Marie-Claire Flynn

MEng Electrical & Mechanical Engineering with International Study

PhD in Electronic & Electrical Engineering

What made you decide to apply to the Scottish Space School?

I had heard about it from my brother who had previously attended and I thought it sounded very exciting. At that point, I knew that I was interested in doing something maths or physics related but I had no idea what engineering was or what engineers actually did, so I applied to gain a better understanding of what opportunities were out there, and to try to understand where a course in engineering might lead.

What did you enjoy most about the programme?

I really enjoyed meeting other students from all over Scotland that were interested in STEM subjects. I was the only one that applied to attend from my school that year, so the chance to be among like-minded people was fantastic. I enjoyed working as a team throughout the week (we won best team) and it was this particular aspect that made me want to study engineering, as I realised that I enjoyed group work and problem solving.

What do you think you gained most from the experience?

I think I gained a lot of confidence. The various engineering areas that I was exposed to were useful in my university decision making process, but on reflection the self-confidence that I gained from leading a team, meeting and relating to lots of new people, presenting to an audience, coming up with ideas and meeting the NASA guests was invaluable. I think that the Space School was a really helpful stepping stone between school and university in terms of the personal skills that are required and also in the transition to a male dominated study environment where much self-motivation is necessary.

Did it help you to make up your mind about what to study at University?

By the end of the week I was sure that I wanted to do engineering, although I wasn’t entirely sure which type as they all seemed appealing (the downside of being exposed to so many different opportunities in engineering!). Also having been on Strathclyde’s campus for a week made me feel very comfortable there and that made me keen to apply to study engineering at Strathclyde.

Did you enjoy your undergraduate course?

I really enjoyed studying Electrical & Mechanical Engineering (EME), although the course was intense from the beginning with a very high workload. However, I relished the challenge that the EME course presented and I was able to obtain scholarships throughout my studies as a result of being able to manage a high calibre course of study. In particular, I really enjoyed my year abroad in Germany where I learnt a language and wrote my dissertation on the reliability of life support systems on the International Space Station (I never thought I would do anything like that when I attended Space School)!

What made you decide to study for your PhD?

I did a couple of summer research placements at Strathclyde and I really enjoyed it, so I was interested in pursuing further research after graduation. I was offered the opportunity to do a PhD in Future Aircraft Electrical Systems in conjunction with NASA and Rolls-Royce, and it sounded like a fantastic opportunity.

Have you remained involved with the Space School since joining Strathclyde?

I came back to mentor at the Space School in 2012 and 2013. It was really good to be able to offer advice on engineering courses and also show the students some of the projects that engineering students at Strathclyde are working on. I also appreciated the chance to build up networks with other mentors in different fields of engineering and work as a mentor team throughout the week.

What advice would you give to other people who are thinking of applying to the Space School?

I would say just go for it! There is nothing to lose and the application process is also good practice for UCAS. It is a great opportunity to meet other people your own age who have similar interests and career aspirations. I think applying to the Space School is an important step in young people taking responsibility for their own career and study choices, and in seeking out exposure to some of the engineering opportunities that are available. I would strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to apply!