Student Blog | Engineering - "It’s hard to think of a better degree to get to enter the energy industry."

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Calum Macdonald with Graham-Hastie

Calum Macdonald, aged 26 is about to complete his 3rd year of BEng (Hons) Energy Engineering and was recently awarded a £1000 prize for ‘Best Engineer’ in the UHI Business Awards. In this blog he tells us about studying engineering at UHI Outer Hebrides and how his lecturer supported his award winning vertical farming project.

The Awards run by CREATE, part of the Centre for Remote and Sustainable Communities, is now in its 16th year and encourages enterprise and innovation by supporting people in the Highlands and Islands, Moray, Perthshire and Argyll to take their first steps on the road to starting their own business. The Engineering Award is sponsored by Engineers in Business Fellowship.

Why did you choose to study your course?         I had been studying History at UHI for a couple year but didn’t find it a right fit for me, I wasn’t committed to the outcomes as much as I needed to be. I took a chance and a change in direction by starting an Engineering degree and quickly found a passion for engineering. 

Why did you choose to study at UHI Outer Hebrides?    Lewis is my home, and the Highlands and Islands is where I want to live. UHI Outer Hebrides offered me the chance to get a worthwhile degree whilst staying at the place I call home. 

What do you think about the style of teaching and the support you received from tutors and lecturers?       It’s not perfect as things never are but my lecturers have all been passionate, helpful, and encouraging. The classes have been challenging but this has helped me to grow as a person. Covid 19 has also not provided an environment that aided University teaching, but I never felt as though the lecturers weren’t working hard to deliver their best and I’m happy with the support I’ve received. 

What career direction would you like to take/or did take after studying?        I hope to enter the Energy industry and work on renewable energy or nuclear and help to decarbonise our grid system. 

How do you feel your studies will help you in your career progression? It will help enormously, it’s hard to think of a better degree to get to enter the energy industry. 

What advice would you give to those considering studying?       Do it, take the leap, you won’t lose anything from trying and you stand to gain so much more! 

What are your favourite things about the UHI Outer Hebrides? I like not living in the city and being closer to nature. The Lews castle campus sits in the middle of the castle grounds and is extremely beautiful. I enjoy being able to walk or cycle my mountain bike between or after classes.              Being able to stay at home has allowed me to minimise costs too, I wouldn’t have been able to do that without UHI Outer Hebrides. 

Tell us a little bit more about your award-winning project?        The idea is to develop modular vertical farming units to allow people to grow fruit and veg in their own space. The aim is to provide this at an affordable price for people to help reduce their reliance on food grown far away and to help people get back in touch with how food reaches the table. 

How have your lecturers supported you?            The idea was what I investigated for my 3rd year project and the lecturer in charge of that class, Dr Christopher Macleod, was enormously helpful, he gave a lot of helpful advice whenever I needed it and without him, I would have struggled a lot more than I did.  

What are your next steps?         I will be building a prototype and looking at taking my idea further and developing the products over the next few years. I hope to start a company in time if everything pans out. 

Why not come and find out more at our engineering Taster session on Fri 24th of June? You can meet our lecturers and current students, see our amazing facilities and discover your next steps into engineering.

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