BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering alumnus, Alex Cook, recently secured a permanent position with BAE Systems. We caught up with Alex to find out how his Salford experience has benefited him whilst forging a career in the aeronautical engineering industry.

Hi, Alex! So, what attracted you to the University of Salford?

The location! People do not realise how close it is to Manchester – less than a 15-minute walk from the Peel Park campus to the city centre. I also knew that the BBC had recently moved to MediaCityUK and I found this really exciting.

Tell us about studying BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering.

I genuinely enjoyed all aspects of my course. We had lab sessions which were all really interesting and gave you a chance to do some practical work, and I particularly enjoyed the group design project in my final year where groups of 5 or 6 of us had to design a 360 excavator. We carried out market research, then decided on specifications for the excavator as well as creating a 3D model using the SolidWorks software.

What inspired your decision to work for BAE Systems?

Once I decided I wanted to be an engineer, I had my sights on BAE Systems – I even got turned away a couple of times! I think the work that they do is true engineering, and the challenges they face are unlike any other area of engineering.

Did your degree help you to prepare for any of these challenges?

I had a genuine passion for engineering, my course and Salford. I particularly enjoyed my structures and dynamics lectures which are still really relevant to me as I currently work in structures and come across things I had previously done at Salford, so I’m not completely thrown in the deep end.

Alex Cook besides Eurofighter

Can you tell us about any exciting projects you’ve worked on so far?

I’m currently working on a project where I use something called Finite Element Analysis, which is used to analyse which areas receive the highest amount of stress. I’m using this on a specific part of an aircraft to find out where the highest stress occurs as this is the area which is most likely to crack; I then use a software package to predict how the crack will grow within that section.

How did Salford help you to grow as an individual?

Salford helped me to learn how to achieve a proper work-life balance and I believe this is one of the most important things in life. They were the best years of my life so far, but they were also the most difficult. I made several lifelong friends and enjoyed going out with them quite a lot, but I also spent a lot of time working on projects and revising for exams. I believe that, thanks to Salford, I now have a great work-life balance.

What advice would you give to prospective BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering students?

I would highly recommend doing a year out in industry as this is something that I did not do, and I believe it could have slowed down my success in achieving my current role, slightly delaying my career. Also, if there is anything that you do not understand in the lectures, don’t be afraid to ask – every lecturer I had was very approachable. Get the work-life balance right! Put effort into the course, but make sure you have fun!

Have you thought about the next steps in your career?

I plan to start a part-time master’s degree (MSc) in Aircraft Engineering as I aim to become a fully chartered engineer with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). One day, I hope to be in charge of my own department, working on shaping the future of engineering.

Alex, thank you for taking the time to speak with us and we wish you the best of luck with your future!

Take the first step of your career and become unstoppable with a BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering degree at Salford.