A Week in the Life of an Engineer

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By Will, Civil Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham


Hi, I’m Will, and I’m a third year MEng Civil Engineer.

In third year as a Civil Engineer, we have around four hours of lectures per module each week, and with three modules per semester this means we have about 8-12 hours of lectures on campus. This depends on whether we have a coursework/project module that has no lectures associated with it (like our Integrated Design Project, which I’ll mention later) that semester, and some pre-recorded or zoom lectures online. Alongside lectures, I play with the Music Society’s brass band, I play with the Jazz Funk and Soul Society (JFS), am a student ambassador (which is why I’m writing this!), am a mentor for aspiring engineers in year 12 at local schools, occasionally go out cycling, go out with my friends to pubs or clubs, and spend a fair amount of time chilling and chatting with my housemates in my uni house. Let’s take a look at my week this week!


I had an 11am lecture for Surface and Groundwater Hydrology about managing and measuring precipitation, followed by a meeting for our Integrated Design Project (IDP) module. IDP brings together engineers from different disciplines (Civil, Mechanical and Electrical) to work together to solve an engineering problem. In first and second year, we worked in teams of six, but in third year we work in teams of 30! Our team is working on a project to design a park-and-ride system to serve Birmingham, and with our team today we discussed the philosophy of the design, the network, integration with other transport modes, fuel sources and means of electrification among other things. I then went to my 3pm lecture for Materials Engineering, learning about the many ways that concrete can corrode, the signs and consequences of corrosion, and how to stop that from happening.

A lot of work for one day, so I decided to go to the pub with my housemates in the evening to relax and have a good chat!


I had a bright and early start for a 9am Materials Engineering lecture, continuing the topic from yesterday. I stayed on campus to do some work and learn some more content that wasn’t covered in the lectures this week, before having a tutorial session on Surface and Groundwater Hydrology which covered a question about the relationship between rainfall, groundwater, and river levels. Afterwards, I went home, did a bit of work developing a route for the park and ride for our IDP project, and chilled with my housemates in the evening.


I had a free morning, then went to campus in the afternoon for training to continue my role as a mentor for prospective engineering students in year 12 at local schools. After this was finished I spent some time in a study space on campus to further develop plans for infrastructure for our park and ride project, this time looking at what junction redesigns may be required. I have brass band rehearsal on Wednesday evening. It’s traditional that brass band members head to the pub after rehearsal (and sometimes before!) to have a chat and a laugh, all united by the common interest of playing music together. I’d occasionally go to sports night on a Wednesday – a club night at the Guild of Students (our students’ union) – but decided against it this week because I wanted to spend time with band instead.


Thursday’s sole academic commitment was a whole-team (all 30 of us) meeting to discuss progress in the project so far and develop plans to continue with into next week. As one of the 6 civil engineers in the team, we decided to go on to evaluate the best site for a park and ride facility, and the materials and methods we could use in construction, having had a look at some of the concept designs one of my team mates had come up with. I spent some time on campus working on this afterwards, before meeting up with one of my housemates and walking home with him, having a good laugh about how difficult it is to work effectively in such big IDP teams!


Having had all my lectures so far this week already, Fridays tend to be a more relaxed day for me. However, I’d been quite busy with other things last week so I needed to catch up on content I’d not covered from then, so, at home, I read through the notes about building bituminous (asphalt/tarmac) pavements (road surfaces), how to make them durable and safe and what considerations engineers make when designing them for different purposes and locations.


The mentoring training I’d completed on Wednesday was in part preparing for today – the day that we welcome our mentees to the programme, and complete a number of induction activities on campus. I had a rather early start for this, saw a lovely sunrise over campus on my walk in, and really enjoyed the 8-or-so hours I spent working this event, getting to know the students I’ll be mentoring over the next year, and discussing with them what they know about what they want to do in the future, what they think about coming to university and what it’s like to study engineering here.

Exhausted from a hard day’s work, my housemates and I agreed when I returned home that the right way to celebrate was to go to the pub!


I am the social secretary for the Civil Engineering Society (CivSoc) and decided to start organising our next big bar crawl for a few weeks’ time which will be a great laugh!

Now, time to do it all over again!

So this is what my week as a third year Civil Engineer looked like this week. In first and second year, my weeks were a lot different. In first year, I spent a lot more time going out, having fun, and getting to know people, and my second year consisted of a lot of independent study on campus (in the absence of in-person lectures due to Covid-19) and a lot of staying in the house and chilling and having fun with housemates.