[Day In The Life] University College London Engineering Student

Have you ever wondered what life is like as an Engineering student at UCL? Graduate student Inamul Haque shares his insights into what life is like.

Author: Inamul Haque

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Are you curious to know what it is like to study Engineering at University College London?

Reading about a course only tells you so much, you do not get the reality that those who are studying it can provide. 

Graduate Inamul Haque talks us through what life as a Chemical Engineering student at UCL is really like. 

Get To Know Me

My name is Inamul and I studied BEng Chemical Engineering minoring in Environmental Engineering at University College London (UCL) between 2017 and 2020.

I subsequently went on to study a Masters in Advanced Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge – Magdalene College specialising in Multiphase Flow CFD Modelling, graduating in 2021.

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Life at Cambridge As A Land Economy Student

All Engineering courses at UCL follow a common pathway for both the Bachelors and Integrated Masters routes.

First Year

The first year aims to bring all students to a common baseline in academic and soft skills ability relevant to Engineering.

Students do six to eight modules across the year ranging from modules like Mathematical Modelling and Thermodynamics that all Engineering students complete to specialist introductory modules relevant to your specific course.

As a Chemical Engineer, this included modules such as Transport Phenomena and Physical Chemistry.

Students also complete at least one module that focuses on development in communication, presentation, teamwork, and broader soft skill topics important for Engineering graduates in a working environment.

Second Year

Second-year aims to introduce advanced and course-specific subject topics through eight to ten modules and is considered a significant step up in workload.

All Engineering students also complete four assignments commonly known as ‘Scenario Weeks’.

Intuitively named, these assignments refer to four one-week assignments across the academic year whereby timetabled events (lectures, deadlines, workshops) are removed and all students complete a consultancy style open-ended team project starting on the Monday and deliverables due in on the Friday.

Second-year also introduces the option to pick specialist elective modules termed ‘minors’ that all Engineering students pick.

Students can pick from ten to fifteen minor subjects ranging from Marine Engineering to Healthcare Biotechnology, giving students exposure to topics that may not normally arise from their chosen Engineering course.

Third Year

Third-year aims to consolidate prior and current teachings via a term-long team and individual-based design projects.

Whilst studying four to six advanced modules the backbone of the year is completing your design project.

This usually comes in the form of a group based open-ended design brief (often contextualised in a consultancy style format) in term one and an individual based detailed design brief in term two.

Fourth Year

Fourth-year is similar to third-year whereby you conduct an individual based extensive research project that is a term long whilst also completing four to five advanced level specialist modules typically on topics unique to UCL.

The research project is a chance to partake in the research sector and gives a flavour of life as a researcher within the industry.

It should be noted that the fourth year is equivalent to an MSc year in terms of workload and the extensiveness of the research project.

Students are able to switch between the BEng and MEng engineering courses relatively easily as long as they’re achieving typically an upper second class grade.

What is it like studying Engineering at UCL?

Studying Engineering at UCL is by no means easy, but the social and professional benefits are there to be reaped.

Regardless of the specific Engineering course, you pick, all programmes are designed to incorporate lots of team working. You will be exposed to working on assignments with various people in your cohort as well as other students from different disciplines something I think UCL does above and beyond compared to other universities.

Assignments like ‘Scenario Weeks’ and ‘How to Change the World’ provide opportunities to really develop your professional skills as you learn to tackle open-ended projects in Engineering whilst also having a collaborative session with your peers.

Being in the centre of London allows for some of the best networking opportunities with firms both within and outside of the Engineering sector. UCL enjoys great ties with the Engineering, investment banking and consulting industries with university-wide and Engineering department-wide networking events held every other week.

A unique aspect of UCL is the diversification of students that you will meet and become friends with.

Although there is a common misconception that both the course and the university itself is extremely demanding (which it is), being able to time manage and effectively complete lectures and coursework will allow anyone to enjoy the social amenities (clubs, societies, socials) of the university as well as that of central London.

Some of the standout details about studying engineering at UCL include ‘How to Change the World’ (a two week group project post exam season in year two), being able to study specialist elective modules, in my case environmental engineering and learning about the subject with students from different engineering disciplines and the engineering societies where each engineering discipline have their own society making it an almost family gathering style of socials when events are scheduled.

Life as an Engineering student at UCL - Morning

The typical day starts at 9 AM when you would have your first lecture of the day. In first and second years most scheduled lectures and workshops are held in the Roberts Building, especially for modules that are discipline-specific.

Lectures are typically two hours long with a 10 minute stoppage time in the middle for a break.

Lectures are different to lessons as the lecturer will go through the material at a high pace, hence pre-reading is definitely recommended to ensure you stay on top of the lecture and to also make the most of the lecturer’s Q&A time.

Hence it’s a great idea to form friendship circles to engage in these discussions for mutual learning opportunities.

Whilst there are many libraries in UCL, the Engineering students always prefer to use the Science Library situated right next to the Roberts building. The library has an extensive collection of useful engineering reference books as well as collaborative workspaces ranging in capacity that all Engineering students can book.

Life as an Engineering student at UCL - Afternoon

After the morning lecture and individual study time, it is time to have lunch.

There are ample cafes dotted in and around UCL of varying cuisines, price ranges as well as accommodating faith related criteria (halal, kosher, vegetarian).

The afternoon scheduled sessions are typically a lecture, seminar or lab lasting 2 hours typically starting at 1 PM. Seminars are much more collaborative events where students are given practice questions to be done and are often facilitated by PhD students.

Seminars give students the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical question-based scenarios with feedback provided at the end.

Labs are conducted in the basement level of the Roberts building and are also often supervised by PhD students.

Lab experiments need to be prepared for in advance in terms of a risk assessment, lab assessment guide and of course pre-reading to understand the context in what you are doing.

After the lab session Engineering students are typically expected to complete a lab report assignment in a professional manner within a week of conducting the lab experiment.

Life as an Engineering student at UCL - Evening

Most Engineering students at UCL will not have any formally scheduled classes in the evening. Most scheduled classes finish at 5 PM.

After this time most students get something to eat and take a break with their friends and subsequently go to the Science library or the newly created Student Centre. This can be to make notes on the days lectures, complete some coursework assignment or get ready for the next day.

The use of the Science library and Student Centre is really important for Engineering students at UCL given the array of software like MATLAB, Aspen, C++, gPROMs, CAD that are needed in order to complete different assignments. These are typically only accessible via university computer terminals and thus must be conducted on campus.

Top Tips to being a successful Engineering student at UCL

The following points are in my opinion the best tips that will ensure you make the most of your time as an Engineering student at UCL:

Make sure you plan your day and time. UCL and the Department of Engineering is one of the biggest in the UK. A lot of study spaces are often packed. Make sure you learn how to book study spaces ASAP and book spaces. This will save you lots of time otherwise aimless spent trying to find a place to study. The best places to book is the working spaces in the new Student Centre.

Professionalism is key in assignments. Although not often explicitly stated, making sure coursework reports or any reports which have a written element is presented and written in a professional manner will make sure you secure the most marks. Even if this includes quantitative calculations.

Make sure you attend networking events. They might be daunting at first but they eventually give you the confidence to apply to the companies that you want and also highlight opportunities that you might not have realised existed previously.

I hope this article gives an overview of what it is like to study Engineering at UCL. Every day is different but the key to success is making sure you have fun along the way. Studying Engineering at UCL is one of the highlights and I hope this article helps you in applying for the course as well.

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