Florimond Gueniat teaches topics related to control engineering and mathematics in the School of Engineering and the Built Environment. He is course lead for the MSc in Automotive Engineering.
Before joining BCU four years ago, Florimond held research positions in the USA and France.
What do you do at BCU and how long have you been part of the University?
I’m a senior lecturer, which means that my primary activity is related to teaching! I try to make hard and theoretical topics such as maths and control engineering interesting. For me, this means thinking a lot about how to break up complex concepts and maths tools, to bitesize pieces that can be easily assimilated and then reused by students. I’m also course lead for the MSc Automotive Engineering course. This means interacting as much as possible with companies, to understand what key skills the industry needs today, as well as identifying the skills that will be needed ten years from now. In addition, I carry out research activities related to energy transition.
After getting my PhD in Physics and Computer Science from Paris-Sud University, I worked as a researcher in the Department of Mathematics at Florida State University and in the department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I then joined BCU four years ago.
Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your teaching?
Before joining BCU, I was an active researcher – and I still am! I’m naturally biased towards new technologies and take a very digital, computer-based approach to engineering. I always want to keep what I teach up to date with the latest and future trends in industry.
Thanks to my colleagues and interaction with professionals, I push for increasing practical application, such as design, making, testing and tinkering with the various parts that make up a vehicle. This is made possible thanks to the great facilities and the formidable auto team, composed of talented technicians and academics.
What are some of the greatest achievements you have accomplished at BCU?
It sounds cliché, but some of my greatest achievements are closely tied to the success of my students. When I am contacted by a student or a graduate and they say something like “I understand something” or “I found this dream job”, I truly feel accomplished in my role. Any individual success of a student is the key reason for me doing this job!
What makes the courses you teach on distinct and what is the learning environment like?
The most important thing is to have a supportive but exigent environment. In the engineering department, we all aim to make sure teaching is as tailored to the students' personalities and needs as possible, to help them grow in the direction they want. This ranges from making things in the workshop, to designing parts in the computer rooms, modelling dynamics on the white boards or even making your own project! Grades are just an indicator, but what makes a good engineer is the acquired skills, the drive and the vision. Students are actors of their journey, and this is how we all try to make automotive engineering at BCU special.
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What can students do to help prepare them for the courses you teach?
There are several paths to prepare yourself to be an engineer, from being tech savvy to being a maker and tinkerer. The most important skill is probably to be curious about how things work. Look around you! There are cars, trucks and bikes everywhere. Do you know or want to know how a car works? Are you interested in aerodynamics, motorsports, electric vehicle technologies or self-driving vehicles? You might want to read and start investigating about first principles, as they are the absolute building blocks on which the world is built upon. This is important, because we as engineers, aim at changing it.
Think about what you want to do with your degree. Nowadays the automotive industry is associated to the heavy industry, and design of transmissions and body. However, it is also associated with new technologies, such as embedded electronics, robotics, and AI! You will learn a lot, but three years goes extremely fast, and it is up to you to decide where you will want to go! This is why it is so important to engage with the lecturers, to ask them questions, and to use all the resources and facilities around.
What’s your favourite thing about working at the University?
Changing lives. I know it sounds presumptuous, but BCU is actually one of the most transformative places in the country.
The facilities are also quickly improving. There is now a state-of-the-art electric vehicle test bench, and I am currently developing a lab dedicated to renewable energy based power plants.
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