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Do you want a Mechanical Engineering Career?

If you’re considering a mechanical engineering career, then you may be interested to read the route one PhD student is taking to realise his dreams.

Pictured above: Mechanical engineering PhD student and researcher Robert Cavagnaro.


Robert Cavagnaro, originally from New York, is on the Engineering graduate program at the University of Washington, and has been working for Beaufort Research at the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre in Cork, Ireland for the past year. Rob is in a fairly new field of research that is beginning to grow in popularity. Want to join him on the cutting edge of renewable energy? Read on…


What is your field of work/ study?


I am a mechanical engineering PhD student and researcher studying topics related to marine renewable energy. Specifically, I’m trying to figure out how to best regulate tidal turbines so they efficiently extract energy from water flows and don’t get destroyed in the process.


What is your current job like?


My current job is Research Engineer at at Beaufort Research in Cork, Ireland. The lab contains test equipment to help researchers and developers of ocean energy technology evaluate and improve their designs. This includes testing physical models in a large wave tank or working with a machine to see how much power a device will put on the grid. I work on the latter machine, programming it to act as if it were an underwater turbine. By doing this, a researcher or designer can simulate an environment that is expensive and difficult to work in – fast, turbulent water – in a lab where you can try new ideas and not worry about sinking. I also run simulations to determine how underwater turbines react to turbulence in flow.


Robert at work in the lab…


When did you decide to pursue a mechanical engineering career?


I had always been interested in designing and building things to make people’s lives better. I went to a specialist math and science high school (secondary school) where engineering concepts were introduced fairly early in my studies. I had made the decision to pursue mechanical engineering by my second year.


What were your favourite subjects in secondary school? What was your major at university?


My favourite subject wasn’t actually engineering related. It was college level Biology! I enjoyed learning about how complex and amazing biological systems are. I also liked Calculus and History.


Who are your personal heroes?


The countless engineers and scientists who have made small contributions to building our world and our understanding of it. To me, the small steps are more important than the leaps.


Do you have any advice for young students who might want to pursue a mechanical engineering career?


Take a course in technical writing if you can, in addition to your maths and science. It will help for university applications, funding proposals, and the output of your efforts – published works.


Mechanical Engineering Career

Robert’s advice to students: don’t neglect your technical writing skills!



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