The Graduate Perspective by Kevin Gallagher - UCD Mechanical Engineering
My name is Kevin Gallagher and I am a Mechanical Engineering Graduate from UCD, graduating with a BEng in 2014. I’ve always had a strong interest in understanding how things work, coupling this with a passion for planes, trains, automobiles and an affinity for mathematics, Mechanical Engineering seemed like the natural choice for my field of study.
I decided to attend UCD because of its strong reputation in the Engineering and Science disciplines. Another key consideration for me was the UCD ethos - to develop students into real world problem solvers, providing them with the right tools for a career in the Engineering profession.
After attending a guest lecture in first year, presented by UCD graduate Dr. Philip Harnett I started to recognise the value of gaining undergraduate work experience . During this lecture, Dr. Harnett spoke about his career in the automotive industry, which began as an intern in BMW (working on seat restraint systems) and brought him to the dizzying heights of Formula 1 racing with BMW’s factory team in the early 2000’s before finally moving to Rolls Royce Motor cars.
With this inspiring story still fresh in my mind, I set about applying for a summer placement in Bentley Motors. After multiple phone interviews and attending an assessment centre, I began work on the Wheels & Tyres team in summer 2012. Over the 3 month period, I was given two research projects with some general targets. How far I took each project and how I went about achieving the goals were almost entirely up to me, receiving support from my manager and different departments as and when required. One example of this self-motivated approach to learning was having to develop a test and validation procedure for a prototype sound absorbent material from scratch. This included sourcing the material, as well as regular liaison with the supplier and different Departments within Bentley (e.g. Quality, Purchasing and Whole Vehicle Validation). This was a most enriching learning experience as I was thrown in the deep end and it was either sink or swim!
After finishing my final exams in May 2014, I returned to Bentley Motors to take up a Suspension Engineer position in the Chassis Department. Initially I worked on future chassis technologies for our flagship car, the Mulsanne. I then moved onto Engine mount development for the Bentayga SUV. Similar to my placement I was handed significant responsibility very early in the project – one of my main objectives being to deliver Active Engine Mount technology for the first time on a Bentley.
The work I did on the Bentayga powertrain mounts was a springboard for my current role in Chassis Mechatronics, developing and testing active Chassis control systems. With this new role I now heavily involved in testing Bentley’s latest models on tracks around the world. Some recent experiences include trips to the Nurburgring in Germany and the sand dunes of Dubai as well as Porsche’s test facility in Southern Italy.
Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary branch of Engineering, combining elements of Mechanical and Electronic Engineering with a strong emphasis on Software development. Coming from a Mechanical background, this is new territory for me. However, the broad exposure to different modules I received during my time at UCD has helped me to adapt to this new challenge.
My biggest piece of advice to students who would like to get into any industry (not just automotive) would be to apply to as many engineering companies as possible – at home and abroad. Apply early – I managed to secure a placement in BMW in 1st year so don’t let that put you off! Also, prepare your CV and get it reviewed by as many people as possible – members of UCD academic/careers staff, current professionals in industry etc. Don’t worry if you do not have any relevant work experience – use projects from college as examples of demonstrating your technical ability and initiative.
Lastly, enjoy your time at UCD. It will pass you by quicker than you think!