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The University of Southampton

Beth Barker MEng Civil Engineering

Structural Engineer, Ramboll Whitbybird

Beth Barker's Photo

The course also had a lot to offer, with lots of interesting-sounding projects, site visits - and of course the surveying course at Gradbach...!

What did you enjoy about the course?
My favourite aspects of the course were the group design projects, because I felt that they represented “real” engineering where we could put the theoretical bits of the course into practice. I also enjoyed field trips to the Isle of Wight, Peak District, and the New Forest amongst others. I think that studying a more vocational course such as civil engineering develops a way of thinking and understanding, which is arguably more important than the actual facts learned. The projects in particular teach the processes which are gone through to develop and deliver a design, and encourage team-working and self-teaching which are now major aspects of my job. I’ve learned a lot since starting work about structural design, but I think that my university studies have set me up to be able to understand the “real life” examples that I encounter. I also appreciate the variety of subjects that were covered on the course. I’m now working as a structural engineer, but knowing a bit about geotechnics, transport and having an understanding of environmental and management issues, to name a few examples, gives me a broader depth of knowledge than if I’d purely studied structural engineering at university.

What’s Southampton like as a place to be a student?
Southampton is a fun city to study in because it’s full of students, which means that there’s always loads to do, places to go out, events etc. I liked the way that the Uni campus wasn’t right in the city centre, but was close enough to be really convenient. I spent loads of time on the Common with my friends playing frisbee, football etc. It’s also not as expensive as some places, both in terms of general living costs and rent. Its easy to get around on the buses or by bike, and there are two mainline train stations which is handy for getting home - as well as the airport if you’re going further afield.

Tell us about your current job
I am a structural engineer working for Ramboll Whitbybird, a multidisciplinary engineering and design practice, in Central London. My work is hugely varied, which is why I love it, as I think I’d get bored otherwise. At any one time I will be working on two or three projects, along with one or more other engineers, depending on the scale of the project. So far my most exciting job has been the stabilisation of a 200-year old ruined castle in the Lake District! A normal week’s work would normally involve perhaps one day out on site, either checking up on construction progress, or carrying out a structural investigation. Then design and calculations comprise a fair bit of my time, sizing members and building elements, and sketching details to explain more complicated areas of the structure. I also spend some time writing reports, which depending on the stage that the project is at, explain the design philosophies used, the concepts explored, and the suggested methods for construction. My favourite part of my job is doing site investigations, although the winter days spent on a hillside in Cumbria have confirmed that I wouldn’t want to be on site full-time!

Why did you choose Civil Engineering at Southampton?
It had a great reputation for Civil Engineering and when I visited on the Open Day I was impressed by the labs and the friendliness of the department. This was confirmed when I went back for an interview and actually really enjoyed it! The staff were all approachable and clearly very knowledgeable in their various fields. The course also had a lot to offer, with lots of interesting-sounding projects, site visits - and of course the surveying course at Gradbach...!

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