Topic: Celebrating success
I recently chatted to Sue Fairhurst prior to her retirement from the University, where she has enjoyed a successful career providing an in-house graphic design service for "anything and everything that needs to be designed or printed". I asked Sue seven questions relating (mostly) to her experience of working here at the University.
1. How did you choose your career?
"I feel blessed because I didn’t chose my career; my career chose me! Art was something that was innate within me; something that I didn’t just want to do – I had to do it. As a child I drew all the time and my favourite subjects were horses and Botticelli maidens. I wasn’t interested in going to University, but my school strongly encouraged me to follow a higher education pathway. As a concession I agreed to apply for a teacher training post. However, on a visit to Bristol I discovered Bristol Art College at Bower Ashton, which is now the University of the West of England. I applied and never looked back."
2. What is the best thing about your job?
"The best thing about my job is the variety of challenges that tend to occur every day. I really enjoy thinking of different ways of tackling new challenges."
3. What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a new member of staff?
"I think good communication is key. Find out how the University works and get involved. Be confident and stay true to yourself."
4. What has been your greatest success/achievement at work?
"While I’ve enjoyed many projects here, I think being involved with the implementation of the new University branding in 2010 was a particular high point. The entire marketing process was an exciting journey, and seeing the results of our work made us all feel proud. Open days in particular suddenly became really exciting events."
5. What is your favourite book/album?
"I love reading, and although I’ve read a lot of books, I think I would choose Dickens’ ‘Our mutual friend’ as a particular favourite. The album is a bit more difficult because I listen to so much music. My first album was ‘Sweet Baby James’ by James Taylor, so that’s a special one for me. However, I also love Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’ and I’ll listen to anything and everything by Ry Cooder."
6. Who or what inspires you and why?
"I love trees! Nature is inspiring because it never lets you down. I’ve always enjoyed my drive to work, taking what I think of as the back way from Bristol to Bath through Bitton and Kelston where the views are so beautiful. I’m also aware of how much the University grounds have developed since I’ve worked here, and I’m really grateful to have worked in such lovely surroundings. My dad was also an inspiration. He valued happiness and encouraged me to do exactly what I wanted to do - as long as I was happy."
7. If you could choose one luxury item on a desert island what would it be?
"Communication is so important to me. I love listening to music and I also like listening to serious documentaries and chat shows, so I think I would have to choose a radio as my luxury item."
Last month I chatted to Andy Matthews who is a Senior Technician in the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering. Andy is responsible for the Undergraduate teaching labs, managing the risk assessment and practical needs of students undertaking project work. He’s also responsible for access and security in 2 East. I asked Andy seven questions relating (mostly) to his work here at Bath. Here they are, together with his response:
1. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
"I really enjoy working with young people who are at such an optimistic stage of their lives and who don’t see any limits to their horizons. It’s great being in that environment every day".
2. How do you prepare for a typical working week?
"I make a list and try to prioritise the items. I can’t plan too far in advance because issues can arise at the last minute, and I may need to adapt my list according to demand.
I always have a big breakfast!"
3. What are your tips for effective leadership?
"I try to understand the different strengths of each team member. I work with this and organise tasks in accordance with their strengths and comfort zones."
4. How do you resolve difficult moments at work?
"I’m always mindful of University policies, but flexibility is also important. If a student makes a non-standard request relating to project work I always try to adapt our services to meet their requirements - unless there is a health and safety issue. We can never compromise on health and safety."
5. What is the most useful piece of advice you have ever been given?
"Two pieces of advice spring to mind:
- To value your friendships – which I try to do!
- To always have some sort of plan and never simply hope for the best."
6. Who or what inspires you and why?
"Students inspire me. The enthusiasm they have for their project work motivates me to try my best for them, and I never feel I don’t want to come to work. I usually finish each week with a real sense of achievement."
7. If you didn’t do this job, what would prefer to be doing?
"I’ve always been interested in aviation, and a job flying light aircraft for an aid agency or something similar would be a great alternative."
The Faculty Professional Services team held a Celebrating Excellence event in December which aimed to reward and recognise everyone’s amazing achievements over the past year.
As part of this, the team were given opportunity to nominate and vote for colleagues who they thought were particularly deserving of extra recognition. What better way is there to tell someone that you think they’re awesome?
Awards were made across three categories:
Working well with people
Random Acts of kindness
The team was asked to complete a short form, telling us why they thought a particular individual had gone above and beyond what was expected of them in their day to day work being sure the actions related specifically to the category criteria to ensure parity among all nominees.
Nominations were then anonymised and voting commenced, three very worthy winners were identified, who will remain anonymous to keep the spirit of this special type of celebration going.
The event also focussed on outcomes from the Staff survey. We welcomed Sally Palethorpe (Inspired Partners) and Sue Johnson (HR Business Partner) to help us begin a new path in working with and enabling ourselves through ‘change’. An end focus looked at positive outcomes from change and improvement for future change challenges.
Steve Egan popped along just before lunch, and found out a few interesting things he didn’t know about our local successes in Engineering & Design. I think Steve will agree he found out a great deal about the team’s fantastic work and understood fully why we were celebrating.
Our final activity focussed on collaboration and what that meant for the team. We generated a lot of food for thought and looking forward we will be focussing more on communication, working closely together, understanding all our roles and greater engagement.
Everyone left the event with a full belly from the amazing food catered for by The Edge and a Golden Duck – keeping our 50th anniversary celebrations alive.
Remember to focus on your weekly team positives – for the future is going to be great. I will be popping round to check on your notice boards, three positives a week is the aim.
Emma Walker, former Apprentice Mechanical Engineering Technician, has been nominated to receive the Building Services Construction & Engineering Work Place Learner of the Year Award. This award recognises the hard work, application and excellence in both her academic studies and technical ability throughout the final year of her apprenticeship. Emma writes about how she came to the University and what she has achieved here:
I spent 18 months doing work experience at Designability, where they introduced me to the engineering industry and encouraged me to pursue my career as an engineer by applying for an apprenticeship at the University of Bath.
Being an apprentice here at Bath has been an amazing learning experience for me because you never do the same job twice; everyday you’re doing something new. I loved getting involved in the teaching labs, where I would help and guide the first-year students through their time in our workshop. This greatly improved my skills in speaking to a large group of people, and pushed me to grow my social skills.
I’ve learned how to use machinery such as mills and lathes, laser cutters, and 3D printers. I also passed my forklift licence. I finished my apprenticeship six months earlier than planned, and from here I was given the opportunity to cover another unit in composites, where I was able to learn about carbon fibre and other materials, and working with the autoclave. Since finishing my apprenticeship I have gone down the composites route, so being able to cover the extra unit has benefitted me greatly.
I have been very lucky to have such a great support system here in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, where everyone is happy to answer any questions I have and offer advice. My colleague Clare Ball gave me support to help me through my maths module and my Assessor, Rob Aldous, visited me at the University once a month. Rob always made sure I was being treated fairly and that I was getting the best experience out of my apprenticeship.
What I plan to do next is to broaden my knowledge within the work that takes place in the composites department. I want to learn more about the materials I will be working with and also learn about the maintenance work for the autoclave. In the future I want to look into doing a supervisory and management course, this will allow me to climb further up the career ladder and be able to offer more to this company.
An apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity to start your career, to learn new things every day and to get paid for it! However, an apprenticeship is not easy and is not something to take lightly, you have to work hard for the rewards an apprenticeship has to offer.
Julian Sulley, Director of Technical Services, updates us on 4 East South developments:
After months of planning, the ACE woodwork and timber engineering workshop moved into its new facility back in June. We now have a much larger workshop capacity than the old 6 East workshop and an adjoining dedicated laser cutting / rapid prototyping laboratory. The project has been an unmitigated success and is a reflection of the close co-operation and teamwork between the 4ES project management team, the contractors and our technicians throughout the planning process and move itself. We can be rightly proud of a spacious, light, energy efficient, state-of-the-art facility, ready to welcome its first students in the coming academic year.
Improved use of floor space and a radical rethink of dust extraction and energy conservation
As the project developed we implemented a number of new initiatives to better use floor space and rethink dust extraction and energy conservation. We originally intended to have a central dust extraction unit to service the four heavy application machines and this was to be housed in an internal bunker adjoining the workshop. However, following further evaluation, we decided to install individual extraction units to each machine, replicating the dust extraction provision to the other smaller demand units throughout the rest of the workshop. Not only did this represent a significant saving in capital outlay, it allowed dust extraction units to be controlled as needed (as opposed to a common system running irrespective whether the machines were being used or not).
A further benefit was that the surplus room previously designated to locate the cyclone could now be used for much needed material storage. The workshop incorporates a new technician’s office affording unrestricted viewing of the entire workshop, a key safety factor given the nature of the activity. A roller shutter door allows for material deliveries to be offloaded directly into the workshops material storage racks.
Cost saving and additional space
The move of all our tools, equipment and machinery was undertaken by our departmental technicians in May. Once again, this represented a significant cost saving to the project. Technicians relocated the machines to a signed off layout leaving connection of electrical supplies to the contractor. The additional space has also allowed us to purchase a vertical sheet panel saw, a valuable addition to our existing comprehensive range of machinery. Three new laser cutting machines have been ordered to supplement our existing three, giving a substantial increase in capacity of these heavily used machines.
A team effort
Members of the ACE technician team have been heavily involved in planning the new workshop layout, primarily fronted by the woodworking and timber engineering senior technician, Walter Guy. Thank you for all your hard work.
Professor Pete Walker, outgoing Head of Department, looks back at his time in the role:
The past three years have literally flown by. When I joined the University of Bath in 1998 I did not anticipate that one day I would be Head of Department. A little daunted at first by expectations and the track record of previous Heads, it has been a tremendous privilege to be Head of the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering.
In particular I have enjoyed working with a broader range of colleagues across the University, and getting to know our Department much better. Recruiting new staff and supporting colleagues through promotion and probation, and seeing them receive the rewards their hard work, talent and dedication deserve has been particularly satisfying.
Other highlights over the past three years have included our REF 2014 success (we were joint first in the Architecture, Built Environment and Planning unit of assessment), receiving our Athena SWAN bronze award, and seeing 4 East South open in readiness for the 2016-17 academic year.
Moving ahead I look forward to having fewer meetings in my Outlook Calendar, refocusing on taking forward the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, and more teaching.
Professor Stephen Emmitt, incoming Head of Department, looks forward to the next three years:
Taking on the role of Head of Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering in its 50th anniversary year is a great honour. The Department is the only joint Department in the UK, founded on the philosophy of integrated working. We have a fantastic research record (joint first in REF 2014) and perform wonderfully well in our taught architecture and civil engineering courses, consistently at the top of the league tables.
This has been achieved by a highly dedicated staff and clear direction from management over a long timeframe – excellence is deeply embedded within our Department’s collective DNA. I am keen to build on this expertise to further enhance the quality of everything we do, while also extending our international profile.
The mantra that ‘there is no room for complacency’ is ever present and taking on the leadership of such a high-performing Department is not without its challenges. We have major events on the horizon; the next REF, the new pressures to be imposed by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the ever-rising tide of metrics. These are challenges to be embraced while also contributing to the 50th anniversary celebrations. I relish the opportunity to be a part of our continuing success.
Ammar Azzouz, PhD student in the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, talks about this year's Images of Research competition and the importance of communicating our research to the wider community:
Images of Research takes place every year at the University of Bath and across several universities in the UK. It aims to communicate complex research ideas to the public and reinvent dialogues between different departments across the University.
The 50 images submitted this year illustrate the extraordinarily varied research undertaken at our University and present these using novel techniques ranging from sketching and hand-drawing to collage and photographs. They individually and collectively present some of the critical issues we are facing in our modern society including Alzheimer’s, aging, building materials, 3D-printing, scams, asylum seekers and racism.
My entry Hand Versus Machine? has been awarded the highly commended best image award. I was also one of only three postgraduates to be shortlisted for the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Public Engagement with Research. I am really honoured that my passion for sharing my research with the public has been acknowledged.
Engaging the public
I believe events like this are of vital importance in bridging the gap between researchers and the public. Academics have to be more engaged with the community and follow in the steps of artists. Henry Moore, one of the most influential British artists, for instance, pioneered the use of films and documentaries to share his art with the wider public through television. He created a new way of showing art and presented the uncertainty surrounding the process of creating sculptures in regards to form and material in his films. Researchers have to look for creative and innovative ways to empower people, by transferring their skills and knowledge to our community. By doing so, our research will not only be documented in conference and journal papers, but also be translated into engaging projects.
My 2015 Images of Research entry
My Hand Versus Machine? collage questions the tools and techniques that architects use to translate their ideas to real life. For most of our history architects have used traditional techniques to communicate their ideas such as, inking, hand-drawing and painting. These techniques are vanishing and being replaced by new emerging tools. Since the 1960s, architects have used computers to generate 2D drawings and 3D models to imagine the future of our built environment. These models are realistic, informative and engaging.
Nowadays digital models are becoming even more complex since they require 4D (time) and 5D (cost) to be attached to every element of the model. Despite these pioneering advances that technology has offered, we have to use it in a more efficient and intelligent way that will lead to a smarter built environment. So shall we use hands or machines to communicate ideas? Perhaps both at different stages of the project, but it is important to emphasise the way we use our hands and the way we use our machines.
Professor Tim Ibell, Associate Dean for Research, reflects on his year as President of the Institution of Structural Engineers:
During 2015, I had the immense privilege of being President of the Institution of Structural Engineers. The Institution is the largest professional body worldwide devoted solely to structural engineering, with 27,000 members spread across 105 countries.
Gaining entry into the Institution of Structural Engineers is famously difficult, and involves having to pass a seven-hour written examination as one of the steps. Only 35% of those taking this examination pass it, despite all those attempting it having at least a Masters degree, or equivalent, in structural engineering. This means that when, as President, you visit Members of the Institution around the world they are fiercely proud of their connection, and fiercely determined that standards should never drop in entering the Institution. This was a striking issue for me on my travels, which included visits to the US, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore (twice), Hong Kong, China and India. I also visited all 22 UK (and Irish) regional groups.
My message remained consistent throughout the year. Our profession is profoundly creative, and becoming ever more creative as we embrace the digital revolution. Our university education of structural engineers must reflect this fact. We can no longer plough the furrow of a narrow engineering education based squarely on maths and physics. We must embed a breadth of outlook and creativity as core learning outcomes, and use creativity as the basis for an inspirational learning environment such that students want to learn everything they need for themselves because they are motivated to do so. Without the underpinning creativity, we have a dull, lifeless degree programme which requires that students are taught because they won’t wish to learn. Learning and teaching are opposite concepts, and should be treated as such. Learning is deep and profound. Teaching is a remedy which requires repeated dosages.
This message was greeted very positively wherever I went, which was very pleasing. Even better, when the four presidents of the constituent professional bodies making up the Joint Board of Moderators (the accreditation body for Civil, Structural, Transport and Highways Engineering) met, I was able to secure their support to embed creativity as a specific required learning outcome in UK UG degrees from now on. My colleague, Paul McCombie, presented the concept to the JBM Board on my behalf, to a very receptive audience. I definitely feel we are getting somewhere with this issue, and a few days ago an article was published by the Institution, which sums up my vision for where we should be heading as a profession.
If you are reading this and have any ambitions to be the president of your own professional body, then my advice is to JUST DO IT. It is a fabulous privilege, a tremendous honour, a brilliant showcase for the University of Bath, and a platform to make a real difference. I loved it.
Julian Sulley, Director of Technical Services for the Faculty, provides an update on refurbishment work within 2 East and 4 East:
The new Gas Turbine Research Unit (GTRU) laboratory has recently been completed. We have installed 6” and 2” diameter pipework from a lab across the corridor and a supplementary CO2 gas supply via a newly installed BOC facility in the 6 East yard. To accommodate laser measuring equipment we have ensured the lab is able to provide a total blackout. Final commissioning of the facility is ongoing, as is the manufacture and construction of the latest research rig. This is estimated to take around a year.
As a consequence of the new GTRU lab, the technicians prep workshop has been moved to a new location. This required an urgent last minute revision to the planned conversion of the wind tunnel annex, which was subsequently extended to create a new workshop.
The now infamous toilet conversion to a shower block facility remains ongoing! What started out last June to be a simple update to add an additional shower cubicle and spruce up the toilet block has developed into a full blown major refurbishment. This has involved a complete redesign of the drainage provision and major foundation work. This also presented an opportunity to further remove asbestos from the foyer and adjoining areas.
During the asbestos removal work, it was discovered that an internal wall wasn’t properly bonded and, as such, had to be demolished and rebuilt together with fire intumescent painting of the supporting steelwork. This work is now well advanced and completion is expected shortly. New ceilings, improved lighting and general redecoration of the foyer and stairwell area are also planned as part of the refurbishment. Other corridors, stairwells and foyer areas on level 1 have been refurbished or are planned as part of an ongoing programme.
The former distance learning offices have now been converted into new laboratory space. They have all been refitted with Velstone topped bespoke fixed and portable benching. There has been substantial investment in equipping the new laboratories with dedicated equipment kits. This work was originally planned to be part of the ACER backfill project scheduled for this summer but the decision was taken to pull forward this element of the project. Again, this entailed a complete asbestos strip out, new heating, lighting power and data installations all within a very compressed timescale, all of which was achieved.
Next up: ACER backfill project scheduled for this summer. More information to follow.