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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Science at Cambridge: Mechanical Engineering

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    07 Dec

    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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    I am Farzana Huysman, a third year engineer currently specialising in Mechanical Engineering. I previously studied in Kenya, where while doing my GCSE's and A Levels I discovered that I was particularly good at Maths and Physics, and enjoyed these classes more than the others. Wanting to continue with these subjects at university, I chose to study engineering, which I saw as a very practical way to apply my abilities to tolsve real-world challenges.

    Since starting at Cambridge, I have found the engineering course here to be extremely enjoyable, mainly because of the breadth that the course offers. Being a very hands-on person, I find the practical lab sessions really fun - I recently spent a whole day making and destroying concrete beams; I learnt how to weld and drill metal sheets when making a tomato-picking robot; and I've even built a working radio. The structure of the course here allows each student to mix and match modules to suit their interests. Besides taking standard engineering moducles, I now study Business Economics, which I find fascinatin despite never having done it before, and I've kept up my French by doing language classes in the department.

    Engineering is a very gratifying subject - the more you learn, the more connections you can make between the theory from class and the practical world outside, which really unlocks your inquisitive mind. I now regularly think, "How does that roof stand?" or "What made that rollercoaster stop?". It is even more thrilling when you can answer these questions, for example, we recently spent a number of mechanics classes exploring how spinning tops work - you'd never have though toys could be so interesting! The possibilities within engineering are endless, as so much of the world around us has been influenced by engineering - from large airplanes and stadiums to everything inside your phoen - it leaves me wondering why there aren't as many girls taking up engineering as we'd hope for.

    After discovering that the uptake of sciences in Kenya was low as well, I spent part of my last two summers doing community projects where I worked with young girls and boys to encourage them to continue with their sciences. My message to them was simple. On one hand, if you are passionate about science, it's a very thrilling subject to study, and you will enjoy it, especially as you get further and further into your studies. On the other hand, a big advantage of studying sciences is that you develop very useful transferable skills. These include teamwork, project management, problem solving skills and data analysis, which can then be applied to a wide range of science or non-science careers. This means that even if you are unsure about what you want to do, taking sciences can only be a safe bet to get you started with your successful career!

    Farzana Huysman
    Undergraduate student