Welcome back to the final chapter in my series of blogs! In this chapter, I will look back on my time in Cranfield and summarise my experience undertaking the Computational and Software Techniques in Engineering MSc programme.
My degree in Cranfield had started amidst a wave of uncertainty faced by people around the world. It was a time where everyone experienced setbacks and there was an overall shortage in opportunities within the aerospace and technology sector. I was fortunate enough to secure a place on this MSc course along with several other aspiring engineers and scientists and have found it to be a great decision for my personal and professional development.
The university was very accommodating of the fact that students from different backgrounds and learning experiences were coming together and took measures to allow for delays faced during international travel. Modules taught in the first six weeks were conducted in an online-only manner and were also recorded to ensure a balanced learning environment for students who may be in quarantine or in transit. Pre-work packages were also prepared by all teaching staff to ensure that students would be at a similar knowledge level before the start of the course. The teaching staff were also very approachable and willing to help throughout the duration of the course. This was essential for many of us, since it was our first time working in a software development-style environment.
All taught modules were covered during the first six to eight months, with one module being taught at once. This allowed us to focus on one subject at a time while we were also given a one week break after every two or three modules. I mainly used these breaks to get some rest and catch up on the assignments that we were given. There were no exams throughout the course which was very new for me, since I am used to having exams at the end of each semester or year. But this was understandable as the course was more targeted towards making us familiar with the industrial practices within the fields of computational methods and assignments were a better way to assess our understanding. This was a period of very high information density and I have probably learned more practical knowledge in these eight months compared to any other period of the same duration in the past. I not only became more familiar with development environments for C++ and Python, but also learned about cutting-edge methods used within the fields of machine learning and parallel computing.
Overall, the learning content was very relevant to the trends currently developing in the industry and assignments were targeted towards these trends as well. I used a stream of big data from a taxi service to compute the most profitable routes in real-time using AWS servers and also developed a basic ‘Google Translate-like’ model for translating an African language to English using Google TensorFlow. I cannot write about the teaching content without mentioning the Management for Technology module. I am a very technical person by nature and going into the module I was not really looking forward to it, since previous experiences with management based modules were not very positive. However, I was happy to be proven wrong. The week was packed with interactive activities and seminars that would go on to help us directly with the group task. Each group within the module was given the role of a board of directors within a company that was running inside a simulation. Our task was to work together and use all resources given available to maximise sales, profits and share price of our brand. All teams were competing against each other, and it was really enjoyable to experience our decisions as a board having a visible impact on the performance. The winning teams were also given a prize (which I sadly don’t know what it was, since my team didn’t end up winning ☹) so all teams had a motivation to perform well in the module.
Taught modules were followed by the technical group project which was designed to make us integrate our learnings from the different modules and streams within the course. Luckily, by the time the group project had begun, Covid-19 rules within the UK had been relaxed to a certain degree so students were allowed to work on the project in person. The department had decided to keep the topic for the group project very open-ended which allowed the students to use their creativity and define the direction for the project. We had the option to book study spaces for our group meetings and also used the weekly feedback sessions to discuss our progress with the academic staff to get feedback. Overall, the group project was a success and was wrapped up with a final report and presentation where we had the opportunity to demonstrate the product we had developed.
Lastly, we all worked on our thesis which was the most significant individual part of the degree, worth 80 credits out of a total of 200 credits. We were given the opportunity to choose our thesis topics around January/February time and had the chance to discuss the work that was to be done with the supervisors in advance before submitting our choices. As part of the thesis, the university also allows the students to undertake a placement or an internship – as long as it is verified by the department ahead of time. I was working on a thesis project that was a continuation/improvement to a project from a student from the previous year and was titled ‘Stochastic Prediction of Oil Spill Transport and Fate Using Approximation Methods or Machine Learning’. Our Course Director, Dr Irene Moulitsas, was my thesis supervisor and was very helpful throughout. She played a crucial role in helping me understand the scope of the project and identify areas where improvements could be made. The project went smoothly, and all my objectives were met on time. As of now, I have also written the first draft of my paper based on the findings from my thesis and am looking forward to having my paper potentially published in a scientific journal.
I am currently working as a graduate engineer at Rolls-Royce within defence operations. The Cranfield Careers Service really helped prepare me for my interview with Rolls-Royce and I would really recommend all students to make the most of this service. They have several online tools like the CV checker and Symplicity platform which are designed to help you get a job in whatever field you want. Once you have exhausted the online resources, make sure to book in-person or virtual sessions with the career advisors who can give you personalised tips for interview prep and job applications.
I would like to close by sharing my top three tips…
- Students should get in touch with their Student and Academic (SAS) Lead for any issues, large or small, and they will try their best to help you directly or signpost you to the relevant person.
- For students who require a filling but inexpensive lunch, there is a food van that is parked near the main reception; the owner is really friendly and makes a mean wrap 😊. Also the hot food stalls that are set-up in the Stafford Cripps courtyard on Tuesdays and Thursdays are always worth a try and you can find some excellent vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals there; the best meal I had there was a mutton curry, and I still cannot stop thinking about it XD.
- Since Covid restrictions in the UK had been relaxed from early in the year, the university had allowed access to the gym and indoor sports facilities. I would recommend all students to join at least one sports club as they are a great place to meet with new people and stay healthy throughout your time in Cranfield.
I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to complete my MSc from Cranfield as I now feel equipped with a much broader skillset than what I had just after my MEng. I believe I am more prepared for a rapidly changing industry and can use my newly gained digital skills in more diverse work scenarios.