UCL Centre for Engineering Education


Arundathi Shanthini - Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Arundathi Photo

How would you describe your area of study or work?

I am currently pursuing my MEng (Electronics with Computer Science) degree in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering here at UCL. We learn how to design, simulate and analyse circuits, the theory behind communication systems and the various processes involved behind its working; designing, synthesizing and testing digital circuits in various different ways and a lot more! But its not all theory, we also have lots of practical work in our course in the form of challenges, scenarios and lab work, which gives us exposure to working in teams. This also helps us develop project management skills whilst learning various practical skills like designing circuit boards, designing and building prototypes, simulating communication systems on software etc.


What is your favourite part of your job/area of study/area of research?

As a student my favourite part is the practical tests and experiments we get to do as a part of our course. The excitement and the rush of seeing something you worked on so hard, functioning the way you expected it, is the best part of it all. In general, I love practical experiments and applications over theory. It is probably what attracted me into engineering. In my free time I also enjoy working on a wide variety of hobby projects creating and building items for me or for my flat. In fact the first time I learnt how to use a laser cutter at the Institute of Making I made a name board for my flat door. Building stuff is something that I really find interesting and I consider it the best part of my course.


What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt during your studies/career so far?

The most valuable lesson I have learnt during my studies here at UCL is probably less of a lesson but more of a realization of the scale of the impact that engineers have indirectly or even quite directly on society. Together engineers can revolutionize life for people from various backgrounds and the scale of the impact was something I probably realized after I came to university and heard more about it first hand from actual engineers. This realization made me more responsible and sincere towards my course and most importantly it makes me want to be a great engineer who helps shape and change the world. It is creatively very satisfying to know that your work has a positive impact on society, it is what I work towards and it is what motivates me to work harder.


Describe your day-to-day life as an engineer/engineering student

My day-to-day life as an engineering student is ever-changing. Every day is different, every period of the year is different and I guess that is what appeals the most to me. My average day would include lectures in the morning, a short lunch break, and lectures or lab sessions in the afternoon. If I do have some time in between I usually tend to use the study spaces in the libraries and around UCL to complete some work or sometimes I spend time at the Institute of Making making something cool with all the tools they provide. Evenings are usually the time I spend organizing, conducting or even attending student society events. Its also the time I visit schools for tutoring. After all this, I return back to my halls, have dinner and call it a day, unless I have a bit more energy to catch up on coursework in which case I work a bit more in the night. Now that does sound like a really busy day but that’s probably just 2 out of the 5 working days which would have a really busy schedule like that.


What attracted you to participate in outreach and engagement activities?

In my first year at university which was also my first year in London, volunteering helped me a lot in connecting with more people. I met new people in the context of sharing my passion and interest for STEM subjects and to me there couldn’t have been a better way to start a conversation with a new person. This was the reason why I got involved with more and more organisations and projects which mainly aimed at promoting STEM subjects. Also, I have always enjoyed teaching and therefore this still motivates me to participate in outreach and engagement activities.


What is the best thing about being involved in outreach activities?

For me, being involved in outreach activities, is also a platform for sharing my interest and love for STEM subjects with another person, whilst promoting it. The best reward is to see the kids I work with smile when they understand a topic or seeing them celebrate the joy of getting the circuit or project they worked on to work the way they expected it to. By the end of most of our programmes we also witness an evident change in most of the pupils in the way they perceive STEM subjects and this becomes more obvious when they ask you practical questions about how we got an offer at UCL. Some of them go even further and ask questions about how we pay the tuition fees, about the scholarships that are available and about working while at UCL. These were important concerns and questions I had before I came to UCL and it makes me happy to be able to be of help to aspiring engineers. Being a STEM ambassador has given me an opportunity to eliminate certain misconceptions and worries about pursuing a career in STEM related fields among young people, their parents and teachers .


What type of activities or programmes have you led/run?

I have assumed various roles as a STEM Ambassador including short one-off roles to long term roles. I have helped with several workshops conducted by UCL Engineering onsite or by even visiting schools. I have had several opportunities to represent the faculty at numerous large-scale events and fairs aimed at promoting STEM subjects to young kids; the latest one being the Big Bang Fair this year. In my second year, I was a UCL Engineering tutor teaching maths to secondary school students and I would visit them at their schools for weekly one-to-one sessions throughout the year. I have also led the UCL Engineering After School Clubs which is an activity we run every year through the Fleming Society, our student led society at the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. In this programme, we teach the pupils how to program microcontrollers, design printed circuit boards (PCB) and design simple circuits to build a PCB in the shape and size that they want.  I am also the project leader of Mathomaniac; a student-led volunteering project where we visit schools to teach Mathematics to kids in Year 5 and 6. The aim is to introduce a different perspective for learning Mathematics and to show them that it can be fun as well. Furthermore, last year I visited schools to assist in workshops on building obstacle avoiding robots conducted as part of the various sessions organised by the Department of Computer Science and the Faculty of Engineering. I have also volunteered with various charity organizations like Action Tutoring with whom I have worked as a Maths tutor.


What outreach activity or programme are you most proud to have been involved with?

Amongst the various outreach roles I have assumed throughout my academic life, being asked to act as an international role model was the most special to me. In December 2017, an international mentoring scheme was organised by the UCL Women Engineers' Society which aimed at mentoring aspiring female engineers and scientists. I was one of the mentors selected by society members to mentor two young girls from Ghana. The sessions included email correspondence and weekly one-to-one video calls which were tailored to suit their needs. The sessions mainly aimed at guiding them with their university applications, clearing their doubts about the application process or topics they found challenging. We also discussed my experience when applying to universities as well as university life. I saw in them a similar passion and interest in STEM that I had when I was at school and seeing them look up to me as a role model was overall an overwhelming experience. I have still not met these girls in person but we are still in touch and they often approach me for advice.


What advice would you give young people wanting to study or work in STEM-related fields?

Most people tell me that the reason they wouldn’t choose a STEM related field is because they find it hard to understand. STEM subjects just demand some time and practice to be able to master the concepts, but if you invest this time, you will be able to see that STEM is actually a really interesting, rewarding and fun field to study and work in.