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Nathan Cooper

Career Path: Facade Engineer, Burohappold Engineering
Location: London, UK

I was always great at problem solving and with my Dad being a builder, my upbringing involved some form of background construction presence. I studied A-levels at college and still had no idea what I wanted to do, I didn't consider Engineering who know fully what an Engineer was. I applied for a Civil Engineering Fdsc and spent two years completing the course, thoroughly enjoying the principles of physics and linking them with the construction industry. I transferred to Northumbria studying my BEng in Architectural Engineering before finally completing my MEng in Building Services Engineering.

During my MEng I moved from my part-time job at Apple to a small consultancy in Durham working as a trainee Engineer within the MEP sector. I was good at my job and quickly got promoted to lead the sustainability team within the company, becoming principle Building Physics Engineer. Simultaneously, I attained my energy assessor status and became a Low Carbon Consultant through CIBSE at the age of 23. I liked to think that I always pushed the boundaries as far as I could within my university work and always worked beyond what was expected of me. I graduated with a 1st and was asked to join the Facades Team at Burohappolds HQ in London, its one of the best design teams in the world. I also last month was awarded CEng status after a long and strict six month application process. This means at the age of 25 I achieved something that on average most Engineers aren't awarded until mid-30's and means I'm one of the youngest Chartered Engineers on the international register.

What are you doing now?Nathan Cooper

I'm a Facade Engineer working for Burohappold in London. I work on international projects such as Olympic stadiums and other mega-structures with highly conceptual and complex design.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

I had friends who studied here and after a disappointing experience at a different university's open day, I knew where I wanted to be. I couldn't have made better choice, my tutors were amazing and spending a good portion of my life there has taught me more lessons than imaginable. I've been very lucky to meet some fantastic people during my time there and some who I would consider to be world-class.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

Intense. Engineering is arguably one of the hardest courses and the programme leaders at Northumbria certainly made sure of that. There was always a great mix of learning experiences but what stood out the most was the like-minded people on my course who like myself, wanted to excel. We'd band together a lot and discuss coursework briefs, talking over anything that seemed unclear. We were also competitive and it brought out the best in us. Those people are some of my best friends in later life.

How connected was your course with industry?

Academia is notoriously always a little different from the real-world but the course was mostly always ran by people who had practical experience. The fundamentals were taught well so adjusting to the real-world problems was relatively straight forward with the right training.

If you took on a placement during your course how did you feel this helped you in your career/ with your studies?

I didn't accept a placement but I did accept a full time job and transitioned to part-time permanently. This was a brilliant move because I not only gained experience from the two streams but my confidence grew enormously. I couldn't recommend doing this enough, it also allowed me to build up the necessary time and experience required to apply for CEng status.

What was the best thing about your course?

The people - I met some incredible people on my course. Some of whom are world leading and beyond normal in their ability to achieve. When you mix those with others alike on a course that continuously pushes you, exciting things happen. That's what brought us together, we wanted to be the best.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

I couldn't pinpoint anything in particular because learning is fundamentally learning but the method involved was very good at forcing students to be proactive and very hard-working. The staff on hand were very much knowledgeable and mostly always had time to provide guidance and advice. The laboratory equipment was very well established and tutors from other courses were always able to help when some additional guidance was needed. My edge from Northumbria is grit. I hit deadlines with enormous workloads. Taking this into the real world made a huge difference to those who came from other backgrounds. The invaluable lesson of time management which stemmed from this was beyond what any other life experience could teach you.

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

My work still comes with me everywhere. I still carry around my engineering principle booklets given to me by tutors due to the high level of practicality in them. They are extremely well laid out and I at least once a month pull them on my desk to sift through from quick look-up formulae to charts. My course was practical and the knowledge learnt was real, this transferred fluidly into my job.

What advice would you give somebody who is considering studying at Northumbria?

I would say to make the leap. Spend a day on campus, talk to people but most importantly, get to know the tutors. I've never met a bad member of staff or someone I haven't trusted my learning with. That's an incredibly big deal. If you haven't been before, go and meet the people. Its those around you who make the difference when the pressure is on.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words?

Step aside bish - more comical but truthfully, being from Northumrbia and given how hard it was, when I compare myself to others, I feel more prepared and stronger. In my work, I literally rise to a challenge and it's being largely noticed in work. People are impressed by my persistence to produce solid work without easily giving up. Most people I know who've came from Northumbria possess this ability. We grow thicker skin but we're friendly and fun people. Happy to socialise with a reckless element but put some work in front of us and we will complete it first with the best results.

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