Trinity College Dublin; University of Rome III
Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering
University of Bath
I come up with ways to calculate noise accurately so that we can make things quieter.
I work in a university, so my job is a mixture of research, teaching, and paperwork.
My research is mostly about how flow makes noise: the flow could be from jets, such as aircraft engines, or solid objects such as propellers and cooling fans. My work is about how to calculate the noise so that engineers can design quieter systems: if you can calculate the noise accurately before you build something, you have a better chance of making it quiet at the first attempt. Most of what I do is applied maths, and especially maths using computers to solve large problems. The most difficult part of the job is often expressing the problem in such a way that you can solve it mathematically.
Lately, I have been working on how ammonites swim. These were prehistoric shellfish, the coiled-up ones, and I work with biologists who are interested in how the shellfish evolved. The way they swam affects how much they needed to eat, because it affected how much energy they used. We use engineering methods to work out how much energy the ammonites needed to swim in a particular way, which helps biologists think about what made them evolve the way they did, and why they went extinct.
My Typical Day
Cycle to work, check emails, write software, check calculations, help students, give lectures, repeat …
After I cycle to work and have a shower, I usually start by dealing with paperwork and emails while I have a coffee. Any day is a mixture of dealing with students and some of my research work.
I teach aircraft control, which is how to design aeroplanes to be stable so that a pilot can control them without crashing. For part of the year, I give classes to aerospace engineering students and for the rest of the year I supervise them while they design a large aeroplane. I also supervise students who are building a human powered aeroplane, which is basically a bicycle with very big wings: they will take it to an event with other flying bicycles later this year.
For my research, I mostly do mathematics, and write computer programs and papers. The mathematics is the way to express problems so that we can solve them; the programs let us do calculations quickly for large systems; and the papers are how we tell other people what we have done so that they can also use the work. If you do something in secret, it is no use to anybody else.
What I'd do with the money
Get people involved in building human powered vehicles
One of the projects I help run is a Human Powered Aircraft (HPA). I would like to use the money to get some students to help build an aircraft, and maybe help to fly it.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Academic, biker, engineer
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Anything fresh I have just cooked, or somebody has cooked for me
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Flying an aeroplane or riding a motorcycle
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
Working on how ammonites (fossil shellfish) swim
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
Tell us a joke.
An optimist says the glass is half-full; a pessimist says it’s half-empty; an engineer says it’s the wrong size.