In its all-new column, Work Shadow, HT Education shadows people pursuing interesting careers and looks at their life and work. In our first column, we look at a day in the life of Dr Simon A Hayes, a lecturer in aerospace engineering at the University of Sheffield, UK. He talks about his work, interactions with students and various facilities available at the university.
I travel to work every morning with my wife, who also works in the centre of Sheffield. The journey too is a lottery of traffic, some days it takes 15 minutes and other days it takes 50 minutes. I wish I could predict it! I park my car in a local car park and have a five-minute walk to work. The weather in Sheffield changes often. Driving in rain or snow can be a chore.
Most days I have either lectures or labs and the first thing I do is check my online calendar to remind myself of the schedule. Then I answer my emails, before checking lecture notes or lab scripts. All of my notes and scripts are online for the students to read, but sometimes a reminder email is needed so that they bring the right equipment to the labs. I always find it amazing how many engineering students don’t carry some form of calculator with them at all times; I know mine never left my side when I was studying.
The Diamond, our brand new teaching building is developing by the minute as new equipment is being installed. As a result, much of my time when I am not teaching is taken up with the preparation of the new facilities and lab activities.
The Diamond building has specialist teaching facilities for engineering, including 19 laboratories, a chemical engineering pilot plant, a clean room, an aerospace simulation lab and a virtual reality suite and 1,000 study spaces available 24/7 for staff and students across the university. I am planning a short activity for students who are applying to come to Sheffield to study aerospace engineering and general engineering. I will show them how we select materials for aircraft wing spars. Then they will compare wood and aluminium as viable materials for this application and the results might not be quite what they would guess!
Another facility that currently takes a lot of my time is the jet propulsion and flight simulation laboratory. Recently we were showing some students around and we used the jet engine simulator bench to show them the effects of altitude and external temperature on the performance of a jet engine. I am also in the process of writing laboratory experiences involving this simulator and the working of jet engine that is being installed. Initially these will run for the second year aerospace engineering students next semester and so I am continuously writing and editing the scripts to ensure that they are ready in time.
I also have to find time to meet my PhD students to ensure that their projects continue to progress. Soon I will be discussing damage detection in aerospace composites with one of my students, who has developed a new type of electrical damage sensor for woven composites. We believe this to be ground-breaking and are hoping to publish a paper soon, so we have to discuss what other results we need.