Patrick Williams completed a PhD in Fluid Mechanics at Warwick University.
What is your academic/work background?
I’ve got an MEng in Mechanical Engineering @ Warwick Uni (2:1), though also as part of my first year of PhD I had to complete an MSc in advanced engineering, but was never awarded the degree as it was a prerequisite of my course.
What initially attracted you to your course?
Not leaving uni and having to get a proper job! But also the continual research within engineering, following on from the work I completed in my third year project. The course was also well funded by the EPSRC for the first 3 years
Is your course full/part-time?
Did you move a long way from home to do your course?
Not really, I’m originally from St. Albans, but as I’ve been at Warwick for so long I have lived permanently in or around Coventry for a few years now.
How many contact hours with your tutors do you have per week?
Only about 1-2 hours per week, but varies depending on how much work I have completed!
What other commitments do you have, how do you fit your studies in?
I lecture for Warwickshire College 3 mornings a week, work for jobs.ac.uk 8-10 hours per week and help out Warwick Uni lecturers with under-graduate labs every now and then. I also used to teach Kung-Fu 1-2 evenings a week, but had to stop for a few months due to other work commitments, although I have now re-commenced this. It is all fitted in with a lot of difficulty! I generally do university work in afternoons, evenings and weekends.
Can you walk me through your day to day activities?
A general day: get up at 6.15am, head to Leamington to do a few hours of lecturing, quickly head back to Coventry to do some work for jobs.ac.uk for a couple of hours before heading to my lab on campus to get research done over the afternoon and early evening. Generally get home about 7.30pm
What are the key issues facing people on your course?
For most 4th year PhD students the main problem is funding. Most Engineering PhD’s are well funded for the first 3 years, but this is withdrawn if you do not submit within that time frame, but most engineering PhD’s actually take at least 4 years. For those doing experimental based research, a huge problem is the lack of lab facilities as these are fairly limited and you often have to share resources with under-graduates, leading to some delays in your research.
What impact has technology had on your work?
A lot! My research is purely experimental using some very high-tech instruments, but after the data has been collected it is analysed using a high speed PC. Without the data capture facility or the analysis PC my research would be severely limited.
What are the best things and worst things about your course?
The subject I work in is very interesting and rewarding, you are always learning new things. The best things have to be when everything works and you get some exceptional results. The course is also very laid back (maybe a bit too much) allowing you to get on with your work at your own rate. The worst things have to be the monotony of some of the research, doing the same experiments many many times over. Also when something goes wrong or the data collected is not of high enough quality, then it can often mean that all the work you had completed over the previous few days has to be scrapped.
Do you have any horror stories?
Not really, although breaking a hot-wire probe used for data capture is very easy to do and they cost about a hundred pounds to fix.
What do you hope to do when your course finishes?
Not sure, hence why I’m still at uni. Possibly move into lecturing, will have to see what opportunities arise when I finish.
Advice to others looking for a course
What attributes do you need to do your course?
A masters in engineering or a relevant subject, gaining a level 2:1 or higher.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out?
Work at a faster rate.
What are your three favourite or most useful websites?
Web of Science - http://wok.mimas.ac.uk/
Science Direct - http://www.sciencedirect.com/
Journal of Fluid Mechanics - http://jfm-www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/