Joseph Camm is a lecturer in the School of Engineering, Technology and Design, whose doctorate research focused on reducing harmful exhaust emissions in the car industry, and has now been adapted to study greener alternatives for asthma inhalers.
At school, I was very good at maths and enjoyed solving hard problems, but pursuing a maths degree did not appeal to me. My dad had worked in the motor industry, and I loved cars and racing, so on his advice I looked at engineering instead. The idea of using my mathematical skills to improve road cars and race cars was a revelation and I wanted to find out more.
Discovering that everything I was learning in maths, all those tough differential equations and complex numbers, was actually used to describe real-world phenomena and help solve engineering problems was a great motivation. I studied for a general engineering degree because I wanted to learn about everything that engineers do: mechanical, civil, electrical, aerospace, automotive and more – I didn’t want to miss out on anything.
Towards the end of my degree I landed an internship at Jaguar Land Rover, which was a great milestone for me – it felt like I was at the very centre of the British car industry. After securing a graduate job there, I decided to pursue engineering research by doing a doctorate in combustion and engines, working towards reducing harmful exhaust emissions. This route gave me the freedom to develop skills in many areas, including laser measurement and computational fluid dynamics, and to create new ideas and solutions as yet unconceived.
My research work, from my doctorate until now, uses fundamental thermodynamics and fluid mechanics to support improvements to devices and products. Initially, I studied in detail what happens to tiny fuel droplets inside a hot engine. Understanding this in turn helps control and reduce soot emissions, but I’m currently employing that same knowledge in the study of next-generation formulations for asthma inhalers, which use greener propellants.
Working as a lecturer, I get to pass on what I know to students, and show them how they can use this knowledge in engineering practice and make a real difference to real devices and systems, particularly relating to sustainability and climate change.
The engineering mindset I have developed during education and career – to look for problems and look for their solution – is now intrinsic to my life and I am rarely happier than when I am talking about engineering with other engineers.
What I didn’t realise about engineering when I decided to study it, is the massive co-operational effort that exists, and needs to exist, to make everyday products work successfully. The continued successful operation of critical machines that we take for granted, such as car and aeroplane engines, is only ensured by teams of talented engineers working collaboratively with other professionals.
But what excites me most in engineering is the pursuit of difficult goals, particularly those surrounding demands such as sustainable transport and low carbon energy. I would encourage anyone with aptitude for maths and concern for the great challenges facing humankind to consider becoming an engineer, as engineers will be involved in every part of the solution.
For more information.
If you would like to know more about the engineering courses or the School of Engineering, Technology and Design’s research activities, vist www.canterbury.ac.uk/engineering.