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The University of Southampton
EngineeringPostgraduate study

Christopher Hughes MSc Energy and Sustainability (Energy, Environment and Buildings), 2014

Graduate Engineer, Morgan Sindall

Christopher Hughes's Photo

Instead of sitting in lectures, listening, and taking notes, I learnt how to approach a problem, and solve it.



Can you brief summary of your time at Southampton?

I came to Southampton having already graduated and worked for two years, similar to quite a number of others, and it was very different to my undergraduate university experience. This time I really got to focus on my course, connect more closely with my tutors, and guide my own learning as opposed to being taught.

Why did you choose Southampton?

There were a number of courses offering energy technology focused masters degrees, but this course covered sustainability, a more holistic view to engineering. In addition, Southampton had a research group focused on international development, the sector I had been working in, and wanted the opportunity to pursue research in this field.

What did you enjoy most about your masters?

The modules were all fascinating, particularly sessions in our small course group, but it was the approach to learning that was most enjoyable. Instead of sitting in lectures, listening, and taking notes, I learnt how to approach a problem, and solve it. We were constantly challenged and gained confidence in our own ability to apply what we had learnt.

What were your lecturers and tutors like? Did you find them supportive?

Patrick James and Despoina Teli were incredible course leaders. They were essentially the course. The lecturers provided individual support to all of us, tailored to our interests and learning styles, and held lectures that were extremely engaging.

What does your current job involve?

I’m part of the energy team at Morgan Sindall. I work on biomass schemes, particularly wood-fuelled boilers, and anaerobic digestion. As it’s a small emerging team I work in everything from pre-contract design to on-site construction and even commissioning. Currently I’ve been looking at the feasibility of a food-waste digester to produce biogas for injection to the national grid. I’ve engaged heavily with the client, helped draft proposals and technical documents, as well as liaise with subcontractors. No two days are ever the same, so my job is hard to define!

How did your course help you to get the career you wanted?

Aside from gaining knowledge about the course topic itself, energy and sustainability, the most important thing I learnt was how to learn for myself. We were constantly encouraged to tackle new problems, approaching daunting and complex tasks we knew little about, but were supported to work through them in a logical and inspired way. This is exactly what I do every day as an engineer, I get asked to do things I know little about almost daily, but now I have the confidence to dive in! I can’t recommend this course strongly enough, even if you’re not interested in energy.

What has been your greatest career achievement so far?

In the first few months I was nominated and won a best new starter award, from all the new graduates in the business unit. I also participated in a high-level meetings to close a £10 million project.

What advice would you give to a student starting their masters at Southampton?

Forget the way you learnt and studied during your undergraduate degree, a masters is completely self-driven, and you’ve got to earnestly love your topic.


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