Hi, my name is Marcos Rodriguez and I am about to start the 3rd year of my PhD in the Skempton. My research is in the Fluid Mechanics section and I focus on nonlinear wave-structure interaction of floating bodies, with an application to wave-energy converters (no, this does not mean I play around in the wave basin all day).
What was the highlight of your degree?
I would probably say building the Gherkin in Constructionarium and my third year Group Design Project.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In an ideal world, I’ll be working for a large offshore company, using the technical knowledge and skills that I gained during the PhD. Oh, and making lots of money, of course.
Do you think your PhD makes you more or less employable?
Uhh… hard question but I definitely hope more employable! I guess this highly depends on what you want to do when you finish – if you want to go into something related to your PhD subject then gaining the technical knowledge will be very useful when going into industry. If you decide to follow a different path, though, the skills you gain during the PhD will still make you stand out compared to people who are freshly graduating from their first degree.
Were you always passionate about Fluid Mechanics?
Not really! I actually didn’t do any fluid mechanics modules in my Third or Fourth Year, which people find surprising when I tell them that my research is based on wave mechanics. I would say if you want to do a PhD it should be in a topic that interests you, but by no means should it be something that you’ve been dreaming of since you were young (although this is probably a plus).
How different is a PhD to the undergraduate course?
Completely different! When doing a PhD, you manage your own time, you set your own deadlines and it requires a lot more commitment and dedication than an undergraduate course, especially because no-one will be making sure you get in at 9am every day!
What's the most exciting thing you have done during your PhD? Apart from the Four Bridges Pu Crawl, of course.
Definitely going on my first conference to Anchorage, Alaska last July. It felt great to get to present what I’d been working on during my PhD to some of the experts in the field whose papers I’d actually referenced in my work. The trips to glaciers and the national parks weren’t bad either!
Have you worked with any civil engineering firms during your PhD?
I’ve helped my supervisor with some consultancy work for a couple of firms and that’s been a great way of being exposed to some of the stuff that researchers do for external companies.
As a PhD, do you get more exposure to civil engineering firms than you did as an undergraduate?
This depends on the type of project you do – some are more industry oriented than others so I guess that will determine how exposed you are to civil engineering firms during your PhD. As with an undergraduate degree, how much you decide to get to involved with civil engineering companies is ultimately up to you!
We're currently 1st in the world for civil engineering, as an undergraduate I don't think that means much to me in terms of my learning. However, as a postgraduate do you feel that benefits you more since we're number one for our research, our academics and our facilities?
From my personal experience, I would definitely say that being 1st in the world for civil engineering is definitely beneficial for PhD students. The Hydrodynamics lab in Skempton is one of the best in the world and it’s great to know you have these state-of-the-art facilities to use whenever you want.
If someone were considering doing a PhD what would be your top tips for him or her?
My top tips would be: 1. Make sure you do a PhD only if you think you can handle it. There’s no point jumping straight in without knowing whether it’s for you. 2. Choose a topic that ACTUALLY interests you – you’re going to be working on this for (at least) 3 years of your life! 3. If you do decide to do one, make the most of it and try to learn as much as possible.
What's your favourite way to unwind and take your mind off civil engineering?
Anything that will help me get my mind off waves for a few hours! Watching a movie, going for a pint with friends, doing some exercise…
Is there anything at university that you wished you had tried or taken part in?
Thinking back, I wish I had been involved in more Clubs and Societies during my first few years at university – this is the time to try as many activities as you can so it’s best to take advantage of these and not lie in bed all day!