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UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

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Life at CEGE

Our students, in their own words. Find out what life's really like within the UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.

Undergraduate 

Engineering (Civil) BEng 

Zaana Ali (Trinidad), 2019 
Headshot of Zaana Ali

What have you enjoyed most about your experience at UCL CEGE? 
I really enjoyed the togetherness of the Department. Most of the coursework was group-based, which helped with team building, as well as understanding personal strengths. This is emphasised specifically in the Lampeter and Constructionarium field trips. It is still group work, but at the end of it, you are surrounded by your peers and members of staff, who are always around to assist during work, and who share in the enjoyment of completing these large tasks. [Editor's note - all field trips are subject to change].

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What are your plans after completing your studies at CEGE? How will Engineering (Civil) BEng help with this?
From September, I will be studying at UCL's Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, to do my Spatial Data Science and Visualisation MRes. During my undergrad I was introduced to the fundamentals of GIS and became interested to learn more about how this works on a larger scale. Spatial analysis is an emerging field, and I believe that civil engineering was a stepping-stone for me in terms of wanting to understand the connection between big data and the built environment.

What advice can you give to our new civil engineering students?
Be as involved as you can! Sometimes the workload may seem overwhelming and have you just going through the motions, but there’s always so much extra information that you learn during field courses and group projects. Apart from academic involvement, it’s also a good idea to join societies – CEGE’s Departmental society, CivSoc, is a great example, as you will be able to socialise with your course mates and students in the years above. Everyone in the department is welcoming and you will feel like a part of the CEGE family in no time.

What can a student expect to learn on your programme?
With the BEng, you learn many of the fundamental concepts of civil engineering, both in theory and in practice over the course of the three years. In your final year, you undertake a research project which is chosen from a range of topics. It’s a great way to help determine what industry sectors you would be interested working in, or if you would rather undertake further studies in a specific aspect of civil engineering. 

What inspired you to study civil engineering?
Like many, I was drawn to the workings of large structures and questioned the concepts behind them. I have also always had a liking for maths and mechanical physics in high school, and I felt like civil engineering gave me the best of both worlds, while being able to provide a balance of theory and practical applications.
  
Why is it important for someone to study civil engineering now?
Even though civil engineering is considered one of the oldest forms of engineering, it is constantly evolving to match the advancements in infrastructure throughout the world. Nowadays, it’s a field which can be a gateway to so many different disciplines in science, engineering, and technology. Studying civil engineering will provide you with critical thinking skills that are desirable in many disciplines. The basic concepts will always remain the same, but the level to which they can challenge innovation and problem-solving will vary. It is a field where you never stop learning, which is extremely useful in industry, or other work environments. 

Engineering (Civil) MEng 

Amarpreet Singh (Britain), 2019 

Headshot of student Amarpreet Singh
What are your plans after completing your civil engineering MEng with us? How will the programme help with this?
I will be starting as a Technology Consultant at Deloitte in September 2019. I thoroughly believe Scenario weeks develop not only technical prowess but also essential soft skills such as teamwork, co-operation, and how to achieve success in high pressure and sometimes frustrating environments. These are things that cannot be taught in a classroom but only learnt through practical experiences. I think UCL civil engineering graduates have a huge advantage because we get these experiences straight away, right from first year. [Editor’s note – Scenario weeks are group-based design projects where students are immersed in week-long activities and tasked with solving real engineering problems.] 
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What inspired you to study civil engineering?
I’ve always been intrigued by the science behind huge buildings and how they can possible stay upright. So I naturally picked civil engineering.

What can a student expect to learn by studying Engineering (Civil) MEng at CEGE?
I think over the first three years you go through a crash course of the fundamentals of civil engineering, ranging from soil mechanics, structural dynamics and fluid dynamics. Once you get the core skills, in fourth year you carry out the Integrated Design Project (visit the Engineering (Civil) MEng programme page for further details). Here, you pick a project and really specialise in one area of interest. Our group built an island in the North Sea. I was personally involved in the construction of the island. This included detailed calculations of waves acting on a wall and creating simulations, which was challenging, but fun. 

What have you enjoyed most about your time at UCL CEGE?
I think starting university is your first step to joining the real world. It can be quite a daunting experience networking, liaising and building professional relationships. One thing that made my experience at UCL more comfortable was having my CEGE family around me at UCL. From first year right through to fourth year, I was always able to discuss challenging experiences I went through with other students, or pick up valuable advice through informal chats with staff members – who really do give genuine information and have your best interests at heart. This support network really allowed me to achieve my potential at UCL.

What advice would you give to someone just starting their civil engineering study at CEGE?
Participate in all aspects of university life! This includes Scenario weeks and making the most of them. There are thousands of opportunities at UCL and you never know what you might find. I was able to go to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver as an exchange student. I thoroughly enjoyed it and made fantastic friends. So I would encourage students to take chances and see where they end up.
  
Why is it important for someone to study civil engineering now?
I think the skills you gain from this degree programme give you a critical thinking template that you can apply to anything. Once you go into the working world you really have a unique mind-set that allows you to solve problems efficiently.


Postgraduate taught 

Earthquake Engineering with Disaster Management MSc 

Francesco Morfuni (Italy), 2017/18 
Picture of student

What inspired you to study MSc EEDM?
Italy – the country where I am from – is one of the most seismically active regions in Europe and has been recently hit by several earthquakes (L’Aquila in 2009, Emilia-Romagna in 2012, Central Italy in 2016). The lesson that we have learnt from past disasters is that engineers are called together to a common effort to raise the bar and provide communities with more resilient and sustainable cities to live in. The UCL MSc in Earthquake Engineering with Disaster Management directly addresses these needs, offering future engineers the necessary technical knowledge and practical skills.

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Why is it important for someone to study MSc EEDM?
As an EEDM student, you will benefit from an international and multi-disciplinary research team. The Master is mainly run by EPICentre, the UK leading Interdisciplinary Centre for Natural Hazard Resilience. The constant interaction with the researchers through seminars and research projects will offer you the unique possibility of learning cutting-edge technologies in the fields of post-disaster reconnaissance as well as of the assessment and strengthening of vulnerable facilities.

What can students expect to learn on MSc EEDM and can this help them with their future career?
The six compulsory modules form the basis of the MSc and are conceived to provide students with a strong state-of-the-art knowledge in both Structural and Earthquake Engineering, meeting the requirements for further learning towards chartership (CEng Level) with ICE & IStructE. Other key advantages are the extensive links to the Industry that the MSc EEDM can claim. Professional engineers, catastrophe risk modelers and disaster managers deliver frequent lectures and seminars and also support students on their research projects as industrial external supervisors.

What have you enjoyed most about your experience at UCL CEGE?
The Field Investigation Trip that is organized annually offers a unique possibility to understand how catastrophic the impact of earthquakes is on real communities. At the same time, it is also a great opportunity to learn the most recent pioneering retrofitting strategies and share ideas with other colleagues and academics.  I am extremely grateful to the Italian Embassy in London and the UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences for having funded my MSc at UCL. 


 

Camilo De La Barra (Chile), 2016/17
Picture of student

What inspired you to study MSc EEDM?
Chile - where I am from - is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, and has been devastated by earthquakes and tsunamis in recent years (e.g. Maule 2010 earthquake, Mw = 8.8). In spite of having renowned design, construction codes and a strong seismic engineering community, these natural disasters still pose major problems to our country. There is a special need for trained people who have a global outlook and different perspectives who can provide solutions to address these problems. For me, that was where UCL’s MSc EEDM came in.

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Why is it important for someone to study MSc EEDM?
The course provides students with a global context on how seismic events and related disasters affect people and infrastructure. In a growing and more demanding world, the engineers of today must provide innovative engineering solutions which are not necessarily from their field of expertise, but also involve multidisciplinary views. In this sense, this MSc programme stands out from others as it engages with leaders in catastrophe modelling, seismic and structural engineering, geophysics and the social sciences.

What can students expect to learn on MSc EEDM and can this help them with their future career?
Unlike other Earthquake Engineering MSc programmes, I would highlight that the MSc EEDM is the only one that provides a truly holistic view of the aspects related not only to earthquakes, but to a variety of natural disasters. This establishes constant links with industry-related topics. It also gives you a comprehensive insight of how different disciplines – rather than only seismic engineering – approach a problem. By doing so, students that complete the programme are well-prepared to face an engineering role where not only ‘numbers’ are needed, but also critical thinking and a global outlook – both of which add value to the future world demands on these matters.

What have you enjoyed most about your experience at UCL CEGE?
I enjoyed the opportunity to share with students, professors and leaders from around the world, as well as being able to study how different cultures deal with natural disasters. I also enjoyed the collaboration between the department and industry, which played an important role during our studies and the MSc research projects and opened worldwide opportunities to all the students.


 

Vibek Manandhar (Nepal), 2016/17 
Picture of student

Why is it important for someone to study MSc EEDM?
Even in the 21st century, earthquakes are one of the most unpredictable phenomena – one that needs many more scientists, researchers and professionals alike to supplement each other’s work. Earthquake resistance and economy are always on a delicate balance. The world needs more researchers and professionals to push the boundaries and work on fields like earthquake hazard, fragility of structures as well as innovative and economic solutions for improving earthquake resistance of structures.

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What inspired you to study MSc EEDM?
Nepal lies in one of the most sensitive regions in terms of seismic hazard. Growing up there meant that I’ve always wanted to do something in the field of earthquake research. Having worked for four years as a design consultant after my bachelors, I wanted to gain an advanced level of knowledge in structural/earthquake engineering and answer all the questions that I had accumulated over the years. I then wanted to put it to use and upgrade my career – while helping society and the world as a whole with a degree from one of the best universities.

What can students expect to learn on MSc EEDM and can this help them with their future career?
The course is well-tuned to providing students with the best quality education, starting from the very basics. It gradually builds up the students' knowledge and makes them competent enough to solve the most advanced problems in core areas like dynamics, seismic risk and seismic design. By the end of the course, the students are well armed with the knowledge and ability to fit in a wide range of career roles.

What have you enjoyed most about your experience at UCL CEGE?
Learning from the best professors in the field of engineering at one of the top universities in the world was an amazing experience. In addition, I enjoyed interacting, learning and – all the while – having a great time with friends from around the world! Besides university, I had the best time of my life living in London, experiencing the sights, sounds and tastes of one of the greatest cities on the globe. I must also express my sincere gratitude to the Chevening Scholarship programme and University College London for making all this possible.


 

Keith Adams (Britain), 2015/16 
Picture of student

What can students expect to learn on MSc EEDM and can this help them with their future career?
As well as rigorous structural design and retrofitting techniques, the seismic risk assessment modules are well regarded globally. Cultural heritage preservation is a departmental strength. The MSc prepares a student for a career in structural engineering, catastrophe risk modelling and third sector organisations involved in disaster mitigation.

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What inspired you to study MSc EEDM?
I looked at the options for Earthquake Engineering carefully before deciding that the research group at EPICentre were incredibly well cited. I reasoned that a first-class MSc was likely to be delivered by world class academic staff – UCL was the natural choice.

Why is it important for someone to study MSc EEDM?
Disaster Management is a perfect adjunct to the engineering content. Pretty early on we learnt that there were multi-disciplinary teams involved in earthquake engineering, by providing an interface between earth science, social science and engineering we understood the interactions that could lead to effective solutions, by people for people. Essentially, how to join the dots together.

What have you enjoyed most about your experience at UCL CEGE?
UCL is an amazing academic community built on equality of opportunity – it’s bright, vibrant and exciting. The EEDM course is small and personal with a high ratio of staff interaction, meaning the MSc students can contribute to the department immediately. Meeting friends from all corners of the world is a life-changing experience.


 

Chen Huang (China), 2014/15 
Picture of student
  

What inspired you to study MSc EEDM?
Though several disasters have stricken the world recently resulting in huge economic losses and casualties, there are always some inspiring stories about how the earthquake engineers fight against the earthquake and other natural disasters. For example, a smartphone app can send out an early-warning message before the earthquake occurs, so that people can escape from the building. Likewise, new engineering techniques have been developed to improve the existing building and protect people. As an engineer, I want to be part of this positive change.

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Why is it important for someone to study MSc EEDM?
If, as a structural engineer, you want to tackle the unpredictable natural forces such as earthquake and another natural hazard, then consider EEDM. The EEDM programme provides the best expert team in Europe regarding earthquake and other disasters. It also has strong connections with engineering and reinsurance industries, great opportunities to work with world-leading companies and experts, excellent training for future career and sufficient support for students.

What can students expect to learn on MSc EEDM and how can this help them with their future career?
The EEDM MSc provides systematic training on structural design and analysis for both building and infrastructures, as well as seismology, catastrophe modelling and disaster management, in case of earthquake and other natural disasters. The field trips available allow you to assess earthquake damage and visit the reconstruction sites. Not only will EEDM MSc prepare you as an engineer, but it will also equip you with transferable skills relating to communication, networking and team-working.

What have you enjoyed most about your experience at UCL CEGE?
The field trip to Italy and other team-building activities. I had the chance to meet people from different backgrounds and learn from them.


 

Engineering for International Development MSc

Natasha Allen, 2017/18

What can a student expect to learn on MSc EfID?
Expect to be exposed to a broad range of topics and approaches to engineering for development. Amongst those, find a set of topics and questions that motivate you and dive into those. There is a lot of opportunity for learning outside the classroom and it’s good to take advantage of it.

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What have you enjoyed most about your experience at UCL CEGE?
I really enjoyed that most of our courses emphasized project-based learning and encouraged us to think holistically and practically about the actual challenges of working on engineering problems in developing contexts. This approach really solidified the understanding that 30 percent of the solution is technology and 70 percent is people which – as it turns out – is the hardest part! It was fun and challenging to work on nuanced problems with my classmates. 

What are your plans after completing MSc Engineering for International Development? How will MSc EfID help?
I am starting my own social enterprise that focuses on building a local workforce to operate and maintain rural community electricity systems, starting in Myanmar. The MSc program helped me build a framework with which to critically assess development interventions and continues to help me question and challenge my own assumptions which should enable me to ensure that I am realizing true impact in my work. 

What advice can you give to someone starting out in this area?
Be open minded and always listen and ask first. Quite often people we aim to help already know what they need. Our job is to help them realise that and open platforms for their voices to be heard in the process.       


                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Gabriela May Lagunes, 2017/18

What inspired you to study MSc EfiD?
In my four years as an undergraduate (studying BSc Physics at UCL), I worked with the UCL branch of Engineers Without Borders. This experience showed me the power of engineering, technology and science in improving people’s livelihoods. From this experience, I decided to take Engineering for International Development MSc (EfID), hoping to kick-start a career in international development.  

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Why is it important for someone to study MSc EfID now?
There is a remarkably wide range of challenges that the global community is facing today. From climate change to lack of energy and water security, high waste production, food scarcity, and humanitarian crisis in conflict areas, every single situation could be supported by the set of skills that this programme will help students develop. 

What can students expect to learn on MSc EfID?
The theoretical and technical basis needed to start a career in international development, the challenges of the industry and the areas where innovation and creativity is needed to push forward sustainability worldwide.

What have you enjoyed most about your experience at UCL CEGE?
Engineering for International Development MSc allowed me to learn the theory behind several aspects related to development and sustainability, from water security and clean energies to humanitarianism and disaster risk reduction. Lectures were given by people with many years of relevant experience in the field, making them very engaging and insightful.