BSc Biology, 2006; MSc Civil Engineering with Industrial Placement, 2008
I applied to a number of universities but knew as soon as I visited that Southampton was the place for me. I vividly remember arriving here on a sunny day and seeing the beautiful green spaces of the Highfield Campus. I am originally from Felixstowe, so it was really important to me that I was near the sea.
My main memory of my biology degree was a field trip to Spain involving three weeks of studying the local flora and fauna. We caught a number of large reptiles and kept them in linen sacks in our spare hotel room, which was fine until the cleaning lady found a linen bag walking towards her one morning!
Towards the end of my undergraduate course I started to think about the career I wanted to pursue. I was considering a future role in something linked to engineering when I got an email from the University of Southampton offering a new civil engineering course for anyone with science as a first degree. At the time there was a shortage of Civil Engineers so the University paid my fees.
The course took two years, with a work placement in the second year. I found postgraduate study really hard; especially as I was studying a subject I didn’t know anything about. The first year felt like trying to cram four years of studying into just a year. My second year was a work placement at Gifford where I gained valuable practical experience. It was at that point all of that knowledge from the first year fell into place.
I now work as a Senior Engineer in a multi-disciplinary environmental team at Ramboll, which acquired Gifford in 2011. My role involves environmental project management, water sensitive urban design, environmental impact assessment and infrastructure engineering. I love the problem-solving element of my job and that little bit of fear you feel before you figure out just how you’re going to tackle a tricky problem. My role is hugely varied and I work with a wide range of clients - no day is ever really the same.
My advice for people wanting to follow this path is to make sure you get good work experience. It is difficult to overestimate just how much you can learn on a good placement and there are many companies in my field that have excellent opportunities. In a field as broad as civil engineering it is very difficult to know if you will like the job until you try the various roles on offer. When I was looking for work experience my course provided me with a list of companies to approach, many of whom were local with strong links to the University. My experience was very positive and the University still has great partnerships with the industry today.
My great passion away from my work is the theatre. I love the fact I can leave a busy day at work and go and pretend to be someone else for three hours! I was a member of the University Student Theatre Group while I was studying and am now a member of the Southampton University Players; the theatre company for alumni, staff and members of the local community.
I love the sense of community we have in the Players. Everyone has been so welcoming right from the moment I turned up for my first audition. I also find it remarkable that an amateur group gets to perform in the amazing space that is the Nuffield Theatre.
I recently won an award for best actress at the Totton Drama Festival. I played Doris Gow in Fumed Oak – I describe her as ‘awful wife Doris’. She’s controlling, nagging, miserable, snappy, bad-tempered and extremely fun to play - my tip is always play a baddie! I was surprised to win the award – I got some nice comments during the adjudication but there were some other strong performances, so it was very exciting when my name was called out.
Prizes though are just a bonus. What I find so rewarding about theatre is that magical process when you come together as strangers at the beginning of a show and then work together over such a long period of time towards a shared goal. This fosters a great sense of camaraderie. And you have to do strange things with people you don’t really know - I still get the giggles when I have to kiss on stage!
I would encourage anyone to join a theatre group. Southampton University Players are always really keen to have new people and there are always opportunities to get involved on-stage or off!