Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I once participated in a kayaking competition where I went down the rapids dressed as a clown, threw my paddle away and started juggling satsumas. I promptly capsized, but I still came third!
Tell us about your career journey so far.
I studied for a Master of Engineering in Robotics and Cybertronics at Heriot-Watt University, where I learned about mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, robotics, and computer science – I loved the variety of disciplines. In my fourth (of five) I worked on a small project for a naval defence company, this gave me a useful contact, which helped me get a job with them after completing my degree.
I worked for this company as a Research and Development Engineer for six years, where I worked on equipment for submarines, aircraft carriers and other large ships. Over the years I had several opportunities to visit sites around the world where I saw huge shipyards and at one point stood on a runway to watch the first ever flight of a new type of fighter jet.
I was then contacted by my current employer (IGS) who invited me to have a tour of their new vertical farm. As soon as I walked into the growth tower I knew I wanted to work there, and have been doing so for two and a half years so far!
What was your favourite subject in school and why?
While I really enjoyed the creativity of Art, my favourite subject was Technological Studies, closely followed by Chemistry. In both cases I loved learning how things worked, from a piston or an integrated circuit, to the chemical reactions we rely on every day.
What subjects/qualifications/skills are useful for your role?
Technological Studies and Maths are the two most important subjects for my work in general. I need to understand engineering principles and be able to carry out mathematical calculations on all of my design work to make sure it does what I need it to, safely.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
As IGS is still a very rapidly developing company, I am always working on something new. It does mean things are often a bit stressful, but I enjoy getting to work in a fast-paced exciting environment, where I am able to help shape the direction the company takes.
What is a normal day in your role like?
A normal day could involve me designing a new solution to a problem with our product – for example, developing a better water jet to deliver water to our growth trays. This could involve producing a model on my computer, then using a 3D printer to produce a prototype, which I would take to one of our vertical farms and test in a growth tower. I would then take measurements to establish if the design is suitable for deployment to our sites across the world.
Alternatively I could be visiting a manufacturer to tour their facilities and assess how I could use their equipment to produce better components. This is an essential part of my work, so our designs can take advantage of the most up-to-date technology.
And what does your job title mean?
I am a Senior Mechanical Engineer and the System Lead for growth trays. This means it is my job to understand how everything in our growth trays works and what the impact might be if something were to be changed. I work with the other engineers to design new or improved components and to find the best way for them to be manufactured.
Can you suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?
Learning how siphons work is a fun activity you can try with two containers, some water and a straw.
Here is a link with a demonstration: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/stem-activities/straw-sipho