Interview with an Engineer: Composites Team Leader

Name: Lucy C.D. Fielding

Age: 24

College: Jesus

Engineering Specialisation: Materials and Aeronautical

Fourth year project title: I’m actually doing a PhD now, on “Understanding the toughness and ductility of novel steels with mixed microstructures”. My fourth year project was “Aerodynamics of a Solar Car” – or it tried to be.

What your PhD actually involves: Grinding. Which, as it turns out, is the steel version of sanding. Oh, and occasionally skiving off to build solar cars.

Height: 160 cm (0.91 Tom Grimbles – although when you control for the sex and ethnicity variables, I’m actually taller than he is)

Anything else that you feel defines you: Er, steel. And bad engineering jokes. Oh, and I hate rowing with the fire of a thousand suns.

Describe your typical daily routine:

8am – get woken up by annoying neighbour

8.30am – get up, make breakfast (EGGY SOLDIERS) and a packed lunch

9.15am – cycle into the department

9.30 am – arrive at work, read the internet

10.30am – start working

11am – break Thermecmastor Z

12pm – break PW175 X-ray diffractometer

1pm – give up, go for lunch

2pm – back to the department, prepare steel samples for analysis. Break cutting disc. Track down new cutting disc.

2.30pm – cut samples

2.40pm – wait for puny undergrads to finish grinding their samples so I can use the machines.

2.50pm – grind samples

3pm – accidentally let go of sample on grinding disc, watch it ping into the corner of the room, start grinding again from scratch.

3.10pm – polish samples

3.12pm – accidentally let go of sample on polishing disc, watch it ping into the wall and ricochet into the corner of the room, start grinding and polishing again from scratch

3.30pm – Etch sample. Over-do it. Start grinding and polishing again from scratch. Accidentally mix ethanol with nitric acid, causing small exothermic reaction. Lose sample in chaos. Start again from scratch.

4pm – Samples lab shuts. Give up. Go to supervision. Spend 2 hours explaining to undergraduates why you cannot build yachts out of sandstone or aircraft out of osmium.

6.05pm – read a couple of academic papers.

6.30pm – forget contents of academic papers

7pm – realize I have forgotten bike lights, wheel bike home.

7.40pm make dinner. Drop it on the floor. Start again from scratch.

8.30 – write blog posts. Tweet.

10pm – Design composites

12am – Go to bed

2am – sleep

If you could be any element on the periodic table, what would you be and why?

Hydrogen – because I’m tiny but have a tendency to explode

What three things would you choose to take with you to a desert island (such as Australia…)?

Toilet paper. Not very exciting, but then, I’ve been before


And…for the last one, I’m torn between bug spray and a Tardis. There’s a LOT of bugs out there…

What does your ideal Saturday night involve?

Flying dinosaurs, 1 MW laser beams and college boathouses.

Don’t you mean 1 mW?


How many hairdryers would it take to power you?

One. If it was really, really big and shaped like a solar car.

If your subteam had to compete in an Olympic (or Winter Olympic or Paralympic) event, which would it be and why?

Curling. It’s a ridiculous sport but it basically just involves sanding ice…

What is your favourite joke?

Tom Grimble

If you were a Pokemon, which would you be?

Registeel – it’s made out of the stuff I’m supposed to be designing. That could be handy.

What was the first thing you ever wanted to be when you grew up? Has it changed?

A paleontologist. I applied to Cambridge to do Natural Sciences so that I could dig up dinosaurs one day. Then after my first Saturday morning maths lecture I decided to become an engineer instead, make loads of money, and buy a dinosaur. And a 1 MW laser beam…

If you had to organize a Cambridge bop, what would the theme be, and what costume would you wear?

Eurovision. I’d paint myself blue and go as a wave from Katrina and the Waves. I’ve already got most of the bits from when I dressed up as a beach a couple of years back…

If your subteam were on the Titanic and there wasn’t enough room in the lifeboats for all of you, who would go down with the ship?

Probably me, given how much I hate rowing.

If you were CUER’s Title Sponsor, what name would you give to the car and the team for the 2011 WSC?

Car: HotAss 3 – it stands for Hot Assembly 3, and is a tribute to HotAss 2, the IDP robot I built in 2nd year. And which turned out rather better than Endeavour.

Team: The Lustful Buccaneers

What is your favourite xkcd cartoon?

Engineering hubris

Beep beep!

What should CUER’s theme tune be?

If I had a million dollars by the Barenaked Ladies

Dan, the electrical team leader, came up with a theme tune for the composites team. What do you think it should be?

I’m still sanding – by Elton John

I don’t think those are the lyrics..

They are if you’ve been sanding for long enough.

Lucy Fielding

Lucy Fielding

Lucy was part of the team that designed, built and raced Endeavour in 2009. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, she has remained with CUER and brings with her a great deal of experience in composites, aerodynamics and lab accidents. Although previously an aerodynamicist, she is now studying for a PhD in Materials Science, but can often be found in the Engineering Department helping with the design and build of the car. Her work on Endeavour’s outer shell manufacture has earned her a promotion to Composites Team Leader, and she looks forward to delegating the sanding to other people for a change.
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  1. Pingback: World Solar Challenge 2011 update | - information and news about renewable energy, electric cars and the World Solar Challenge

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