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Fifty year association with City

Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering News.
Students' Union booklet circa 1970 (Photo 1)

Students’ Union booklet circa 1970 (Photo 1)

Post by Dr Peter Harding

It is 50 years since my first association with City. This period coincidentally covers the time from its birth, or transformation, from Northampton College of Advanced Technology until now, when it is proposed to join the University of London. In these 50 years there has been considerable change.

A picture taken from the Students’ Union booklet circa 1970 (Photo 1) shows the view of the Thames looking east (Photo 2). Some two years ago I visited the Shard. I took a photo from a similar angle to the aerial shot. It shows the massive amount of building work that has taken place in the City and the Isle of Dogs (Photo 3).

London has been on a journey beyond anything that could be envisaged 50 years ago.





View of the Thames looking east circa 1970 (Photo 2)

View of the Thames looking east circa 1970 (Photo 2)

My first recollection of City

My first recollection of City was as Northampton College of Advanced Technology, knowing that within a few months it would become ‘The City University – TCU’. I arrived to interview  on a very cold day in December 1965. As I was early, I killed time walking around the local streets for the best part of an hour getting colder and colder. Finally I decided to enter the main building and found it beautifully warm, and wished I had the courage to enter earlier. I was taken to a part of the main building off St John’s Street, where I sat an exam. One of the questions was how you would plan a new road system to go through/around an existing town, as shown on a map. Probably nothing to do with electrical engineering but testing knowledge of systematic, thoughtful decision making! As part of the admission screening process I had already submitted an engineering/science report. I chose to write about the possibility of sending geostationary satellites into earth’s orbit. I am not sure that it was the type of answer that was expected but at least it showed that I was interested in technology. Interestingly, I later worked at the Rocket Propulsion Establishment designing an instrumentation system for testing static rocket motor firings, establishing my interest in the exciting area of rockets and satellite technology which was a hot topic in the 60’s and 70’s.

Recent view of the Thames from the Shard (Photo 3)

Recent view of the Thames from the Shard (Photo 3)

Confirmation of my place

I received confirmation of a place in January 1966, one of the first offers in my sixth form group. This indicated to me that a highly efficient administrative system was operating at the University. Concurrently with obtaining a university place I had to find an industrial sponsor for the six months work experience every year when I was not undertaking study. I settled on an offer from Eastern Electricity Board and found the training very diverse, giving me experience in many disciplines. I now realise that I had an exceptional opportunity including workshop training (where I was able to make a range of tools that I still use); work at a Power Station; manufacturers works in South Wales; planning and construction departments, commercial departments as well as working with engineers, linesmen and jointers and liaising with the public.



City of London map circa 1969 / 1970 (Photo 4)

City of London map circa 1969 / 1970 (Photo 4)


What my experience at City gave me

My experience at City gave me an education in the widest sense of the word. I not only finished my course but also appreciated the annual Gresham lectures; the chance to listen to the lunch time concerts given by the Guildhall School of Music and watch many of the shows based on NASA films about the Apollo space programme. I also became fascinated with the City of London and the student accommodation was ideally located on Bunhill Row,  which I was allocated to in my last year and so was able to explore the City at the weekends (Photo 4). The final year module on Management Studies at the Guildhall was a wonderful experience.



Peter Harding

Dr Peter Harding


50 years since

It has been fifty years since this first interest in the City and now, fifty years later, I have been able to walk around the City to discover again some of the interesting places and small passage ways and alleys that interconnect many of the streets and buildings.

As I have inferred, after working for the Eastern Electricity Board I worked at the Rocket Propulsion Establishment. Later on I moved into education and started lecturing at an FE College and also tutoring for The Open University. I then moved onto what is now known as Buckinghamshire New University. During my twenty five years at this establishment I was able to take part-time courses at City in MSc Engineering (1996) and then a PhD in Information Engineering (2007). My research gave me the opportunity to write academic papers which were published by the ICPR and my research student published by the IEEE and IEE.

I hope I have briefly shown that the changes and developments that have occurred for me have been in considerable part due to my experiences gained at the City.  I have gone from an undergraduate to an alumnus gained two additional degrees, both beyond my expectation some fifty years ago.

My advice to current students:

  1. Keep an open mind – don’t reject ideas out of hand as it is surprising where the next inspiration comes from
  2. Revert to first principle to solve or understand problems
  3. Theory and practice do agree it maybe is your model or measurements at fault
  4. Beware of excessive ‘hype’ as it can be detrimental to good science and engineering
  5. Appreciate the positive aspects of colleagues – shrink the negatives
  6. Understand how your company works and where power lies

Academics and alumna share their experiences to mark National Women in Engineering Day

Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering News.

Lara Yusuff, BEng (Hons), Aeronautical Engineering

As long as you’re driven, determined to succeed and hardworking, you’ll prosper in engineering.

Lara Yusef

Lara Yusuff, studied for a BEng (Hons) in Aeronautical Engineering at City. After graduating, she went on to gain a Masters in International Business Management. After completing her studies, she worked for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and an aircraft interiors manufacturer as the Deputy Chief of Office of Airworthiness. Currently, she works for British Airways as a Quality Engineer. As part of her role, she conducts competency assessments and quality checks to ensure high standards are maintained at the airline.

How did you become interested in engineering?
I was introduced to engineering by my grandfather who is a mechanical engineer. Also, I’ve always had an interest in planes and aviation, so aeronautical engineering was a natural choice. As a child, whenever I travelled anywhere I would always find the airport and flying experience exciting and interesting.

I had a natural curiosity about how planes fly, the fact that they could seemingly defy gravity fascinated me. At school, maths was my best subject, which was a bonus as this was one of the subjects I needed to study aeronautical engineering.

Do you notice the gender gap in engineering?
Now that you ask, come to think of it, there are only a few women in my department and I happen to be the only female from my ethnic background but it’s not something I think about at all. I see myself as an engineer, not as a female engineer.

I’m not sure whether the gender gap is as a result of insufficient role models, or lack of interest or even information about the prerequisites for studying engineering which means that many young women don’t realise that they can actually do it.

Back at university, as a Student Ambassador for both alma maters, I had the opportunity to give talks to young people on the importance of higher education. As part of the Widening Participation Scheme, I worked with the Career Development team and educational institutions such as AimHigher to encourage our future leaders.

What do you need to be an engineer?
I think you need to be hardworking, passionate and determined to overcome the challenges one might face.

What are the common misconceptions about engineering?
It’s often thought that you have to be physically strong to be an engineer and that it’s a man’s job. In fact, while you might have to do some experiments, practical work and/or be hands on, generally I focus on the theoretical, scientific and managerial aspects about how things should work.

People also often think you have to be a genius or a geek, which isn’t the case either! As long as you work hard, you’ll do just fine. You definitely don’t have to be some kind of mathematical genius.

It’s also a misconception that only boys can excel at it or that you have to be a tomboy.

What’s the best thing about being an engineer?
I get to work with planes every day, which isn’t something you’d normally come across and on a daily basis too so I’m humbled to do this and for such a prestigious company.

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