The facilities at Sheffield are cutting edge & stood out to me on open days, along with the student led maker space, the iForge, nothing is off limits

Sophie Barwick1
Sophie Barwick
MEng General Engineering (Materials) student
Class of 2022
This is Sophie, a General Engineering student whose school experience in F1 motivated her to pursue a career in engineering.

Read: Our interview with Sophie

Sophie Barwick2

Why did you want to be an engineer?

I’ve always had a passion for mathematics and finding out the answers to problems. When I started secondary school, I was invited to join CAUC, our school Greenpower team. As part of the competition, we were able to design, build and race our own electric cars at various race tracks throughout the UK, while being helped by staff and industry experts. Having this help and support, and being given more freedom as we developed both technically and personally, was a great introduction to engineering. I also made a lot of good friends, who gave me the support and motivation I needed to carry on when I faced more technically challenging problems. I was a key member of the team for six years, and my personal highlight was being chosen as the final driver in the winning car at the 2016 International Championships. Being part of the team gave me so many opportunities, including qualifying for three F1 in Schools National Finals. From here, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in engineering and work as part of an interdisciplinary team, and the general engineering course at Sheffield has given me a great opportunity to continue to work towards that goal.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Sheffield?

The engineering facilities at the University of Sheffield are cutting edge and really stood out to me on open days, along with the student led maker space, the iForge, where with the correct training, nothing is off limits. The courses, facilities and university are tailored to the students' needs giving you the responsibility and freedom that you would expect to gain at university. The general engineering course attracted me to Sheffield as it allows you to specialise with students who are already studying that course. Also the small cohort really helps you to get to know everyone and form a close knit community. The large faculty means that I get taught by experts throughout my degree and get to work within lots of different groups with people from a wide range of engineering disciplines.

Sheffield is a great city to study in as it has a thriving student population with lots of friendly locals. It has been the perfect balance between the town-like feel with the amenities of a big city. Outside of studying, I enjoy playing in a brass band, and there is no better place to do that than in Yorkshire!

What’s been the highlight of your engineering journey so far?

Throughout my second year at university, I took on the role of a Technical Support Assistant within the Materials Science and Engineering department at the University of Sheffield. This role involved working with a PhD student, assisting her with material preparation. Later in the year, I assisted with image and data processing of tested samples, looking at their microstructure and the impact of additional and alternative chemical elements. It was really inspiring to work with other women researching the latest materials and technologies for nuclear fusion.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I hope to pursue a research-based career, as I want to discover and learn more about how materials can be detected, extracted, adapted and controlled to fulfil the needs of our changing world. I have a desire to work at the cutting edge of science and technology to further my knowledge of material science and gain practical experience.

Can you tell us about your engineering GCSE and what impact that had on you?

At school I chose GCSE engineering and AS product design - graphic products as well as being involved with many extra-curricular engineering activities. Engineering is a great way of applying theoretical subjects such as maths and physics to real life scenarios. The skills and concepts I learnt were also really helpful for my EPQ, for which I explored the physical properties and applications of carbon fibre. As a result of taking GCSE engineering, I was lucky enough to be involved in many extra-curricular projects, be awarded an Arkwright Engineering Scholarship and a TeenTech award.

How would you encourage primary school children to become interested in STEM?

Encouraging young people, especially girls, to consider a career in STEM is vital to ensure that the next generation of scientists and engineers are enthusiastic about their work. I believe that the best way to show young women the possibilities is to promote female role models. At a young age, showing children the practical and team working elements of STEM subjects and letting them be creative in solving problems would be a great way to introduce the skills needed in a fun and exciting way.

What’s the best thing about being an engineering student?

Being an engineering student is hard work at times but is really rewarding. I enjoy the mixture of theory and practical skills that I get to develop in my course and the opportunities to work with people from a range of backgrounds and disciplines. It is interesting to see the ‘real world’ applications of engineering and particularly enjoy when projects are set by external companies as this gives a feel of what it might be like to work in the field.

Sophie Barwick1

We interviewed Sophie in May 2021.

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