My time studying Electrical Engineering and Electronics by Adam Glover

Posted on: 16 June 2020 in Blog posts

Image of Adam Glover - EEE alumni

We caught up with Electrical Engineering and Electronics graduate, Adam Glover, to hear about his time studying with us, his experience of being a student and where his degree has taken him.

Degree - MEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering 

I’d always been inquisitive and I’m sure I frustrated my parents to no end dismantling anything that I could get my hands on; to work out how it works and attempting to return it to a working state, so I think engineering of some sort was always an avenue that I was likely to pursue.

Through extracurricular clubs in school (Science and Maths), I’d ended up at The University of Liverpool a few times for events. I took part in the Engineering Education Scheme, which involved a week residential period at UoL, working in the electrical engineering department’s labs and workshops. I was really impressed by the facilities. So, the foundations were there already at UoL and the department even before I’d considered my choices of where I wanted to study.

I’d say that the reputation of the University of Liverpool was one of the main pull factors. When doing my research on where I wanted to study, the UoL was consistently coming up highly in the rankings and the fact that it was on my doorstep was an added bonus.

On the open day that I attended, the lecturers and students who I spoke to were really enthusiastic and extolled the virtues of The University and the department, and I felt like it was somewhere where I would feel welcomed and where I could develop myself (unlike some other university’s open days that I attended where I felt out of place).

Another of the appeals of the course was that the University offered was the integrated Master’s degree. At the time these were few and far between. At the age of 18, I’m sure most of us don’t know one hundred percent what we want to do with the rest of our lives, and thought that the MEng was more likely to provide more opportunities.

During the third year of the MEng program, a major component of the course was a group project. I had chosen to be involved with the Formula Student project that was run in conjunction with other engineering disciplines. The team comprised of approximately 20 engineering students ranging from mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering and four in my section from the electrical engineering and electronics department. This project required the team to design and build a single seat racing car from scratch within the academic year and then race it at Silverstone race course against other universities around the country and Europe. This was an absolutely brilliant experience for me; getting to work in a large team with a diverse skillset all pulling together towards a common goal. As well as the “hard” engineering skills picked up during this project, it allowed us to acquire some of the “softer” skills that an engineer will require in their career, such as project management, finance and procurement, and designing to tight specifications and standards. I definitely feel that this project helped to set me up for my career in the way that others may not have done.

It’s not just academically though; another highlight is that I have made lifelong friends who I am still in touch with over a decade since we’ve graduated. We’ve spread out across the world and have careers in vastly different industries across different continents, but we still keep in touch and probably always will do. As a student, these are your formative years and the bonds you make will tend to be strong through your shared experiences.

For me, it has been the initial development of core skills that every engineer needs. These fundamental skills are the basis that an engineer will build their career upon, without these to help; I don’t know where we would be. Whilst this certainly isn’t exclusive to the UoL, I believe it to be very important.

Whilst I was studying, the electrical engineering and electronics department would organise a bi-weekly talk from an industrial expert on what their industry did, what challenges they faced (both in an engineering sense and in general), what the potential future for that industry looked like and how it impacted upon the wider world. The speaker was not always, but quite often an alumnus of the engineering department or the University and it was interesting to see how their studies at the UoL had impacted the direction of their career. I guess this opened our eyes (without wanting to sound clichéd!) to what was out there in the “real world” beyond academia and to opportunities that we might not know had existed. One of the best talks that we had was with Sir Robin Saxby, who went on to become the first CEO of ARM which is now a global leader in its field of embedded systems (mainly mobile phones – over 95% of all smartphones contain some sort of ARM technology). These talks, I feel were invaluable and offered a real insight in to the engineering world beyond that experienced by us as undergraduate students. .

Since university, I’ve had two jobs both of which have built upon my studies.

For the first nine years of my career since graduating, I worked as an electrical engineer at a two thousand Megawatt fossil fuel power station which provided enough energy to power three million homes. This career went hand in hand with what I had learned at university; generators, transformers, switchgear and all sorts of “heavy” electrical engineering. I also got to experience the other end of the spectrum here too; working on electronics and instrumentation systems, like gas analysers that measured the composition of flue gases to component sensitivities of parts per billion that used optical techniques that I was taught by Prof. Spencer in his photonics and optical information systems lectures. The power station, which was ran by SSE was used as part of the energy mix within the company and throughout the industry to keep the national electricity “grid” balanced while renewable technology and storage capacity caught up. When I started my career here, I understood that it was highly unlikely to be a “job for life” and that the move away from fossil fuels was on the horizon, however due to the economics and the technology being in its relative infancy, we could not immediately make the jump, so we needed to nurse the power station through safely and efficiently whilst waiting for the technology to become economically viable. This in itself provided a lot of engineering “headaches” as the plant was nearly 50 years old, a number of vital components were obsolete and so we needed to reverse engineer them and use modern equivalent systems. When the plant was built digital control systems were considered science fiction, however over the years PLCs became commonplace, and had replaced “legacy” systems piecemeal. Learning to interface between analogue components, systems running off magnetic tape using UNIX based systems coded in COBOL and Fortran and more modern PLC systems kept myself and the control engineers up many sleepless nights! My time here also involved project management and managing staff and contractors to provide services to the power station.

Since leaving the power station, my current role is now working as an engineer at the national proton beam therapy centre. The work they do here truly is mind blowing and at the absolute cutting edge of technology. The principals are similar to regular radiotherapy treatment of cancer; however, the properties of using protons as opposed to photons mean that there are many advantages in terms of treatment success and quality of life of the patient following treatment. I’m currently working in a team of electrical and electronic engineers. However, we work closely with radiographers, radiologists, consultants and physicists in order to provide a service to the trust. 

At the minute I’m trying to get my head around the engineering knowledge required for working at the proton beam therapy centre and become a competent engineer here. Within the next year (CoVid permitting) I’m looking to get hands on training with various manufacturers of the various components that we have here; travelling to Germany for cyclotron training and various places across the United States for beamline training and robotic gantry training so that I can perform my day-to-day job as best as I can.

I am currently enrolled with the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) and am on my way to becoming a qualified “Clinical Technologist”, achieving this will hopefully show competence (in a similar way to the IET uses “Incorporated Engineer” or “Engineering Technician”). I was working towards Chartered Engineer status in my previous role, hopefully once I have completed the Clinical Technologist scheme I can resume this too, that’s the long-term plan anyway.

I did use the Careers and Employability service a few times. Nearing the end of my studies, when applying for graduate schemes they were useful in getting interview hints and tips, psychometric testing practice questions and showing resources such as job sites etc.

I would encourage current and future students to make the most of the facilities at their disposal. At the time you may not fully appreciate where you are and what you have. I may be biased as I am from the area, but from my travels I think I can safely say that Liverpool is a fantastic place to live and study for the time that you are here. You have everything you need on your doorstep; it’s a bustling metropolis, although the city centre is quite compact. There are fantastic museums and art galleries. The industrial heritage of the docks, the views of Sefton and Calderstones Park, “Another Place” on Crosby beach. A brilliant variety of cuisine from all over the world to try. The music scene, from the Beatles to present day; there’s always concerts to attend, from tiny intimate venues in the back of a pub, to theatres, to the arena. Lots of sports from football, to rugby just down the road. You can always find something to do!

From an academic point of view, I’d say to get in to a routine as much as you can. I was always one to review my notes of the lectures that I had that day when I got home of an evening before I did anything else. I’d try to find an efficient filing system and get the day’s work “boxed off”, after that the rest of the night was mine. I’d try to work through examples and problems as close to getting them as possible so that they are fresh in your mind and so that you can raise issues and questions to your lecturer whilst they’re still relevant to the material. I’d also set aside at least half a day at the weekend to work on projects or assignments that I had. This set me in good stead and it was very rare that I was stressing when a coursework deadline was looming.

Another tip I’d say is to familiarise yourself with the library as soon as possible. During the exam periods I spent countless hours studying in the “stacks” in the Harold Cohen as I found it the best place for me to revise without distraction. Finding the right books and loaning them was great for me, and saved me plenty of money instead of buying them from Blackwell’s or Amazon. I think over the four years, I only had to buy 3 textbooks and used the library the rest of the time.

I loved my time at the UoL and had an absolute blast, both academically and socially. To say my time there was special would be an understatement! In a word, I’d say “growth”. The amount of growth that I did during my four years there was immense. In terms of my knowledge and myself as a person, I came in basically still a boy, and when I left I was becoming a man equipped for the “real” world.

I’ve got lots of memories of my time here, probably most would be too insignificant to share, some would probably not be publishable, but by and large I really enjoyed myself at the University of Liverpool.

One memory that does really stick in my mind, is that of “Bench Inspection” day in final year. It was a really nice spring day, the sun was shining and it was unseasonably warm. After we had presented our projects to the assessors the whole of the Electrical Engineering and Electronics department (Students, lecturers, technicians) gathered on the steps out at the front of the department and had a photo taken. Realistically this was the last time we were all going to be together before graduation, so we made the most of our time together, chatting, reminiscing and wishing each other luck for the exams.