Joanna Burland

Automotive Engineering - BEng (Hons)

An inspiring and passionate student, Joanna, tells us why Birmingham City University was the perfect choice for her choosing our BEng (Hons) Automotive Engineering course and why she experienced personal apprehension before joining the University. Joanna has improved her knowledge in the design and manufacturing methods of Automotive Engineering, through her involvement in the Formula Student team as the Deputy Team Leader.

"During sixth form, I applied to many universities and attended several open days. However, as my father grew up in Birmingham, I chose to visit Birmingham City University and I instantly fell in love with the city. Growing up on the Isle of Wight I found Birmingham to be an attractive change of place. The Automotive Engineering course seemed to suit me perfectly as I’ve always had a passion for cars and the automotive industry. I found the best thing about this course was the practical aspects: on an Open Day, the staff actively engaged with the workshops and demonstrated how they can be used. Knowing that I wanted to specialise in this industry narrowed down the choice of courses suitable for me.

Before moving to university, the biggest challenge I had to face was a personal one as I underwent my gender transition months before making the move to Birmingham. This was obviously a huge change in my life, plus the transfer to such a different environment from my home town, which only exemplified the apprehension I was feeling! However, these worries I had were quickly eradicated when I joined the student societies in my first few weeks - both the LGBT Society and the Engineering Society. The engineering faculty also put on events in welcome week, so I found myself easily fitting into a cohort of like-minded people.

As well as a personal challenge, I have experienced course difficulties such as the reports we have to do. They’re split between academic writing styles and SAE style reports, both of which are highly intricate writing styles that were completely new to me. However, lecturers are able to be contacted whenever you need them and will always respond to emails, which is a huge relief and reinforces the support they provide.

During my time at BCU, I’m most proud of the work I have completed as part of the Formula Student team, as BCU Racing is open to everyone at the University, I got involved straight away from my first year. Through a lot of long hours and hard work, I helped the team complete the best car we’ve ever produced. For an engineer there is nothing better than seeing a project go from calculations, to a design on a computer, before being manufactured and assembled on to a working vehicle; it really is a proud feeling.

I also got the opportunity to become the Formula Student Deputy Team Leader because of my work in my first year! This made me responsible for the team’s project management, budgeting and ordering, as well as providing useful input on strategy. This invaluable experience allowed me to develop my professional skills which played a massive part in me obtaining a placement in the project management department at SMTC UK. This was a great deal to me as this company took over MG-Rover, who are among my favourite car brands, so working at this historic site was a little bit of a dream for me!

The Careers+ team are the ones who helped me to achieve my placement at SMTC. I had so much support from the team who were great at helping me apply for various placements. They tailored my CV and provided guidance and top tips for my interview, which was perfect as it really helped quell my nerves and led me to secure a placement there!

In addition to the soft skills I've acquired throughout my placement, I've also gained key skills on my course, the main one being Computer Aided Design (CAD) training, which has been great! BCU is also one of the few universities who use Catia V5, which is an industry standard software used by the majority of automotive companies. The ability to use it practically as part of Formula Student has really helped me gain an understanding of manufacturing methods.

I have transformed a lot since starting my course and BCU has been the catalyst to my growth, both professionally and personally. I have become far more proficient and confident in my course and I have flourished as a person who is capable of taking on responsibility and completing an array of projects. Through having consistent support from the faculty, as well as having projects that I thoroughly enjoy, helped me adjust to the autonomy of university and enhanced my passion for engineering.

Upon completion of my degree, my long term goal is to pursue a career in motorsport and the Automotive Engineering course has definitely made me more passionate about this. Preferably, I’d like to achieve a project management role to support an entry into one of the MG car clubs competition – MGCC is the body I raced with during my placement. As part of my placement I ended up with, ‘Race Engineer’, responsibility for a meet at Brands Hatch, working with a professional driver. This was an amazing experience and has completely sold me on the role!

To me, ‘I AM BCU’ is about inclusion and conveying the cultural broadness of the University. Most people don’t know what we do in engineering, but showcasing the wide range of experiences available and people involved reinforces the diversity across all campuses."

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