Finding high-tech solutions to real-world problems
Michael Scott, BSc (Hons) Computer Systems Integration, University of the West of England
I applied for the placement at CERN about mid-way through the second year of my degree. I didn’t think I was going to get it so when I got the phone call to say ‘you’ve got the placement, can you come over?’ I was very, very happy; I wasn’t apprehensive, just eager to get there!
At work you can’t keep going to your supervisor saying ‘how do I do this, how do I do that?’ Learning to solve the problem yourself is really important.
My degree and the placement have fitted together very well. For instance, when I’m given a project at my work placement I’ll be told ‘this is what we need, go and do it’ and that’s the same kind of style that the course is done in. At work you can’t keep going to your supervisor saying ‘how do I do this, how do I do that?’ Learning to solve the problem yourself is really important.
I started playing around with computers from quite a young age. I preferred the hardware and I liked building computers from the ground up, choosing all the parts, taking it apart again – that kind of stuff. I quite like being hands-on with computers. I chose UWE because it was one of only a couple of places that did a specific course in computer systems integration.
The course has given me some very practical skills about how to program and how to find solutions
So the course has given me some very practical skills about how to program and how to find solutions. With the placement it is more about learning how to get things done in the work place and to apply the problem solving we have learnt during the course.
The University of the West of England is a leading business-engaged university – 3,400 interactions with 1,125 business and community organisations
The university staff are definitely a memorable part of the whole experience. One of the professors, for instance, gets very involved, especially if you’re showing that you’re trying hard. For example, during one of my modules in second year I was writing a program that would control hardware; it was probably one of the most challenging pieces of work I’ve had to do. Near to the hand-in date I was doing a lot of testing. I was trying to figure out why it wasn’t working properly. In those couple of weeks I saw my professor a lot. I’d send a few emails a day and go up to his office and try and find the solution and each time we’d talk about it and he’d say, ‘try this out and you’ll see why it’s not working’.
Because CERN is such a big research centre, especially with the Hadron Collider based there, it is an environment where they are constantly developing new things and having to deal with new problems. It is exciting for me because it means I get to work on a variety of projects. For instance they did a lot of research and work on cloud computing, which was something that had never been used before, so a lot of work that went into that.
Above all I think the experience has made me more confident in myself and how to operate in the workplace. Now I know what it is like and I know more about how to succeed in my future career.