PhD, Mechanical Engineering

Name: Aisling Ní Annaidh

Age: 23

Primary degree: Bachelor of Engineering (BE) Mechanical Engineering, UCD (2007)

Postgraduate degrees: Research programme FÁS Science Challenge, Rice University; PhD Mechanical Engineering, UCD (2011)

I was interested in postgraduate study within the Mechanical Engineering field, but I thought it would be a good idea to try it out first to see if the environment suited me. I discovered the FÁS Science Challenge Internship Programme and applied for a six-month placement in Houston, Texas; some on the programme go on to write their MEng.Sc theses based on their research.

Researching in America

I worked with the Team for Advanced Flow Simulation and Modelling (TAFSM) at Rice University, and worked on computational modelling, focusing on arterial fluid mechanics. I didn't know what to expect when I arrived, as a lot depends on the research team, but I liked the feel of a work environment which at the same time wasn't too formal.

My work was completely research-based, giving me much more independence than I'd had during my undergraduate studies. If I found something that I wanted to look into in more detail, I was free to do so and my supervisor respected my opinions. The new computer programmes took a little while to get used to, but I was fine once I'd learned the ropes.

As part of the internship, my flights and accommodation were paid for and I received a monthly stipend which was of great support. The people I met and the opportunity to travel in America made the experience more than worthwhile, but it also helped me decide that I did want to go for a PhD. Having the internship on my CV was a great talking point – lecturers were really interested to hear more – and also facilitated my search for funding.

Top tips

Explore your options carefully when it comes to postgraduate study. Take your time, and be sure to pick a subject that will keep you interested throughout your studies.