By studying mechanical engineering, I am further developing my understanding of how man-made machines work

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Razvan Apetrei
PhD student
PhD in Mechanical Engineering
After completing an Aerospace Engineering degree at the University of Sheffield, Razvan joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering to undertake his PhD.

Inspired to pursue research following his year in industry as an undergraduate, his PhD research aims to understand how well numerical methods can predict unfavourable aerodynamic phenomena in modern aircraft - including making use of experimental data from other research institutions, such as NASA.

He tells us more about his experiences of postgraduate research and his time in Sheffield.

Can you tell us more about your background and what you studied as an undergraduate?

I moved to the UK from Romania in 2011, following my ambition to study an MEng Aerospace Engineering degree at The University of Sheffield.

It was during my undergraduate studies that I developed a passion for understanding complex aircraft aerodynamics phenomena, and this led me to completing a year in industry with the Flight Physics department of Airbus UK.

It was here that my desire to pursue a research degree was born.

Following my year in industry, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to propose my own topic for my final year project, which later resulted in my application for a PhD studentship.


By studying mechanical engineering, I am further developing my understanding of how man-made machines work, and I hope to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to one day, design and build one myself.

Razvan Apetrei

PhD in Mechanical Engineering


Why did you choose the University of Sheffield for your PhD?

Although I was offered positions at other universities, there were three factors that influenced me when I chose The University of Sheffield as the place for me to study for my PhD.

Firstly, I was already familiar with the resources that I could access to complete my degree - Sheffield is renowned for its state-of-the-art research facilities. I had a good relationship with my current supervisor, and knew I was surrounded by people who I could happily collaborate with.

This would make integrating into the PhD community would be easier too, giving me more energy to focus on my work.

Secondly, after living in Sheffield since 2011, I developed a real liking for the city! After so many years, I still believe that Sheffield is a great place to be - the locals are friendly, the city is compact, and the Peak District is just one bus ride away.

There are plenty of opportunities in the city, and new things to discover.

Finally, there was the social aspect. Sheffield Students’ Union has already been voted No. 1 Students’ Union in the country for many years in a row. I knew that during my undergraduate studies I missed on some of the opportunities to try new things.

So I decided that my PhD would be a second chance to try new hobbies, make new friends, and take full advantage of what this university has to offer.

What do you particularly enjoy about studying mechanical engineering?

I was always fascinated by man-made machines. Ever since I was a young child, I used to help my dad and grandpa in their carpentry workshop. By studying mechanical engineering, I am further developing my understanding of how man-made machines work, and I hope to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to one day, design and build one myself.

Tell us about being a postgraduate student here. What’s a typical week like for you?

I am known for my discipline as I like to get things done, for me the earlier, the better! This means I am typically in the office between 8pm and 4pm, the times I believe I am the most productive.

I like to balance things though and since most of my work is computer-based, I don’t get many opportunities to go to a lab. So I have signed up for teaching opportunities too and I’m currently supervising undergraduate students - I usually like to get involved in workshops. This ensures that I get a good balance of research, teaching, and extracurricular activities.

What is your favourite thing about Sheffield?

It has to be that Sheffield is just around the corner from the Peak District.

Can you tell us a bit more about your project and what you are working on?

My project aims to understand how well numerical methods can predict unfavourable aerodynamic phenomena in modern aircraft. It’s important because aircraft are highly efficient machines and my studies can help design engineers appreciate the accuracy of their results. This will ultimately lead to engineers designing aircraft that are more efficient.

As part of my research, I prepare models and use the high-performance computing facilities to run simulations. These can take up to a couple of weeks to complete, and although I don’t do any lab-based work, I do make use of experimental data from other research institutions, such as NASA.

I believe collaboration is key in research too. So over summer 2018, I also spent four months in Germany collaborating with researchers from the German Aerospace Center.

What are your plans for the future and how do you think your experience at Sheffield will help you in your career?

At the moment, I believe that a few years in industry will help me to develop a wider network and strengthen some other skills too. So with this in mind, I’m considering going into a half technical - half management position after my PhD.

Long term, I am also looking at completing an MBA, followed by a full transition to a management role.

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