A day in the life at University College Cork

My name is Ethan Hussey, and I am going into my 3rd year of studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering at University College Cork.

Growing up, I had a flair for mathematics and the sciences, and I knew that I wanted to continue studying something relating to the sciences that also had a focus on problem solving. This is how I fit into engineering, as it is all about making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences and resolving complex matters through technical and non-technical changes.

As a first year in University College Cork, I got to try out different streams of engineering, from process and chemical to electrical and electronic. This was very beneficial to me as I was unsure on which I knew was going to allow me to express myself and provide me with the ability to change the world around me. I ultimately decided to follow electrical and electronic engineering, which involves developing a broad range of technological products and services that underpin modern society.  These include the generation and distribution of electricity, the development of renewable energy systems, industrial automation and control, telecommunications including broadband and mobile systems and medical systems.

The first two years of the course will develop your scientific knowledge, especially in mathematics, physics, and the fundamentals of electrical signals. The third and fourth years of the course concentrate on applied engineering. The first three years of the BE course provide an access route to the integrated master’s in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. In the BE course, we are given the opportunity to complete a 3 month professional work placement, and in the ME course, it is for 8 months.

UCC’s vibrant and open campus has plenty to offer both students and the wider Cork community. It is home to more than one hundred different clubs and societies who host a multitude of talks and events throughout the year, that allows you to take yourself away from your studies and have fun. I am a part of the rugby club, which I find as a release from the hard work required to excel. Over the past 2 years, I have been a part of the Formula Student UCC team who are designing, building, testing, and racing a small-scale formula style racing car. Initially, I was responsible for the design of the transmission element and motor mounting. I was then involved in Finite Element Analysis of some of the designs and models of the car. I was very passionate about this club as I joined when it was only starting up and knowing that the work I was doing would be used as a foundation to builds from for years to come motivated me.

I would also like to contribute to sustainable development globally and to help tackle the challenge of climate change. This led me to join the Engineers Without Borders committee in UCC. This experience helped me to understand the importance of protecting humanity and the environment, which I hope to carry with me into my future work as an engineer. On this committee, I was the Schools Outreach Officer and organised multiple presentations in coordination with Senior Cycle students in Secondary Schools. This involved ensuring the students have an adequate mentoring scheme provided by UCC students, and developing the teachers’ and students’ understanding of the organisation; and educating the students in sustainability and how to adopt a more sustainable life.

Before the pandemic, an average day would consist of me arriving on campus and going to multiple lectures and labs in one of the many buildings. These lectures would include the sciences, digital electronics, power engineering etc. If there was ever a problem or question, the lecturers or lab assistants were always happy to help. The lab assistants are all students, meaning they could help you with anything and you could even be a lab assistant. The faculty are delightful to work with and never shy away from helping. Most of my day would be spent with my friends while at the lectures and labs or doing projects and assignments together. One thing that UCC encourages is working in groups for projects. We have access to the numerous computer labs and study rooms spread out all over campus, so my friends and I would gather in one and discuss our projects and assignments.

After completing my 2nd year, I have already been presented with severely opportunities that will help me on my journey through engineering. Currently, I have a research job in UCC with one of my lecturers in the UV-SINTEC group. Our study will develop state-of-the-art LED technology that will enable scientists to manipulate UV to advance our understanding of how plants respond positively to UV wavelengths. This pioneering combination of electronic engineering and plant biology will have global implications for the horticulture industry. I am designing and making a system that can measure the light around the plant, using silicon photodetectors and UV detectors. There is complex circuitry to measure the light, generating a signal which the computer can interpret, and to mover the means of measuring around the plant while not disturbing the plant. This is both a structural and electronic focused process as both need to work together to make a functional measuring system.