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Rising Stars: 'Ideas alone can't change the world'

Rich McEachran

Siddartha Khastgir (Credit: Will Amlot)
Siddartha Khastgir (Credit: Will Amlot)

This week, we are featuring some of the best and brightest engineers aged under 35. Together, they are shaping the future of the profession, and the world.

Read part one here

Read part two here

Read part three here

Read part four here

Lydia Amarquaye

Senior product development engineer at Delphi Technologies, and chair of IMechE Young Members Board

Age: 30. Location: London

Why were you inspired to get into engineering?

It was the idea that I can make a difference, and that I have the ability to improve things in a practical way.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Every day is about problem solving, but most problems take longer than a day to solve. The most rewarding part is coming up with a solution to a problem that has taken a while, then implementing the changes and seeing it [the solution envisioned] actually work when it’s put into practice.

In your capacity as Young Members Board chair, how have you been promoting STEM?

I’ve tried to support projects which allow young engineers to showcase their talent as best as possible – prior to becoming chair, I was part of a team to pioneer the Home Automation Challenge, a manufacturing competition for apprentices. Once I became chair, I ensured as a board that we supported all the challenges the Institution runs – Formula Student, Railway Challenge and the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Challenge. One member of the board launched a cross-PEI (professional engineering institution) event in Manchester called CHAIN, and we thought it would be good to get that going across the country. We also ran a highly successful showcase event in London last November, alongside four other PEIs, and we had young member speakers from each PEI. 

I’ve tried to ensure that our portfolio showcases different skills within young members, from their ability to present through Speak out for Engineering to their innovation in the challenges, culminating in recognition through the Young Member of the Year Awards.

What would you like to achieve in your career? 

I would love to do something around sports engineering, helping those less able to be involved in sporting activities in a really tangible way. This year, I will be running the London Marathon for Get Kids Going, a charity that supports disabled children to participate in sport, but beyond that I’d love to use my engineering skills to make a longer-lasting impact. I would also like to inspire more young people into engineering and enable them to see that they can make a difference and that STEM subjects can be fun.

Younes Chahid

Additive manufacturing PhD researcher at University of Huddersfield, and co-founder of National 3D Printing Society

Age: 23. Location: Huddersfield

Why were you inspired to get into engineering?

When I was young, I would frequently read Science et Vie Junior, a children-friendly French science magazine. It was intriguing and simulating and led me to want to know how things worked.

The person who guided my thirst for knowledge was my brother-in-law. A great mechanical engineer who broadened my spectrum on the subject, he inspired me to join the field and is still my mentor today. This is very important in a country like my native Morocco, where the subject and degree course doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves. 

What's the most interesting role you've had?

Setting up the university’s 3D printing society, even though it was hard to recruit the initial committee, convince the students’ union and secure funding.

It was a unique feeling to witness students hold in their hands the concepts they had thought up and designed – I was feeling like a magician for the first few months. It was also inspiring to be able to influence students’ career choices by helping them identify the right 3D printing field for them and finding them placements related to it. 

I would love to see what we achieved on a small scale happen all across the UK. This is why I’ve recently co-founded the National 3D Printing Society, a social enterprise that will connect students, researchers and the additive manufacturing (AM) industry through an online platform, and assist students from any university to start their own 3D printing society. 

What excites you about the potential of AM?

Instead of designing a part and iterating the process until you get the desired results, you set the constraints and requirements and see your design grow from scratch. This is exciting as it opens the door to a new generation of designs that are smart and adaptable.

What would you like to achieve in your career?

I’d love to play a part in accelerating the adoption of AM on a larger scale. This goal links into my AM metrology-related PhD, which is looking at the measurement challenges around structural integrity. 

I’d also like to extend the National 3D Printing Society into a global one and broaden awareness of the impact the technology can have.

Ben Vallely

Principal consultant at CPC Project Services LLP

Age: 31. Location: London

Ben knew that if a driving career never materialised – “it hasn’t yet” – he would go into engineering. Ben moved to his current role in January, but earlier, during his time at Network Rail, he worked on the Greater West Programme, overseeing the non-electrification elements, such as sidings, for the electrification of the Great Western Main Line. Ben says that the rail industry is so diverse that every day is like a school day – there is always something to learn. “Having the opportunity to assist in the delivery of major infrastructure is a good start, but I want to push boundaries and make sure changes are delivered in as safe a way as reasonably practicable,” he adds.

Samuel Vennin

Biomechanical engineer research fellow at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Age: 26. Location: London

“My mum’s a doctor but, since I’m scared of blood, I settled for biomedical engineering instead,” declares Samuel, who’s currently exploring frameworks for the efficient and affordable development of haemodynamic measurement technologies. During his research, he’s come across some fascinating findings, such as the fact that, when it comes to hypertension, cardiac mechanics is at least as important as arterial stiffening in explaining the increase in blood pressure. His ambition is to implement medical technologies that will have a positive impact for many people.

Siddartha Khastgir

Principal engineer at WMG at the University of Warwick. Also research lead for the verification and validation of connected and autonomous vehicles

Age: 30. Location: Warwick

What inspired you to get into engineering?

As a child, I had a hobby of collecting miniature cars. I was very proud of my prized collection. Then I stumbled across Formula One car racing on television. Two things about it caught my eye: first, the speed, and second, they didn’t look like anything from my collection. Gradually, this hobby turned into a passion to want to learn more about cars. 

Inspired by this, I took mechanical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and later took part in the Formula Student challenge. Today, I’m very fortunate to be working on driverless car technology at the University of Warwick. 

What’s one of the more challenging aspects of your research?

It has to be trying to prove that autonomous vehicles will be safe when deployed on the roads. The complexity not only of the technology itself, but also the environment in which it’s eventually going to be deployed, is immense. While we’re not there yet, we will get there. 

One of our key responsibilities as engineers is to ensure we convey the true capabilities of a system to users (drivers, in this case). It’s important that we don’t get carried away by the hype. 

And what’s the rewarding part?

It definitely has to be working on an idea and seeing it come to realisation. Ideas alone can’t change the world but, coupled with their implementation, they can make a difference and help to change the future for the better. 

Last year, the government said that it wanted autonomous cars to be in use commercially by 2021. Given this, what do you hope to achieve in the next five years?

I hope to be part of the team of engineers to successfully deploy the first real-world application of driverless cars in the UK – we’re collaborating with exciting and ambitious British companies on this, including Jaguar Land Rover and RDM Group [which was behind the driverless pod trials in Milton Keynes]. I’m contributing to the testing and safety activities.


Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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