- Course: Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering BEng with Foundation Year
Dhanika Kapoor (Dhani) is currently studying Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering BEng at the University of Leeds. The breadth of the course, alongside extra-curricular activities, gave her a chance to explore her interests. Dhani commented, “as a result, I have realised that I enjoy coding, mechatronics and the mathematical parts of my course and would like to focus on applying this to the sustainable aerospace sector.”
The University of Leeds was my first choice for a few reasons: the warmth and sense of support I felt every time I visited, the strong emphasis on social aspects of the university, the engineering department’s renowned strength and the stunning city!
When looking at going to university Dhani said “Although I found many courses offered this variety, something I liked about Leeds specifically was the flexibility to study general Mechanical Engineering, get a feel for the course, and then select a specified pathway 2 years in. This gave me the chance to have an insight of all pathways before making my decision.”
It wasn’t until her gap year that Dhani decided to study engineering, she said “At this stage I had already completed A-levels in Maths, French and Economics, however, studying Physics was a required pre-requisite for engineering. Set in my decision to pursue a form of Mechanical Engineering, I discovered foundation years at several universities which would then allow progression onto most STEM courses.
The University of Leeds was my first choice for a few reasons: the warmth and sense of support I felt every time I visited, the strong emphasis on social aspects of the university, the engineering department’s renowned strength and the stunning city!”
Starting university for the first time can be overwhelming for anyone, one of Dhani’s worries, which she overcame, was being able to keep up with the course. She said “Since I hadn’t come from the same background as most other students, I was quite worried about this for my first year. To cover my bases I made sure to review Foundation Year content thoroughly. The first-year lecturers also provided a quick recap before teaching new material and it was especially reassuring to see everyone in the same boat, supporting each other.”
Leeds University Rocketry Association
After following the Leeds University Rocketry Association’s (LURA) progress for a month, Dhani received a message from someone whom she had done her foundation year with, encouraging her to apply. She said “Her message was the final nudge I needed, and within a week my application was in! By mid-August, I experienced my first panel interview and was successful!! I joined the team as their flight dynamics engineer.
To explain what that means…I essentially used software to simulate how the rocket would perform under various scenarios, i.e. the effect of changing external and internal factors. I learned that this process is extremely important for engineering applications as it helps you design, optimise and make sure your product (a rocket in this case) is safe before you start building anything. This has massive benefits in terms of cost, time and safety.”
Dhani’s first memories of joining the association were that it was a very steep learning curve. She remembered feeling completely out of her depth, but as she commented “this was not a bad thing! I had the chance and challenge to learn so much in such a short space of time and then reap the rewards straight away by being able to apply it.”
The team were very welcoming and made her experience as a whole, good fun. Dhani added, “They were genuinely passionate but could also have a good laugh through meetings.”
After the design was finalised the time she needed to spend running simulations decreased so she was able to help in other capacities. In January 2022, they started the manufacturing phase. With it being the association’s first year, relations with the manufacturing department needed development and a system appropriate for both parties needed establishing. Dhani took on a second role to lead internal manufacturing communications.
Shaping a career
Thanks to the different projects at Leeds, Dhani has developed a wide range of skills that will help her in her future career. When deciding which helped her the most she enthusiastically said “LURA! To achieve such high success within a year and as a new team, everyone had to be constantly improving. We needed to work at a fast pace and to a high standard so both soft and hard skills had to be of a high standard. LURA therefore constantly highlighted skills I needed to work on but also gave me an environment to do this. Another key aspect is that it gave me a true insight into future work environments.”
She added that group projects within the course also gave her the chance to try working in different roles. She said, “They have been a great learning opportunity on how to approach a task and different group dynamics.”
Life outside the classroom
Committing so much time to a non-academic pursuit was new to me. It was an amazing, amalgamated experience of hard work, fun and a chance to switch off.
Alongside LURA, Dhani has also tried her hand at bhangra and street dance. She said, “During my foundation year, I was heavily involved in the bhangra society and had the chance to train to a competitive level. Committing so much time to a non-academic pursuit was new to me. It was an amazing, amalgamated experience of hard work, fun and a chance to switch off.”
Looking to the future
Thinking about life after graduation, Dhani said “I would like to explore the sustainable Aerospace sector further, along with the mechatronics and robotics sectors and ideally the overlap between these. Currently, I am open to any opportunities within these sectors and after graduating this coming year I would like to start working. In the future, I would like to further my knowledge by undertaking a Masters. Travelling abroad interests me so I will try to incorporate this into any plans!”
When asked what advice would she give anyone who is thinking about studying Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering BEng at Leeds, Dhani said “Do it! Whether you’re looking for a course to keep doors open or to specialise, this course is great. With societies like LURA and Formula Student, you’ll get that hands-on insight that will help direct your career and strengthen your knowledge. Also, give whatever sounds interesting a shot and fully apply yourself. I have been fortunate to have so many cool opportunities available to me. I’m so glad I got involved and I’d wish the same for anyone else.”
Do it! Whether you’re looking for a course to keep doors open or to specialise, this course is great. The flexibility to take the first two years to decide what you want to do is a great help...
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