MEng, Mechanical Engineering

Name: John Flynn

Age: 26

Primary degree: BEng Mechanical Engineering, University of Limerick (2006)

Postgraduate degrees: MEng Development of a Wind Energy Prediction Calculator, Waterford Institute of Technology

After finishing my primary degree I went straight into full-time work at Bausch & Lomb, where I still work now as a Project Engineer. I was intrigued by the idea of further education in my field of interest: wind and renewable energy. An opportunity to pursue a Research Masters arose through my workplace: Bausch & Lomb happened to be carrying out a feasibility study into whether they could support a windmill. I came up with an idea for a wind energy prediction calculator.

My research actually began before I started my course: I got in touch with both the facilities manager at work and my now supervisor at WIT, and subsequently spent around twelve months collecting data to back up my study proposal. It was a bit like a business pitch; I had to assure Bausch & Lomb and WIT my idea was viable before they gave me the go ahead.

I love discovering more about the renewable energy field and becoming well versed in a subject I'm interested in. It's a cutting-edge topic which is really relevant to our current environmental situation. The work is pretty data-intensive, meaning I have to do a lot of problem-solving, but I enjoy finding solutions.

I'm studying part time alongside my full-time job. Rather than taking a break, I thought it would be better to keep in the working loop and further my work experience. Sometimes the last thing you want is to get stuck into the books after a long day, but the routine can be quite relaxing and I still make time to socialise. I try to spend an hour studying every evening, and Sundays are a good time to get things done work-wise. When deadlines come up I might have to sacrifice some commitments, but there's correspondence between WIT and work, and as long as I give plenty of notice it's possible to adjust some deadlines. It's very busy, but there's never a dull moment.

What strikes me about postgraduate study is it can be a lonely path; this was difficult to anticipate before I started. I have two contacts who I meet with once a week to discuss progress, but it's up to me to develop my research and solve problems. Research isn’t as defined as an undergraduate programme and there’s no peer group this time to help generate ideas. It's great for promoting independent thinking, but hard to gauge your progress at times. There's additional pressure to make progress too; as Bausch & Lomb are funding my research they want to see results and a return on their investment.

My postgraduate studies could help me gain promotion in the future, and will broaden my horizons if I choose to change career path. I hope to eventually get some publications out of my research. When I've finished I'll reassess my situation – a PhD in the field is an option.

Top tips

Put a lot of thought into further study and make a mature decision; you have to enjoy your research topic because you’re in it for the long run.