Hayley Sharp

"For A-levels, I took the standard “engineering-y” subjects, Physics and Maths, but also History and Music, and I wasn’t quite sure what to study next. I took part in a couple of engineering 6th-form schemes and enjoyed them, though I still wasn’t sure which specialism I’d like to go into. When browsing through courses, the Engineering Design course at Bristol appealed in particular. It looked like I’d be able to get lots of technical knowledge and hands-on experience, but still be able to explore a wide range of subjects in the first two years (more than in most engineering courses) before specialising, and get some (paid!) industrial experience.

The Course

Overall, the course is great. The diversity of the course makes the Engineering Design degree challenging, but if you can get through it, you end up with a great overview of a wide range of subjects (and more importantly you’ll be really good at coping in a range of hectic and challenging environments!), and from the very beginning we had interesting projects and hands-on work. For me, the academic highlights of the course were the two big group projects. For our 2nd-year project we designed and built aeroplane launchers, and for the 4th and 5th year project my group worked with Motorola to design and test a small-scale hydropower turbine.

One of the best things about the course is that its very small (up to 25 students/year) compared to most other engineering course. This lets you form a close group, with a good social side! Having small year group also means that the course staff seem to know each student - I always felt that the staff knew who I was and were always happy to give time to help with inevitable muddles throughout the years.


I spent the summer after my first year doing an 8-week placement at a company called Renishaw, just north of Bristol, in their electronics department. This made for a fun summer, as I was able to live in Bristol with some of the other Eng Designers who were also doing placements.

I spent my third year industrial placement working at Vetco Gray (GE Oil & Gas), as a hydro-mechanical engineer. I was based in the R&D department but had the opportunity to work in different areas of the company to understand Vetco as a whole. Halfway into my placement, I was given the responsibility to manage a team running a research and test programme on some of Vetco’s subsea equipment. The project lasted around five months, and included background research, liaising with external test facilities, and sorting out logistics to take our team and lots of equipment around England. It was definitely a case of being thrown in at the deep end for me – but I really enjoyed the challenge.

Other Activities

Outside of the course, I became involved with the Engineers Without Borders society - I was on the Bristol committee from my 2nd year, and in my 4th year became involved on the national committee as well. Through EWB, I was able to travel out to Cuba with other Bristol students after my second year, and then I undertook an EWB-supported project in Ecuador for two months after my placement year. The following summer I was able to use my prior experiences to attend an international design conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, and this summer I returned to help organise the conference, this time based in Ghana.

At Bristol there were a huge number of societies and activities you could get involved in – I was able to learn how to kayak, I played cello in two of the university orchestras and for the Panto Society; and thanks to my flatmates, learned rather a lot about Scandinavia through Scandinavian Society socials and cultural evenings...

After Eng Design...

As I reached the end of the course there was the option to apply for a number of great graduate schemes, but my work on development engineering and design projects abroad had really inspired me, and if possible I wanted to get more experience in this sector. Cambridge University offer a one-year MPhil course in Engineering for Sustainable Development – the course isn’t strictly engineering but lets you explore wider issues, including business, environmental aspects, and international development. After a fairly long application process I secured a place and will be starting in October 2009. I have absolutely no doubt that my experiences for Engineering Design helped me to secure a place – lots of industrial experience, a wide overview of engineering disciplines, and experience of in-depth research projects where you consider all (not just technical) aspects of an engineering project."

Hayley Sharp moved to "Save the Children" as a logistics expert in 2010, to Atkins as a Water Engineer in 2012 and is now DESA Infrastructure advisor at the Department for International Development.

Hayley Sharp (MEng, 2009), Water & Infrastructure Engineer

The diversity of the course makes the Engineering Design degree challenging, but if you can get through it, you end up with a great overview of a wide range of subjects.

Hayley Sharp
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