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Engineering at Emmanuel College

University of Cambridge

Tel +44 1223 334200
Fax +44 1223 334426


Engineering is a broad discipline, covering everything from the more traditional subjects, such as civil and mechanical engineering, to the new subjects such as electronics, aeronautics and the applications of new materials. The Cambridge course reflects this, so that students study a general course with little specialisation for the first two years, and then concentrate their efforts for two further years on a few topics selected from a wide range.

The number of areas covered allows you to see what the different subjects are all about, before having to commit yourself to one field. It does not, however, put you at a disadvantage when applying for jobs afterwards; because Cambridge attracts high quality students, it means that topics can be covered more quickly, and if you choose to specialise in one subject later in the course (say civil engineering), you will have covered probably as much civil engineering material as students who have been to a university offering a specialist civil engineering course. At the same time, you will have studied basic electrical and mechanical engineering, as well as thermodynamics and materials science, all of which makes you very attractive to potential employers. A similar depth of material is covered if you choose to specialise in one of the other disciplines, but you can choose to take a range of courses in the final years to keep a general engineering base.

The depth with which the subjects are covered means that engineering is not a "soft option", and it is not a watered-down version of natural sciences. There will be many lectures and laboratory classes to go to, and many examples papers to work on, but you will be working with a group of students with similar abilities and the college provides supervisors to help you with your studies.

Emmanuel College takes slightly more engineering students than the average across the colleges, typically 16 each year. There are Fellows of the College who specialise in all the main subject areas, so you can expect to get most of your supervisions in the College from a specialist who is also from Emmanuel. In the few subjects where we do not have expertise, or to cover periods of leave, we bring in suitably qualified supervisors from outside. Dr Burgoyne (a civil engineer, specialising in concrete structures and bridges) is Director of Studies for the first two years.  Dr Nickels (mechanics, control theory and fluid mechanics) directs studies in the third year, while Dr Udrea (an electrical engineer, specialising in power electronics) directs studies for the 4th year students.  Dr Sleath (fluid mechanics and mathematics), Dr Rae (materials science), Dr Gales (information engineering) and Dr Spreadbury (electrical engineering) all regularly supervise for the college.  See below for links to their own home pages.

What are the entry requirements? Students studying engineering must have a thorough understanding of mathematics and physics; we normally ask for As in both subjects. Double maths is useful, as the applied maths covered includes many topics that you will later study in more detail here; if you do single subject maths we would advise you to do an advanced extension paper or an additional AS level if your school can offer those papers.  Pure and mechanics modules will be of more use to you than statistics. No other subjects are pre-requisites of the course, although a basic working knowledge of chemistry is useful. We will be happy to consider students with good third or fourth A-levels in other subjects, such as Geography, English, or a foreign language, provided they have the basic Maths and Physics.

What do we look for at interview? Engineering is not about people sitting in the corner of the room working away and shouting “Eureka!” when they have solved a problem. It is about solving real world problems for the benefit of others. We therefore look for students who know why they want to study engineering, have an awareness of where engineering fits into society, and have the ability to communicate their interests and knowledge to others. We would expect you to be reasonably well informed about world events, perhaps by reading a “quality” paper regularly, and also to have some understanding of what is going on in the world of science and engineering. A regular look through “New Scientist”, “Scientific American”, or one of the journals that relates to your own interests, is likely to be useful preparation. Above all, we are looking for those students who have open, enquiring minds, so that you will be able to appreciate why we are teaching the subjects that you will study, and how they will be applied after you leave.

The proportion of women studying engineering is increasing (currently 20–25%), and at Emmanuel we treat applications from men and women in exactly the same way. Engineering has traditionally been a subject that women did not study (a false view largely fostered by the schools), but in the last 20 years the proportion of female students has increased, and those graduates are now becoming senior engineers and team leaders in engineering firms who will doubtless go on to run their own firms in the near future. Girls wishing to apply their science studies should not be put off by the “traditional” view.

Many students want to take a year out before coming up to study engineering. We are happy for you to do that, especially if you can use the time constructively by getting a job with an engineering firm. You will be more mature when you come, you will see the relevance of some of the things you will be taught, and if you can get sponsorship from the firm, you will have some extra money in your pocket. Unlike some colleges, however, we do not insist on a gap year or sponsorship. We recognise that a year out before starting a four-year course will mean that you will be about 23 before you graduate, which some students regard as too late.

What about the course itself? All students studying engineering at Cambridge are enrolled in a four-year course. After two years of general study you will take the Part I examinations of the Engineering Tripos. After that you will have a number of options. You can carry on to do Part II of the Engineering Tripos, which allows you to specialise in civil, mechanical or aeronautical engineering; alternatively, you can do the Electrical and Information Sciences Tripos (EIST), the Chemical Engineering Tripos, the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos, or the Management Studies Tripos (MST). All of these, apart from MST, are two-year courses. At the end of your third year here you will be awarded the BA degree and can, if you wish, leave at that stage, although we would normally expect you to stay on for the fourth year and take your MEng degree.

Engineering is a challenging subject, covering a range of disciplines. Good students will find that a Cambridge Engineering degree opens many doors for their future careers, and at Emmanuel we aim to help you get the most out of the course.

List of current Engineering Fellows with links to relevant Departmental Pages

*Dr M J F Gales - Information Engineering

*Prof N Peake - Mathematics

Links to relevant pages

Emmanuel College Admissions

Engineering Dept Main Page

Engineering Dept Undergraduate Prospectus

Cambridge University Main Page

Cambridge University Undergraduate Admissions

© 2004 Emmanuel College, Cambridge, UK
This page maintained by C.J.Burgoyne
Last updated: 28th September 2004