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Lisa McClean

Lisa McClean

Lisa is in the third year of the MEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering Degree at Queen's.

"I have found that some of the top engineers within companies like NIE are women…"

Photo of Lisa McClean

Lisa, tell me what degree you are doing and when will you graduate?

I am doing a MEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Queen's and I will graduate in July 2010.

Why did you decide to do electrical and electronic engineering in the first place?

From an early age I was always interested in how things worked and believe that you will do well in things you enjoy, so I chose Maths, Physics and Technology for A Level.  There were two main reasons that I chose electrical and electronic engineering. Firstly, the school I went to specialised in electronics and as part of my Technology A-level I designed and manufactured an electronic product.  I loved this as I was able to put the “text book theories” to test by doing practical work.  I got a great feeling of satisfaction from taking an everyday problem and designing and manufacturing a product that eliminated it.

In physics I found the electrical module particularly interesting.  My choice of degree was confirmed when I received a talk from an electrical and electronic engineer at a careers fair and found it fascinating.

What did you think of the course at Queen's? What did you like and/or dislike about it, if anything?

Queen's is one of the top five universities in electrical and electronic engineering in the UK with excellence in their teaching and research. I found that the teaching methods used by Queen's helped with the transaction from school to university as in the first year everyone studies the same modules which cover a wide range of electrics and electronics with tutorials in each, where PhD students are available to help with any problems.

In the second year you can then chose modules and specialise in the area you are interested in.  Queen's also assign personal tutors to each student who you can go to if you have any problems. A placement year in industry is not compulsory in Queen's, although I was keen to do an industry placement.

Queen's is excellent at making students aware of scholarships on offer and providing help to prepare you for the selection process. In the second year I won a Power Academy scholarship with Northern Ireland Electricity which provides a bursary and paid work placements. These placements also provide me with valuable experiences that will help build my C.V.

What about studying at Queen's in general – what is that like?

I really enjoy studying at Queen's.   There are lots of clubs and societies that allow you to meet people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. An added benefit is that it is only one hour away from where I live and this allows me to gain some independence during the week by living in Belfast and return home at the weekends for some home comforts.

It is always good to take a night off from the studies and go out and enjoy yourself. Belfast provides a great social life with the many bars, clubs and shops.

Tell me about your year out?

I decided to take my year out with Northern Ireland Electricity and it is one decision that I'm definitely glad I made.
 
I was understandably nervous about starting work, however on arriving the first morning my nerves quickly disappeared as I was welcomed with friendly smiles, was introduced to everyone in the office and made to feel at home.

You hear many stories about people spending their year out photocopying, filing and making tea, but this was most definitely not the case with NIE.  I was immediately given a year long project on Dynamic line ratings. This involves looking at how the weather affects the cooling of the overhead line conductor in order to see whether more current could be placed down the line without infringing clearances.

Attending meetings about the difficulties NIE faced due to the large amounts of new wind turbines connections to their network, I became hugely aware of how important the outcome of my project was to NIE.  If the project was successful, it would delay NIE's need to re-string or build new lines thus realising significant financial savings.  It also was very daunting to find out that we were the first company to carry out this project. 

During my year out I was one of the authors of an industrial paper on dynamic line ratings for UPEC which will be published in IEEE. I was also selected to carry out a presentation at the UPEC conference which was held in Italy. This was quite an achievement especially since I have not yet graduated.

Over my year out my confidence has increased significantly as I have liased with manufacturers to make sure that equipment was fit for purpose and was delivered on time, I've worked with engineers to detect faults, find out why they had occurred and identify the optimum way to solve these problems.  I have developed a program on matlab to conduct analysis of data, carried out voltage monitoring of small embedded generation on the network, completed flood risk assessment on substations and load flow studies.

These all provided great learning and helped me relate my university learning to my practical experiences.  I have also visited the Moyle Interconnector, Huntstown Power Station and have attended many conferences on the future problems facing the electrical network operators. 

Would you recommend electrical and electronic engineering as a career and, if so, why?

I would definitely recommend a career in electrical and electronic engineering. It's not a degree that will lead to a monotonous career as there are so many different fields and electrics and electronics are needed for everything in today's world.  I would also try and encourage any girls thinking of studying engineering not to listen to people who claim engineering is for boys. I have found that some of the top engineers within companies like NIE are women.

Power Academy Scholarship Information

You can apply for a Power Academy scholarship if you:

  • Have an offer to study an MEng or BEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Queens University, Belfast or are already studying on one of these courses or thinking of switching.

  • Qualify for the home/EU tuition fees (scholarships are not available to students who pay tuition fees at the international level).

  • Do not hold sponsorship with any other organisation