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A Day in the Life of an Engineer

Tristan Downing (2012), the former JPC Food and Bar Officer, shares some insights into the world of a 4th-year Engineer.



6:45am – Alarm

6:46am – I reconsider why I decided to cox this outing

6:47am – Trousers and hoodie on

6:48am – Socks and shoes on

6:49am – I really regret deciding to cox this outing

6:50am – Out the door, on the bike to the boathouse

7:00am – Outing with the novice women. I used to row. Now I don’t, and realised coxing is much more fun anyway.

7:57am – Pass Pembroke novice men crashed into bank

9:00am – Breakfast. Omelette with cheese, diced ham, mushrooms, and salsa. Side of hashbrowns, “Grape Escape” fruit smoothie. Very good. I talk with the rowers about the river swarming with novices.

9:30am – Head to lab. My 4th year project is building an energy storage flywheel with superconducting magnetic bearings. Basically a disk that levitates and spins really fast to storage energy. Since renewable energy can be quite intermittent, efficient energy storage is necessary if we want an entirely renewable grid.

9:41am – For the fifth time this morning, I realize that I have no clue what I am doing.

10:32am – I break the £100 motor I have been using.

11:05am – Time for a lecture – Electrical and Nano Materials. My project supervisor is lecturing; falling asleep is not an option.

11:55am – Lunch time. I go to the JP and get a panini. I am early – there is ample selection and I choose the ham and cheese, a classic. While not particularly exciting, the ham and cheese offers a welcome consistency in a busy and unpredictable day. I accompany my panini (or panino, as one may point out) with a chocolate macaroon, another staple of my largely unhealthy diet. I also get apple juice. I sit and chat with friends.

1:00pm – Meeting with SOWTech at the Union. They’re a local company that makes anaerobic digesters for biogas production in the developing world. We discuss the best way to integrate fertilizer production into our biogas and simplified sewerage system. They’re a vital partner of the Cambridge Development Initiative, with whom I went to Tanzania this summer. I’ll be heading back this December and next summer, to check up on our sanitation work, and work on new pilot projects.

3:00pm – Head to the DPO. It’s like a library for engineers – full of computers, the site of many a late night frantic scramble to finish a project. I meet Freddy, we work on our CFD program.

3:07pm – We both realize we have no clue what we are doing, ask the demonstrator for help.

3:15pm – The Food for Thought facebook group is suddenly very active. Debate regarding fruity chicken, mayonnaise, and goats’ cheese rages. Eventually I try to calm things down. As Food and Bar Officer, I get to see the dark underbelly of college – aggressive food complaints. But I also see its shining glory – the catering department in action. Despite any disagreements on the feedback page, I think most students here can agree that we have it pretty good food-wise.

4:30pm – I talk to John, a student from Tanzania, on Skype. He updates me on the project. Apparently lizards have been puncturing our biogas digester (essentially a rubber bag the size of a bus, partially underground and full of sewage). We brainstorm ways to prevent lizards from damaging the digester.

5:30pm – I go to the gym, really just so I can eat more at trough afterwards.

6:00pm – I eat more at trough afterwards. We go to the GP to eat and chat, where the seats are comfier and there is a large TV.

7:00pm – I play a game or two of Star Wars Battlefront II on LAN with Freddy.

7:30pm – Should probably do some work. I write more of CDI’s summer report, I try to read some article about Technology Management. A bit dry.

8:23pm – I remember that I have cookies that are about to go off. I eat them all.

10:00pm – JP. I grab a bagel to snack on, and meet friends to have a drink and play some pool.

10:58pm – Bar is about to close. I panic and buy another drink.

Sometime after midnight – Bed.

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