Engineering is about solving problems: about designing processes and making products to improve the quality of human life. The aim of the Engineering course at Cambridge is to provide you with all the analytical, design and computing skills that underpin modern engineering practice, while encouraging the creativity and problem-solving skills that are so important to a good engineer.
Engineering at Cambridge
Extensive information on the engineering course at Cambridge can be found here. It should be noted that a large majority of the teaching is organised by, and takes place at, the Engineering Department on Trumpington Street.
An important feature of the Cambridge engineering course is the broad syllabus in the first two years. You study all disciplines of engineering including mechanical, electrical and civil, as well as mathematics. This has two significant advantages: if you are not sure what area of engineering to specialise in, the first two years give you an opportunity to learn much more about the subject; and if you do know what areas interest you, the broad course provides an excellent foundation for participating in large or small multidisciplinary engineering projects once you graduate and enter the profession.
In years three and four you specialise to a greater or lesser extent. There are many modules to choose from. A few students each year choose to switch to the Manufacturing Engineering course or the Management Studies course. There is also the option of switching to the Chemical Engineering course after the first year of Engineering.
Practical work is an important part of all four years of the Engineering course. The new Dyson Centre in the Engineering Department provides excellent facilities for project work and for extracurricular engineering activity, either individually or with a group of other students. For example, Fitz engineers have been involved in the Formula Student, Solar Car and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle activities.
Engineering at Fitzwilliam
Engineering is one of the larger subjects in Fitzwilliam, normally admitting about 12 students to study Engineering each year, although if the quality of applications is good it can admit more. The College is mainly responsible for small-group teaching (supervisions) in the first two years, for monitoring and supporting your progress through all four years of the course, and for providing extracurricular activities to complement and enhance your learning. Fitzwilliam has a large number of Fellows and Bye-Fellows in Engineering to support you during your time in the College.
Unusually among the colleges, Fitzwilliam has one Director of Studies (DoS) for all four years of the Engineering course. This means that they get to know you very well, from the time that you apply to the time that you graduate, and ensures that you get the best possible support throughout your time in the College. The DoS is responsible for overseeing your education, and for meeting you at the start and end of each term to review progress.
Supervisions play a vital role in your learning. In the first and second years you will typically have two or three supervisions each week during term time. A supervision usually involves two (sometimes three) students meeting with a supervisor for an hour to discuss a particular part of the course. The supervisor is usually an Engineering Fellow or Bye-Fellow of the College. The Director of Studies and your supervisors recognise that the transition from school to university can take some getting used to. They are very experienced at offering supportive advice and guidance. They also organise progress tests at the beginning of January in your first and second years to give you quantitative feedback on your progress.
It is important not to treat your learning as a purely individual pursuit; there is great benefit in learning cooperatively with others in your year group: discussing a topic with someone else is great way of improving your own understanding. There is also much to learn from other year groups. To help encourage this cooperation the College has an Engineering Society that organises an annual dinner for Engineering undergraduates, and other events to foster interaction within and between year groups in the College. There are also several substantial funds available in the College to support Engineering. The recently established Fitzwilliam Engineers’ Fund, enabled by a generous donation from a Fitz engineering alumnus, allocates £1000 to every Fitz undergraduate engineer to draw upon over the four years of the course to support their learning, training and development as an engineer.
There is a marked variety in the destinations of Fitzwilliam Engineers after graduation. Some return to their sponsoring companies, some gain jobs in other engineering firms, a few carry on to take post-graduate courses in Cambridge and other Universities. Some embark on careers outside engineering: consultancy, financial services, the armed forces and so on. Some set up their own companies, often with friends they have made at Cambridge. There is no fixed pattern. What is certain is that Fitzwilliam and Engineering have given all these individuals the skill, insight and confidence to make the most of their opportunities.
Fitzwilliam also has a large community of graduate students working towards the MPhil or PhD in engineering. The admission procedure for graduates is different to that for undergraduates; you apply centrally to the University rather than to a college, but you can express a preference to join Fitzwilliam College on the application form.
Fitzwilliam College is finding itself moving closer to the centre of gravity of the University, with large new developments being built in West Cambridge and North-West Cambridge. Fitzwilliam is a short walk from a large part of the Engineering Department on the West Site, and it is planned to move the rest of the Engineering Department there in the future.
Applying for admission
All applicants are required to sit the pre-interview written assessment for Engineering. More information about the assessment and other entry requirements can be found on the University website. It is important to note that there is no pass/fail mark for the pre-interview written assessment; the results are used in combination with all the other information provided with your application.
Interviews are held in December. There are two interviews, each approximately 30 minutes long. Both interviews are technical in nature but are intended to be friendly and informal. There will usually be two Fellows or Bye-Fellows of the College in each interview. Before each interview you will be given some technical questions to think about. You will then discuss these questions and others with the interviewers. The aim is to establish your potential to make progress in the Engineering course. In many ways the interviews are similar to supervisions: the interviewers will find out what you know and understand about a topic and then help you to extend and apply your understanding to new and unfamiliar problems. A good way of preparing for the interview is to attempt the questions given at i-want-to-study-engineering.org.
Every applicant is assessed as an individual. The most important criteria are enthusiasm, dedication and potential. In deciding whether to make an offer of admission we consider: your existing results; personal and educational background; interests and motivation; school reference and predicted grades; results of the pre-interview written assessment; and performance in interview (if invited).
The typical A Level offer for Engineering is A*A*A. The typical IB offer is 40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level. It is essential to have a good mathematical background and it is usual for Fitzwilliam to specify that the A* grades should be in Maths and Physics. The preferred third subject is Further Maths, but others such as Chemistry, Computing, Electronics, Design Technology are also acceptable. A fourth A-level or STEP is not usually specified as part of a conditional offer.
Experience of industry in the year between school and university is very valuable when this can be arranged. The nationwide Year in Industry scheme exists to find placements for pre-university students. Fitzwilliam is very happy to accommodate students wishing to take a gap year in industry.
Director Of Studies
Dr David Cole - vehicle dynamics, human-machine interaction.
Fellows and other Teaching Staff
Professor David A Cardwell- Head of the Department of Engineering. Research: engineering applications of high temperature superconductors.Teaching: electrical and information engineering, materials, mathematics.
Professor Robin Langley, University Professor, Department of Engineering. Research: structural dynamics, vibration, and acoustics. Teaching: structures, mechanics, and dynamics.
Professor Nondas Mastorakos, University Professor, Department of Engineering. Research: turbulent combustion, reacting flows, chemistry of pollutants, combustion in porous media. Teaching: thermodynamics and fluid mechanics.
Dr Jonathan Cullen,University Lecturer, Department of Engineering. Research: sustainable development, energy efficiency. Teaching: materials.
Dr Graham Spelman, Research Associate, Department of Engineering. Research: mechanical vibration. Teaching: mechanics and vibration.
Mr Vamsee Bheemireddy, 2nd year PhD student, Fitzwilliam College and Department of Engineering. Research: photonics. Teaching: electrical engineering.
Dr John Cleaver Research: microstructure fabrication processes and their application to the physics of advanced microelectronic devices and nanostructures.
Dr Robin Porter Goff Research: integrity of welded engineering structures, structures in composite materials.
Dr Ken Smith Research: electrical engineering.