure. An important part of this research is using digital sensors to monitor say how much water a tree stores or a swale.

While there are many good reasons for using blue-green infrastructure in cities, testing them with science makes possible new innovations that may not have been known or made possible before. To make cities resilient to flooding means overcoming any existing barriers to sustainable flood mitigation. Cities are also part of a wider water catchment that should be taken into account.

Catchment and water management

A water catchment is the area where water is collected in the landscape and drains into a water body or course such as a lake or river. Whether in the countryside, the city or somewhere in between we live and interact with a water catchment, although the ways in which water travels through the landscape may radically differ as cities have mainly paved surfaces.

In rural catchments much of the research from Newcastle has focused on ‘natural engineering’ approaches to slow, store and filter water. This means working with the landscape to mitigate flooding and combining multiple sets of expertise from science and engineering to social science and knowledge of local communities.

Most of the problems of flooding and drought are due to enhanced loss of water from the landscape. This means finding ways to retain water within the landscape makes it possible to manage the catchment in an integrated way that takes into account ecosystems and communities.

The programmes of research at Newcastle University on water are many, to discover more visit the Global Challenges Academy’s website.

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To celebrate World Wildlife Day, we’re taking a look at some of our favourite wildlife that is local to Newcastle and the North East.

Kittiwakes Image by Ian Cook, RSPB

These seabirds are known for creating their nests on cliff-tops and rock ledges around the UK’s coast line. Since the 1960s a colony of Kittawakes have made a disused-flourmill-turned-art-gallery their home. This groups of Kittawakes nesting on the Baltic building in Newcastle upon Tyne are famous for being the furthest inland colony in the world.

Red Squirrels

Once common across Europe, the number of red squirrels found in the UK have decreased since the introduction of the grey squirrel 150 years ago. It’s now thought that only around 15,000 red squirrels are left in England so they are difficult to spot. Luckily for us, around half of that population live in Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

Cheviot Goats Image by John Dalrymple

This wild group of British Primitive Goats live so remotely in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland that they are genetically distinct from others of their species. Such goats were once domesticated and brought to the UK around 5000BC as farm animals. The group of Cheviot goats are thought to have been wild for at least 2000 years. Our researchers are now tracking the goats using GPS to gain an insight into their range and behaviours.

Rock Pools at Cullercoats

Not far from our Marine Biology Lab in Cullercoats Bay there is an entire ecosystem of wildlife to be found on the rocky shore. In the tide pools you can find hermit crabs, limpets, velvet crabs, starfish, sea snails, and maybe even a lobster if you’re lucky.

Seals

There are a few places you can visit in the North East for Seal-Spotting. If you’re after Harbor Seals, head to Seal Sands at the mouth of the Tees for the North East’s only breeding colony. If you fancy seeing the even bigger Grey Seals, head to the Farne Islands. There over 8,000 grey seals there, making it one of the largest colonies in Europe.

Puffins

These distinctive birds can also be found in abundance in the Farne Islands. No wonder David Attenborough said this was his favourite place in the UK for “magnificent nature”. Puffins can be found on the islands each year between April and July for their breeding season, the rest of their year is spent out at sea.

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First year Civil Engineering student Toby Loveday talks us through what a typical day is like for him studying and living in Newcastle.

Hey,

I’m Toby, a first-year Civil Engineering student at Newcastle University. I remember when I was deciding which Uni to attend; the hassle of writing my personal statement, attending the open days and interviews it was all a bit of a nightmare, until I found Newcastle.  The mix of student life coupled with a word class university was a no-brainer.  With so many different routes into my future career, Newcastle was by far the best option for me. Newcastle not only has great connections with industry but has world leaders in the Civil Engineering industry, which is incredibly inspiring.

Most mornings, I’m up by 8 and in uni for the first lecture of the day by 9. Contact hours vary throughout the year with 4-5 hours being common, but as exams rapidly approach some days can have up to 6 or 7. Although this may seem daunting, it is all beneficial, well that’s what I tell myself! I also try to spend another 2 hours in the library after lectures, catching up with content as well as reading around my course modules.

Being a Civil Engineering student, I study a wide array of modules from engineering maths to environmental systems, which in my view provides a great mix.  So far, my favourite module is design of sustainable engineering systems which continues through the first two years. One of our recent projects for this module was designing and building an aluminium truss, then testing it to destruction.  This was an incredible experience; it taught me practical skills, helped me to appreciate my design and to see if my calculations were correct!

Another important module which I have enjoyed studying is Geographical Information Systems, which allows engineers to model and analyse spatial data. This module is extremely important as it is the future of engineering and planning development. Although challenging at first due to no prior knowledge of ArcGIS, after multiple tutorials and one to one help, I managed to design and present a residential development right here in Newcastle.

Civil Engineers at Newcastle are encouraged to join the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE). Being a student member of ICE opens up opportunities to attend conferences and improve my contacts into the industry. Through ICE, I have expanded my knowledge and I get the opportunity to speak to experts in the industry.

Outside of my academic studies I am a member of the Cross Country and Athletics team, as well as the Cycling Club. After a hard day of studying, I often find myself going for a run with the Cross-Country team where I get to catch up with some great friends. Being a member of both clubs, I get the opportunity to travel to various events all around the country competing for the university.

Not only do I love to participate in sport, but I also like to watch the ‘Toon Army’ play at St. James Park. One of the best things about the city of Newcastle is the nightlife.  With a variety of student friendly clubs, pubs and venues there is always somewhere to go. When you make the right decision and come to Newcastle you may see me out sometime.

Thanks for reading!

Toby

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Third year Mechanical Engineering student Jenny Olsen talks us through the many options that are available to engineering students once you graduate.

So you’re thinking of choosing an engineering degree to study at Newcastle University – great! You’ll learn lots of practical skills and engineering theory that will make you both knowledgeable and employable.

First of all – there are lots of different types of engineering; Mechanical, Civil, Bio-medical, Electrical and Chemical (to name just a few!). That means lots of different career routes, but despite there being lots of different streams of engineering we all study quite similar topics (at least for the first few years of your degree). Often, companies hire engineering graduates from more than one discipline, so try to study what you think you’ll enjoy the most! If you have a set career in mind, look at what types of engineers they tend to advertise vacancies for and consider tailoring your degree towards that.

So what happens after you graduate? You’ve passed all your exams, you’ve been at University for 3-4 years, maybe taken a placement year or Summer internship – what now?

As an engineering graduate, there are lots of options open to you – if you’ve graduated with a BEng and want to become chartered, the next step is probably taking an accredited Masters degree. Alternatively, some graduate schemes are tailored to take BEng graduates straight to being a chartered engineer, however these are harder to find and require a longer training period.

If you’ve taken an MEng and want to be chartered: straight into a graduate scheme or professional job role and you’re on your way to chartership!

There are plenty of places to search for graduate roles or engineering vacancies – using sites like Gradcracker is a good place to start however they generally only list big companies which makes the roles extremely competitive. The University Career’s Service also lists vacancies in the UK and abroad from companies who are actively seeking to recruit Newcastle graduates which is a brilliant resource. Alternatively, asking your lecturers if they know any companies that are hiring is a great way to find out about smaller companies that won’t be listed on the other sites!

But what if you’re not ready to give up Uni life just yet? If you’re one of the many students (like myself) who aren’t quite ready to leave behind the lecture hall, maybe further study is for you? There are plenty of research degrees or Doctorate schemes available, and this is a great time to specialise as you’ll already have had 3 or 4 years to discover what you really enjoy learning about.

Whatever you choose to do after your engineering degree, you’ll be well prepared to fit into a workplace, communicate with your colleagues and tackle the problems of our generation!

Jenny

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Second year Geographic Information Science student Sheoma talks us through what a typical day is like for him studying and living in Newcastle.

Hi everyone!

My name is Sheoma and I am a second year undergraduate student studying Geographic Information Science (GIS).

Newcastle University was the obvious choice for me as the city seemed very small and friendly and the quality of the teaching on my degree was extremely high.

My typical day consists of being at university from 9AM – 5PM for lectures and practicals. After, I usually head home to work on assignments. Sometimes I socialise with friends by heading to the cinema or catching student deals at my favourite spots.

Lectures

My course consists of many lectures and modules that are all interconnected and contribute to my overall learning experience. Practicals give me the opportunity to practice skills or theories that may have been discussed in lectures. They also allow you to gain a better understanding of the course content by giving you hands-on experience. Don’t worry if you find yourself saying ‘aha’ during a practical. It is expected that they clarify things that may have been otherwise difficult to comprehend. There are also occasionally a few seminars where specific topics are discussed to stimulate ideas and encourage everyone to participate. Although there are many lectures and practicals, you will appreciate them when you realise that they have equipped you with all the skills necessary to be one of the best in your profession.

Social Life

As a GIS student, you can become a member of the Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEGsoc) society. They organise a variety of events that range from socials to paint balling. A particular favourite of the society is the annual Christmas Ball where everyone puts on their most exquisite attire! If you fancy something else, there are over 160 societies to choose from, as well as the many adventures that await you in the ‘Toon’.

The thing that I find most interesting about my course is the strong links with industry. We constantly have the opportunity to network with employers who value and appreciate the level of academic excellence at Newcastle University. This makes the placement and graduate process more straightforward because we have already been exposed to a lot of different companies and have an idea of what they expect from graduates.

Hope to see you soon!

Sheoma

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Second year Marine Technology student Yanis talks us through what a typical day is like for him studying and living in Newcastle.

Hey guys,

I’m Yanislav, but most people call me Yan or Yanis. I am currently a second year student and I’m studying a masters programme in Marine Technology w/Naval Architecture.

Newcastle was my first choice university for many reasons, the biggest one being the feeling of community and connection between the course and student. It really does feel like your degree doesn’t just matter to you, which makes studying much more enjoyable!

Another benefit of being here is the incredible city itself. From stunning architecture and high culture art installations/indie digs, to the wide array of bars/social spaces, restaurants and shops, it’s easy to find something new to do or a place to relax.

University and student life are, as everyone likes to joke, very different to anything you will have come across before.

Most of my days will start anywhere between 9am and 12pm and typically I will have at least 3 hours of timetabled activity, but this can easily be as much as 7 hours at the busiest times of the semester. The amount of contact time may seem big, but this is a blessing in disguise really! On any given day I will tend to do 2-3 hours of additional work in the many libraries/study areas around the university and I use this to keep on top of the lecture content and complete any additional work needed to do well in assignments and exams.

The lectures and content studied are quite varied; compare pure Engineering Maths with a wordier Production Management module; which provides a nice mix of study. Personally, I really enjoyed the Marne Engineering and Naval Architecture modules, as they had a good balance between the science and maths you’d expect to study.

Something I didn’t expect to do was coding and some of the Computer Aided Design, like modelling a single-cylinder engine. Although not easy to start with since I had no prior experience, I did find both very interesting and satisfying once I got the hang of it.

Outside of academia I am a member of the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS), as a Royal Navy sponsored student. This means I attend the local naval base once a week and develop the skills I will need in order to be a technical officer. Alongside this I also get the opportunity to lead and develop various Adventurous Training, specifically for me Offshore Sailing.

In my downtime I like to experiment with cooking, picking up various bits and pieces to try from the massive Grainger Market. I also enjoy watching the rugby at the nearby Newcastle Falcons Kingston Park stadium and there is also the compulsory night “Ooot in Toon” which you will no doubt experience at least once (a week).

Feel free to send me a message on Unibuddy, you are more than welcome to ask me more about my daily happenings, the course or any concerns you have about the step up to university!

Cheers for reading!

Yanis

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Third year Mechanical Engineering student Jenny Olsen talks us through the many options that are available to engineering students once you graduate.

So you’re thinking of choosing an engineering degree to study at Newcastle University – great! You’ll learn lots of practical skills and engineering theory that will make you both knowledgeable and employable.

First of all – there are lots of different types of engineering; Mechanical, Civil, Bio-medical, Electrical and Chemical (to name just a few!). That means lots of different career routes, but despite there being lots of different streams of engineering we all study quite similar topics (at least for the first few years of your degree). Often, companies hire engineering graduates from more than one discipline, so try to study what you think you’ll enjoy the most! If you have a set career in mind, look at what types of engineers they tend to advertise vacancies for and consider tailoring your degree towards that.

So what happens after you graduate? You’ve passed all your exams, you’ve been at University for 3-4 years, maybe taken a placement year or Summer internship – what now?

As an engineering graduate, there are lots of options open to you – if you’ve graduated with a BEng and want to become chartered, the next step is probably taking an accredited Masters degree. Alternatively, some graduate schemes are tailored to take BEng graduates straight to being a chartered engineer, however these are harder to find and require a longer training period.

If you’ve taken an MEng and want to be chartered: straight into a graduate scheme or professional job role and you’re on your way to chartership!

There are plenty of places to search for graduate roles or engineering vacancies – using sites like Gradcracker is a good place to start however they generally only list big companies which makes the roles extremely competitive. The University Career’s Service also lists vacancies in the UK and abroad from companies who are actively seeking to recruit Newcastle graduates which is a brilliant resource. Alternatively, asking your lecturers if they know any companies that are hiring is a great way to find out about smaller companies that won’t be listed on the other sites!

But what if you’re not ready to give up Uni life just yet? If you’re one of the many students (like myself) who aren’t quite ready to leave behind the lecture hall, maybe further study is for you? There are plenty of research degrees or Doctorate schemes available, and this is a great time to specialise as you’ll already have had 3 or 4 years to discover what you really enjoy learning about.

Whatever you choose to do after your engineering degree, you’ll be well prepared to fit into a workplace, communicate with your colleagues and tackle the problems of our generation!

Jenny

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Third year Electrical and Electronic Engineering student Di Muanza talks us through what a typical day is like for him studying and living in Newcastle.

Hi everyone,

My name is Dinduele, known as Di,  and I am a third year student at Newcastle University studying MEng Electrical Power Engineering.

I chose Newcastle University as my first option for many reasons. Firstly, the teaching quality that they provide for Electrical and Electronics engineers is outstanding, which is very important for future engineers. The environment the university creates for all students despite their background, culture and race is also another major reason that made me pick Newcastle as my first choice. As an international student I feel welcome and I enjoy as much as I can because I am part of Newcastle University community.

The university campus is in the city centre and Newcastle is very compact city and everything is close by, which makes it very convenient for everyone living here – especially students! I personally love being able to get around without much effort or need to use public transport.

As an engineering student, you must be committed and ready for anything that you might face.

As a third year student most of my time is spent doing my final project which is a big part of my course and as a result I don’t have many lectures. I do have lectures on Tuesday from 9am-11am and 1pm-3pm, which focus on Electric Drives, where we consider topics such as drive configurations and load characteristic, motor modelling; and Renewable Energy where we talk about renewable energies such as solar, wind and wave energy and many other factors related to energy generation. On Friday I also have two lectures from 11am-1pm and 3pm-5pm; Law for Engineers where we learn the basic law concepts that are very relevant in the life of an electrical engineer; and Power System Operation where we analyse modern electricity network. During the breaks between lectures I might do some work on my assignments or  continue reading up on some topics that are relevant to my project.

It is essential as an electrical engineering student to feel confident with maths because most modules will require you to apply the mathematical knowledge you have and the lecturers expect you to know – especially if you are third year student.

I essentially have the rest of the week free, so I focus on reading and working on my project. I have my own studying program – each day I have a specific module that I consider and I spend 2 to 3 hours working on that particular module. Sometimes I go to the library or student union building to read or I can work at home. My project involves modelling and simulations as well as building a prototype. To model and simulate I use specialised computer software which means I use my personal laptop and to build a prototype I use the university electronics lab in Merz Court for soldering and testing. I work on my project almost every day, and it is a commitment you should definitely consider making as a stage 3 student.

Electrical and Electronic Engineering gives you an insight into communication, power (machines/converters) and electronics and at the same time it provides an opportunity for specialisation in your third year, where you can choose anything depending on what you like the most. I personally prefer power so that is what I chose to focus on.

When I am not in university I get involved sometimes in activities that the various socieities or NUSU (Newcastle university student union) organise, such as volunteering. I also do some occasional paid work that the university offers for students which is an excellent way to gain experience (and earn money) whilst studying.

I enjoy watching documentaries, anime such as one piece and some series I find interesting. I like going out with my friends/girlfriend or just hanging out at home, drinking/eating and play video games (even though I am not very good at them!) Sometimes I DJ and I really enjoy doing that. I also like cooking (my friends have all told me that they think I would make a great chef!) I go to the gym sometimes as I believe it is very important do some sort of exercise and I am currently learning how to swim – it is never too late to learn something new!

Please feel free to get in touch with me @dimuanza (Instagram/Facebook) if you would like to ask me about the course or anything else.

Thanks for reading!

Di

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Fourth year Chemical Engineering student Joanna Snape talks us through what a typical day is like when you’re studying and living in Newcastle.

Hi everyone,

My name is Joanna and I’m currently completing my 4th and final year of my MEng degree in Chemical Engineering.

Newcastle wasn’t actually my first choice of university when applying, but now having spent 4 years here, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to have gone anywhere else. Newcastle is, without a doubt, the best student city there is. It’s so friendly here and I always feel safe; even at 3am after a night out! It’s a fun, bustling city filled with all sorts of things to do. Compared to bigger cities like London, living costs are cheap which allows way more room for opportunities to do fun things. I think it’s important to be in a city where there’s lots to do, especially when you’re doing something as tough as engineering.

That is the un-sugar-coated truth: engineering is TOUGH, but it’s also extremely rewarding. It is no understatement that the things you will learn in this day and age will have a huge impact on many of the important industries of the world.

As a chemical engineering student, my schedule always changes. There are a lot of contact hours. There are times where I’m only in for an hour or two and some days where I’m in from 9am-6pm – let’s just say you will definitely get your money’s worth from doing this course. A lot of the particularly long days are due to labs, which typically take about three hours. I like labs because the practical aspect of it means that time goes by pretty quickly and helps with the learning experience. Also, you only have labs every two weeks at most, so it’s really not too bad.

On a standard day, I would go to uni and go to my lectures. On a long day, during breaks I would usually go to the student union with friends to have lunch and maybe even have a drink or two. During the more demanding times of the year, I would spend my breaks working on assignments. A lot of the projects I’ve had throughout my degree have been group projects, so breaks between lectures are the usually the best times to meet up with everyone to get things done. A lot of group-work also means that we are a very tight-knit course, which is really nice because having people to go through it with helps to keep up the motivation. After uni, I would go home for dinner and relax with friends, or sometimes go and get ready to enjoy the famous Newcastle nightlife. Me and my housemates often have games nights or movie nights together.

Chemical engineering offers a very broad learning experience. A common misconception is that it’s predominantly chemistry with a bit of maths. It’s actually a lot of maths and physics with some basic chemistry. A lecturer of mine gave us a great analogy to better understand what chemical engineers actually are: “If chemists are the chefs then chemical engineers are the ones that run the restaurant.” We also have to learn a lot about finance and economics, as well as general safety engineering. The degree also incorporates aspects of mechanical and electrical engineering. We even do a lot of computer programming for simulating processes. This is all great because if you change your mind on what you want to do, mid-degree (or had no idea what you wanted to do in the first place), chemical engineering could get you into anything.

So chemical engineering is pretty intense, but I still have a lot of time to focus on other things. I’m currently in the dance society, I love drawing and playing music, I try my best to go to the gym as much as I can, and also do some tutoring and volunteering. It’s all about time-management, which you will inevitably become very good at as an engineering student. There is so much to talk about when it comes to the whole uni/student experience so if there’s anything you want to ask me, feel free to reach me via email on j.snape1@newcastle.ac.uk.

I hope this was helpful and thanks so much for reading!

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In this blog post Lizzie, a Stage 4 Civil Engineering student, tells us all about her involvement in the Raleigh International expedition to Costa Rica…

It is true that nothing in the lead up to departure can prepare you for your Raleigh expedition. After a long and weary 24 hours of travelling (not to mention the 3am start), a tired bunch of 11 engineers arrived in San Jose. Exhausted, we longed for a bed and a goods night sleep… how naïve we all were.

Training base location

We were taken to a school sports hall where we spent our first night on the floor, before being taken to the training base location at Grana de Ore. Spirits were running high after being treated to a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of Gallo Pinto, (little did we know we would be subject to porridge for the next 40 breakfasts). We completed our four days of training, giving us an insight into what was in store for us.

Typical sleeping arrangement Tsirbäklä

Next stop, Trisbäklä A two-hour minibus ride, followed by a four-hour trek through the jungle and across some questionable bridges, rucksacks fully laden, we arrived in Tsirbäklä – home for the next three weeks. A quick duct tape job of our ‘bedroom’ (recommendation: don’t miss off the kit list, it will become your best friend against spiders and cockroaches), mosquito nets up, roll mats down and we were ready for our first meal, rice and beans.

Trek route into Trisbäklä

Panic not, whilst rice was the staple component of every meal, including one breakfast, we had a cook sent from heaven who treated us to 4pm snacks every day of the most delicious pancakes and empanadas – food was no issue. Every effort was made to make the environment as homely as possible for everyone, with cleaning rotas, ‘family’ dinner times, more card games than I’ve ever played and competitive quizzes. I settled into the routine surprisingly quickly and was ready to tackle the school build.

Further along the trek route Construction Phase

The main purpose of the expedition was to construct a kindergarten, extending the educational opportunities of the community we were staying in. The process was hard work, starting first with excavating and levelling out the ground, using tools very different to those in the UK and struggling with unpredictable weather conditions.

The site pre-construction

Teamwork and determination saw us onto the next stage: building the frame. I personally found this difficult due to my sufficient lack of experience in carpentry skills. With encouragement and tips from my peers, I soon had the hammer work nailed! Up went the frame and we began the concrete mixing and pouring, for the floor. Again, very strenuous but incredibly rewarding as work was fast paced by this point and the final result was in sight. Half a splash of paint to the building (the school children were to finish painting the rest of the building) and voilà, a fully constructed kindergarten was successfully delivered within three weeks. Sounds easy writing it out, but there were many challenges and lessons learned along the way.

Site after construction

The greatest challenge was the large team, comprising people from different backgrounds, nationalities and languages, working in such a small space. It very quickly became apparent that patience and communication were vital for success. My interpersonal skills increased and I learnt how to compromise in finding solutions, as this was very different to usual solutions at home . The words “Mañana Mañana” will forever ring in my ears, reminding me of the laid back and relaxed attitude of the locals.

Community Integration

Whilst our main purpose in Tsirbäklä was to deliver the school, it was also an opportunity to integrate with the local community, experiencing their culture and learning why the project was important to them. From house visits to adopting Pablo the local dog, we truly felt welcomed and appreciated during our stay. Weekly football matches between the community and our team turned very competitive as we showcased some of Newcastle’s finest football talent, successfully taking the final win.

Weekly football match with the locals

Teaching English lessons every morning to the school children and visiting the homes of community members gave us a real insight into the community lifestyle and into the opportunities that would be further available as a result of our work here. Our final day concluded with a community celebration where we sang, ate and played together. It was at this point where the realisation of how much the school meant to the community hit me; I have brought this home with me and remain very self-aware of opportunities that surround me, conscious not to take things for granted.

Community house visit Trek Phase

The final phase of the expedition concluded with a six-day trek, covering 75km across the mountainous region. This was the hardest physical and mental challenge I have ever faced, pushing me out of my comfort zone and achieving things I didn’t think were possible. The relationships formed with my team were surprisingly strong over such a short amount of time; we supported, encouraged and helped each other to reach our goal. The views will remain some of the most breath-taking, spectacular memories I have experienced.

Views from the final trek phase Home

Upon my return, I have been asked countless times for a single highlight of my trip. This is impossible for me; I am unable to single out one aspect of such as amazing experience. The number of memories experienced in only five weeks in such an amazing country are endless, and there isn’t a single one that hasn’t left a lasting story in my mind.

Whilst clichéd, I find myself profoundly agreeing with the famous Saint Augustine saying, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page”. I simply wish that everyone could receive the fantastic opportunity of completing a Raleigh expedition.

If you would like to find out more about studying Engineering at Newcastle visit our webpages here: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/engineering/undergraduate or chat to one of our students on our Unibuddy instant messaging platform (scroll to the bottom of the page).

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