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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Science at Cambridge: Engineering

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    12 Nov

    Science fact

    Elephants rarely get cancer: less than 5% of captive elephants die of cancer, compared to 20% of humans. Elephant genomes have at least 20 copies of the tumour suppressor, p53, which may explain their low cancer rates relative to humans, who have only one copy. 

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    5D Kate WilkinsonMy name is Kate Wilkinson and I have just started my third year of engineering at Murray Edwards. I had enjoyed Chemistry, Biology and especially Physics at school and college, but was finding it hard to narrow down my interests. My combined interests in science and design led me to attend a Headstart summer school programme for engineering after my first year of college.  I spent a week in another college at Cambridge attending lectures, working on mini-projects and enjoying a taste of university life. This allowed me to discover that engineering is a fascinating combination of all of the sciences applied to real-world problem solving, with room for a creative flare. I became certain it was the right degree for me.

    After two years studying the foundations in all areas of engineering, I decided to specialise in Electrical and Information Engineering. For me this choice was significant as I had begun the course wanting to become a Civil engineer.  I never expected to find electronics so engaging. The great part of the course at Cambridge is that it gives you time to identify your areas of interest before you make a commitment.

    At the end of last year I had an opportunity to attend a lecture course covering an introduction to Bioengineering. It investigated the structure and function of the eye and retinal image processing in the brain. Although based on biology and neuroscience, the course incorporated many of the engineering analysis techniques we had learnt over the past two years. I was particularly fascinated to learn about the ongoing development of retinal implants comprising a microelectronic chip with light sensitive pixels, which can partially restore sight. I think it is amazing that we can use electronics and information engineering principles to interface with one of the most complex and little understood organs in the body – the brain. It also demonstrates the wide range of areas engineering principles can be applied to. This year I will take a neuroscience course with the intention of understanding more about the technology that can interact with and simulate stimulus processing in the brain.

    I love the practical aspect of engineering, and the part of my course that separates it from the other sciences is the opportunity to apply scientific knowledge to hands-on design. So far this has included scale model bridge building, and the design and testing of a robot.

    I would encourage others to study engineering as it is an amazingly diverse field, and you acquire a set of skills that you can apply to so many different career paths. I would thoroughly recommend attending an engineering summer school, or even spending a day work-shadowing, to get a true feel of the subject.

    Kate Wilkinson
    Current student