Five minutes with postgraduate research engineer Robert Fillingham
Robert, 24, from Yorkshire, graduated from Harper Adams with an MEng in Off-Road Vehicle Design in 2012, and is now working on his PhD at the university. His research interests include harvesting technology, machine efficiency, precision farming, GPS, and the application of electronics in agriculture.
What careers are available to Harper Adams engineering graduates?
For Harper Adams engineers there are no limitations on future careers if you are passionate enough about the subject. There are previous graduates working in a whole range of industries from agricultural machinery manufacturers through to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratories, part of the Ministry of Defence.
You were a CLAAS scholar and spent your placement overseas with the company. What were the highlights?
I was a trainee Test and Development Engineer with CLAAS in Harsewinkel, Germany. The best thing was having the opportunity to work in a department at the forefront of harvesting technology whilst being given a lot of responsibility. I also really enjoyed living abroad for a year experiencing another culture, meeting lots of new people, developing industry contacts and learning the German language. It also affirmed my career choice.
Your postgraduate research project is funded by the company. Are you enjoying it?
Yes, I particularly like organising my own international research and field tests which brings the added benefit of frequent travelling. It is important to be self-motivated which I get through the potential to develop new engineering solutions for today’s challenges. Not least of which is to grow more food on little more land, using less energy, water and agrochemicals than ever before.
Why did you choose to study at Harper Adams?
I wanted to study engineering and had a passion for off road and agricultural machinery. As the only place offering undergraduate courses in this field it was the obvious choice. Harper Adams offers a vibrant campus with lots of new facilities in addition to the great student atmosphere in a tranquil rural setting.
Tell us a little about the projects you worked on.
One of the highlights of my course was being given real world problems from within industry to investigate and solve. This prepared me well for my future career.
My MEng dissertation was a confidential piece of work for Claas whilst my group project was undertaken for BAE systems. These used the full breadth of engineering knowledge which I had learnt on the course and encouraged me to become an independent researcher.
How did your qualification/ experiences at Harper Adams aid your career?
It has given me a good grounding of basic engineering skills and the knowledge to know where to look for the information when it is needed for my research. It included a placement year where I worked for Claas in Germany and was given real responsibility and the opportunity to develop my skills further.
Do you think being a graduate made a difference to your position and salary?
If I had not undertaken placement with Claas theresearch position I fulfil now wouldn’t exist. By completing my degree and placement year I was able to forge some strong links with industry that have certainly been of benefit.
What advice do you have for a student interested in doing a similar job?
Never turn down an exciting opportunity to do what interests you or what you enjoy.
What is the teaching like at harper Adams?
The lecturers are very approachable and have an open door policy which means you can pop in and see them whenever they’re free. There is lots of learning support available including extra maths sessions as well so don’t be afraid to ask.
And the facilities?
The facilities at Harper are constantly developing which has provided lots of exciting new resources over recent years with lots of money being invested.
The £2.93 million Agricultural Engineering Innovation Centre is the latest development and will be a great asset for the engineering department.
What are your favourite memories of being an undergraduate?
Getting involved with the Students Union and Summer Ball Committee and being a Student Warden because I have met so many fantastic people along the way.