Our world is your world. Careers in land-based industries.

James Izzard

"Harper Adams turns out engineers who specialise in real problems, not textbook exercises."


Five minutes with postgraduate research engineer, James Izzard

James, 23, from Essex, graduated with a MEng degree in Off Road Vehicle Design in 2013. He is now working on a research project investigating hybrid powertrain designs, sponsored by GKN Land Systems.

Why did you choose to study at Harper Adams?       

It’s a comfortable environment, unassuming, with reasonable entry requirements.

What were the best things about the course?

The diversity, practical problem solving, and going beyond theoretical aspects.

Has it made you more employable?  

It has given me the ability to perform in real life situations, and working experience, with a specific focus on a particular area.

Tell us a little about the projects you worked on.

Cherry picker manufacturer sponsored a study into improving the fuel efficiency of a hybrid powertrain cherry picker. We were able to create a fuel efficiency map for the machine and make recommendations as to how efficiency could be improved. Gained experience in dealing with not particularly helpful clients and still producing something useful. Gained experience in manipulating vehicle electronics. Gained experience in dealing with problems not manipulated to resolve to perfect solutions – relevant to real world tasks. Dealing with restrictive timescales. Applying project management theory learned in previous years. Applying HR theories previously only studied theoretically. General application of theoretical knowledge.

Where did you spend placement?        

I worked for QT Services (manufacturers of Dakar race cars) as a CAD engineer and race mechanic. I was responsible for designing new components and creating technical drawings of existing components, and worked extensively on the Dubai edition race car, as well as various bespoke components. I worked on design visualisation of new components, visualisations for customers requiring specific vehicle graphics and decals, and maintaining cars between stages during race events. Lifted heavy things, made tea.

What were the best things about placement?

Gaining experience in a racing environment, making friends and connections, and succeeding under pressure. The placement year allows the industry area to be scoped out before making a long-term commitment.

Do you think placement enhanced your career prospects?

I am constantly asked about it by prospective employers. It gave me the opportunity to make connection and gain non-theoretical experience. It has been the source of a good reference, and enhanced my self confidence.

What are you doing now you have graduated?         

I am currently preparing for a research project investigating hybrid powertrain designs sponsored by GKN Land Systems.

What sort of tasks and responsibilities does it involve?        

It involves algorithm design, mathematical analysis and extrapolation, and the logical resolution of problems.

What do you enjoy most about your job?        

Solving problems, and the constant challenges arising. Applying logic, coming up with decisive answers, and avoiding vagueness.

How did you find the job?              

I was approached by one of my lecturers. The sponsor, GKN, was looking for someone with the ability to produce useful work, and to self-regulate work. They wanted experience with mathematical analysis, programming and communication skills. And having traces of a personality!

How did your qualification/ experiences at Harper Adams aid your career?     

It has given me a grounding in roughly the right skill set, contacts, and communication/negotiation skills. It also seeded an interest in particular areas.

Do you think being a graduate made a difference to your position and salary? Hopefully the project will lead to a PHD, and therefore greater responsibility, more involvement in conceptual design, and the scope to continue learning. Greater freedom to demonstrate ability. Greater access to resources. Problem solving tasks. Challenges. Not having to lift heavy things and make tea.

What advice do you have for a student interested in doing a similar job? Locate an area of interest. Work at mastering it. Constantly improve yourself. Learn. Always base decisions on logical reason. Don’t waste time. Make all the mistakes required to reach the solution. Maintain traces of personality.

Why would you recommend Harper Adams to future students?     

It turns out engineers who specialise in real problems, not textbook exercises.

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