Meet our undergraduates and our academic staff members! You'll be able to: hear our student's experiences with the course, discover what a day in the life of an aero student is, read profiles of our students and academics, and read about our centenary.

Hear from our Students

Alessandro - FYP Experience

 

Alessandro shares his experience in Aeronautics and FY

Alessandro - FYP Experience

Alessandro shares his experience studying Aeronautics and in the Final Year Project

 

Benita shares why she decided to study Aeronautics

Benita - Why Aeronautics?

Benita shares why she decided to study Aeronautics at Imperial

Benita - MEng to PhD Journey

Benita - MEng to PhD Journey

Benita shares her experience of doing her undergraduate degree (MEng) at the Aeronautics Department

Benita shares her experience of transitioning from doing an MEng to a PhD at the Department

Philip shares his experience at Imperial Aeronautics

Philip - Rocketry (ICLR) Club

Philip shares his experience at Imperial Aeronautics and participating in the rocketry club

Tejasva shares his experience in Aeronautics and in the GDP

Tejasva - GDP Experience

Tejasva shares his experience at Imperial Aeronautics and in the Group Design Project

Thomas shares his experience studying Aeronautics and FYP

Thomas - FYP Experience

Thomas share his experience studying Aeronautics and with the Final Year Project

 

Year in the Life - A Student's Perspectives

Hui Ling Wong's Reflections

Profile

Where are you from and what is your educational background?

I am Singaporean. I completed most of my education there. I came to the UK for sixth form and completed my A Levels here. I took A Level Maths, Further Maths and Physics. For the fun of it, I took AS Level Economics, Photography and Further Maths Additional.

Why Aero?

Planes are cool. 2001: A Space Odessey by Arthur C. Clarke.

What do you do in your free time?

It varies quite a bit depending on what interests me at the moment. Typically, it involves reading, hiking and spending time with friends. Recently, it's been learning Rust (programming language) and solving Project Euler problems.

Where are you now?

At the time of writing, I just completed my degree and am waiting to start my job as a software engineer.

First Year

Extra-curricular Activities: Imperial College Squash Player

Completed in Academic Year: 2016-2017

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes."

Douglas Adams, Life the Universe and Everything

"Note that this was nearly 5 years ago. 

First year involved a lot of lectures and tutorials. What struck me as surprising was how draining lectures were. An hour-long lecture felt nothing like an hour at school. The sheer amount and velocity at which content was covered, meant that even though some content was already familiar to me from A levels, I rarely felt like I was on top of things. What I've since learnt is that it is not possible to have 100% coverage or understanding of everything. It simply needs to be good enough, not perfect. If there is a need and time, it can be revisited and refined. 

One of the harder modules for me was computing as I had never been introduced to programming before. It took very long for me to learn the new way of thinking needed to write code. Initially, I had to keep reminding myself that there was a difference between what I wanted my programme to do versus what I had told it to do. I found it fascinating how the vagueness of our everyday spoken languages is so inconspicuous and insidious that I never noticed it until I had to code.

Out of the many hours spent in lectures, the most memorable one is the structures lecture where we were introduced to the concept of tensors. Our lecturer - Dr Matthew Santer - brought in, what is dubbed, "the potato torture device". During the lecture, he proceeded to slice up a potato and explain what a tensor was. Now, whenever I visualise a tensor, I picture a potato. It turns out, Douglas Adams was wrong on this front. 

Outside of Aero, I joined the Imperial College Squash Club. Through the club, I was able to compete against players from other universities and train with players of a similar standard. Although it was time-consuming (from the traveling for matches), it was extremely rewarding. Besides the squash, I enjoyed the social aspect of getting to know others who share the same hobby and reconnecting with friends from the Squash circuit back home."

Second Year

Extra-curricular Activities: Women's Squash 1st Team Captain and Academic Year Representative

Completed in Academic Year: 2017-2018

A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' "

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

"I recall the second year as being relatively unpleasant. Not only were there approximately the same number of lectures, but the content was also more challenging and completely new. I had also taken up two roles - women's 1st team captain and academic year rep. Thus, I had (not very intelligently) set myself up for a trial by fire. It soon became glaringly obvious that my learning method thusfar was no longer effective. In fact, I had a couple of January exams where I only passed by the skin of my teeth. Thankfully, towards the end of the year, things started looking up. In hindsight, learning how to learn contributed significantly to my third and final year being extremely enjoyable. As a bonus, I started doing well in my examinations. However, discovering in the fourth year - through the Disability Advice Service - that I have a Specific Learning Disability (SpLD), made a considerable difference to my performance in exams. In my final year, I had extra time in exams and for the first time scored a First in all of them.

As an academic year rep, I was responsible for proposing initiatives to improve the course to staff - based on feedback from students - and to identify a student-centric solution to problems that accommodated the viewpoints of the staff. As the curriculum review was underway (at the time) the reps could also contribute towards improving and shaping the new curriculum. It was interesting to be able to catch a glimpse into the lecturer's perspective and understand why the course is structured and taught in a certain way. Yet, from a student's perspective, appreciate why it may not pan out as they intend. It was through working with the lecturers that a solution to bridge the gap between the two is identified.

My favourite module was Mechanics of Flight. I was absolutely amazed by how using the basic concept of forces and moments, the "behaviour" of the aircraft could be derived and described in equations! The fact that the fundamental concept could be extended to virtually any other application blew my mind. I realised that oftentimes the underlying principle is relatively simple; it has simply been applied to problems of increasing complexity with additional tools brought in as needed. It is like Lego. 

For the L2 Applications group project, we had to design, test, and build a wind turbine. It was one of the most fun group projects I have done. It was not because of the project itself, but rather because of my group mates. We had such fun epic banter that during the testing of our wind turbine, the lab technician (that was operating the wind tunnel) was laughing at us. He even chimed in at points! During a meeting at the design phase, I was trying to understand what each person in the group was working on and what needs to be done. In doing so, I accidentally blurted out in the bluntest off-hand manner possible, 'So, what has [Name] done?'. I had not meant it in a negative accusatory way, it was simply the question I had in my head. After speaking, everyone stared at me blankly (especially as he had done a lot of work on the aerodynamics). It took an embarrassingly long moment before I realised what had happened. When it did, I started apologising profusely. They burst out laughing at me; just like that, it was water under the bridge. Until this day, they will not let me live it down. It often gets brought up as a joke whenever one of us (especially me) says something thoughtlessly."

Third Year

Chosen Electives: High-Performance Computing (HPC), Optimisation (EEE module through I-Explore) and Materials in Action

GDP Project and Topic: Hybrid Electric Transport - Flight Dynamics and Control

Extra-curricular Activities: Chair of Squash Club and College Squash Player

Completed in Academic Year: 2018-2019

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

"The third year was more intense, but also more enjoyable, than the first two. Because my interests are in computational methods and mathematical modeling, having the opportunity to study HPC and Optimisation was a delight. Moreover, it was more applied with the Aerospace Vehicle Design, Airframe Design, and L3 Applications projects (N.B. the name of these modules might have changed after the curriculum review) which not only brought together the theory learnt in the preceding years but also exposed the intimate relationship between the disciplines. On the flip side, more projects meant more deadlines and required better time management. Despite the additional time pressure, especially due to my extra-curricular commitments, I much preferred the projects to taking examinations. 

The GDP is indefatigably the highlight of the year. Our topic was to identify a target market and design for a Hybrid Electric Transport (HET) aircraft. The aircraft must be more efficient than a traditional turboprop aircraft in the same category. We were further broken down into 6 teams: configuration definition; propulsion systems; aerodynamic design; structural design and manufacturing; flight dynamics and control; and aircraft safety and ground infrastructure. 

My sub-team was responsible for flight dynamics and control of the aircraft. We worked together to independently study textbooks on flight dynamics to identify the theoretical basis for our calculations. Using the theory, we derived the equations for our use case and identified suitable methods to obtain the required information. With the theoretical groundwork laid, a computational model was created. 

In the aircraft design process, the work of my sub-team could only be done once a first estimate of the propulsion, aerodynamics, and structures was developed. Prior to this, our sub-team was only able to provide rough estimates of our requirements. Therefore, we were motivated to have a rougher first iteration as soon as possible. Whereas the other teams were motivated to have a more accurate (which takes longer) first iteration. Thus, as part of the process, we had to manage expectations and get other teams to understand why our estimates had such a large range. Although it was challenging, I had fun working with the other sub-teams as although we had competing requirements, we were all working towards the same goal of designing the aircraft. It was especially during those the discussion with the other teams - to find a suitable middle ground, understanding what their requirements are and where they are coming from, and brainstorming together to find a suitable solution that works for all of us - that made the GDP such a memorable experience. 

A great memory of this was having the cricket world cup playing on the projector while the entire team worked together in our allocated room. Our team had a large number of cricket enthusiasts and it was through them that I was inducted to the world of cricket."

Year in Industry

Where: Airbus Defence and Space

Role: Attitude and Orbit Control System/Guidance Navigation and Control (AOCS/GNC) Intern

Completed in Academic Year: 2019-2020

Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

"My placement year involved being responsible for an R&D project involving the investigation and development of an online-learning artificial intelligence algorithm for Fault Detection, Isolation and Recovery (FDIR) on spacecraft; focusing on the Attitude Orbit Control System (AOCS) subsystem. In addition, I would support the main team’s activities and deliverables.

Initially, the learning curve was relatively steep as I had to learn from scratch about machine learning, FDIR on spacecraft, the AOCS subsystem, and how to code in Python. Luckily, it was not as daunting as it seemed. A typical week involved working on my project or supporting the main team’s activities, presenting my work, and getting feedback on it. In hindsight, this prepared me well for my FYP. I learnt a lot from the members of the team, both in knowledge and skills.

It was through the internship and from my colleagues that I gained an appreciation for what being an engineer is and the differences between academia and industry. The highlight, for me, of being an engineer was the solving of challenging problems; but that is not its entirety. An equally, if not more, important aspects are working in teams; with customers; and communicating the work done with future readers through reports and documentation."

Final Year

Chosen Electives: Innovation Management, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Spacecraft Systems

Final Year Project (FYP) Topic: Model Reduction and Interpolation in Dynamic Aeroelastic Systems

Completed in Academic Year: 2020-2021

'The Guide says there is an art to flying', said Ford, 'or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.' "

Douglas Adams, Life the Universe and Everything

"It took awhile for me to get used to University after completing a Year in Industry, especially with the changes due to COVID-19. I was surprised to find how much detailed knowledge I had forgotten. Thankfully, a quick revision of my notes refreshed my memory. After a couple of weeks, I was able to change gears and was back into the swing of University life.

Compared to the first three years of the degree, the final year offered much more freedom in organising my time. Moreover, as most of my modules were in the Autumn term (Spacecraft Systems was my only module in the Spring term); it meant after the January exams, I could almost exclusively work on my FYP. 

The Autumn term was largely spent juggling between keeping up with the lecture courses, applying for jobs, completing coursework, Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA) work, and doing the literature review for my FYP. Although I had fewer timetabled hours, I was much busier as job applications took up a significant portion of my time. On a typical day, I would be switching between these tasks and spending more time on whichever had greater importance and time pressure. The Spring and Summer terms were a breath of fresh air as I could almost singularly work on my FYP. 

The two highlights of my final year were the FYP and teaching as a UTA. My FYP involved investigating how a computationally expensive simulation of an aeroelastic system can be made cheaper. An aeroelastic system is where the forces generated by the air (hence, aero-) interact and couple with the structures, due to its flexibility (hence, -elastic). Examples are wind turbines or a solar-powered UAV (e.g. Airbus' Zephyr). As a result of my FYP topic being at the intersection of multiple disciplines, I had a lot of fun seeing the connections between them and the knowledge acquired from my degree so far; sometimes, insights would arise from the most unexpected places. I relished in this opportunity to focus solely on solving a complex challenging problem. The whole process of: starting from a simple case; gradually increasing the complexity; working through smaller problems that crop up; and finally, at the end, it was extremely gratifying to see all the twists and turns along the way that led to the final result.

Before being a UTA, I had coached squash to children and to my peers. This was my first taste of teaching and got me interested in pursuing it as a career. In fact, I would probably have pursued if the allure of being an engineer was not so strong. As a UTA, I had the opportunity to teach first year Mathematics small-class tutorials. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with students, sharing how and what my approach to the problem is, and seeing it from a different perspective. Moreover, the academic nature and challenge of it being a first year university course made it even more satisfying.

These two highlights have left an indelible impact on me and I hope your time at Imperial will be the same :) "

Zhi Hang Zhang's Reflections

Profile

Where are you from and what is your educational background?

I am a Singaporean and completed the Singapore-Cambridge GCE A-Levels in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Economics.

Why Aero?

I really liked flying and planes since young and I also wanted to pursue an engineering career.

What do you do in your free time?

My hobbies include travelling, learning new skills and playing sports. I am currently working on a Machine Learning course and also play competitive badminton for the College.

Where are you now?

I joined Imperial in 2018-19 and am entering my final year in 2021-22.

First Year

Extra-curricular Activities: Member of Singapore Society and College Badminton Player

Completed in Academic Year: 2018-2019

"Note that some of the experiences may not be relevant due to curriculum changes and changes brought about by COVID-19.

I felt really delighted about starting my journey at Imperial. As this was the first time I had to stay in a foreign country for the long term, it felt daunting and exciting at the same time. For the first few weeks, I had to familiarise myself with the environment and surroundings, and there were a lot of things to get used to (such as the weather, living spaces and university life). I also had the wonderful opportunity to live in halls and make friends with people from all around the world and a diversity of courses. As an international student, I felt that this was exactly what I signed up for and really enjoyed immersing myself in the university culture.

For the first year, the content is structured so that everyone will be at the same level, especially in their mathematical and physics knowledge. I recalled myself being very rusty for the first few weeks - I had not touched any books for 2 years due to compulsory military conscription - but I gradually felt more comfortable with the content over time. There were also some new skills that we needed to learn, such as programming and basic engineering skills, on top of laboratory sessions and projects. The workload was generally manageable. My favourite aspect of the course is that everyone, students and staff alike, is very collaborative and willing to help another to answer any questions that we had. 

Aside from studies, there's also time for us to participate in activities outside of the classroom; I joined events organised by the Singapore Society such as festivals and musical production, as well as participating competitively in badminton for the College in BUCS. During my term breaks, I travelled to many places with friends and made fond memories."

Second Year

Extra-curricular Activities: President of Singapore Society and College Badminton Player

Completed in Academic Year: 2019-2020

"The second year is probably the most hectic year I had while balancing between studying and extra-curricular activities. The learning curve can be quite steep at this stage, as you will start learning more advanced and difficult content within the same duration as the first year. You may generally feel very overwhelmed about the new knowledge, but with practice and continued exposure, you will slowly and surely understand what is being taught.

During my second year, I was elected the President of the Imperial College Singapore Society, while also playing competitive badminton for the College. Due to my commitments, a lot of my energy and time was spent on planning and organising events, as well as participating in training and going to competitions. There were instances in which I felt very left behind in terms of my studies and had to try my best to catch up with the mounting coursework that started to pile up. Time management is very crucial here and I would highly recommend picking and choosing your commitments wisely and with a certain degree of compromise.

COVID-19 first arrived in the UK, and subsequently, the College had to be closed towards the end of the Spring term in March 2020. With much of the world heading into lockdown, so did physical learning, and students around the world were forced to participate in classes online. Even though there was a lot of uncertainty at the start, the Department and College worked tirelessly to ensure that our lessons and coursework were not disrupted. Furthermore, our examinations were administered fully online and the Department went to great lengths to ensure everyone was comfortable with the arrangements and the process was smooth for everyone. They provided guidance on the process, tutorials on how to upload our examiniation scripts, and even scheduling our examination times to account for time zone differences. Everyone also took initiative in taking care of one another to make sure they did not feel alone during isolation and lockdown.

I think the key to coping for the second year is to manage your fatigue levels, as you may feel equally enthusiastic as the first year and participate in all kinds of extra-curricular activities while coping with deeper and advanced academic content. As such, I felt that it was good training and testament to your resilience and management skills, which will prove very handy towards the end of the degree and in your future work-life balance.

Third Year

Chosen electives: Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and High-Performance Computing (HPC)

GDP Project and Topic: Track Simulation & Strategy - Shell Eco-Marathon

Completed in Academic Year: 2020-2021

"I enjoyed my third year much more compared to the first and second years. This is the time where you get to have more freedom in the courses you choose. I personally preferred coursework-heavy subjects such as CFD and HPC, where there is more freedom in expressing your thoughts and solutions and having more time to think about them compared to written examinations. The workload in the third year can be content-heavy at the beginning, as you will start learning more advanced content while juggling the Aerospace Vehicle Design project. Furthermore, you will also need to prepare to apply for internships, which are usually busy between October to December. The timeline is very tight in the first few weeks to you will need to manage your time well!

I had 2 examinations in January (1 core and 1 elective), hence that took off some load of having more examinations in the Summer. The Spring term is not much different from the previous; new courses will start while you will still need to balance between going for lectures and completing coursework. As we had transited to virtual learning, all lectures and activities were done from home so that gave me more freedom in managing my time to complete my tasks.

The Easter break in April is primarily used to prepare for the examinations, which happen immediately after the break ends. By that time, you should also have chosen and allocated your GDP topic. The GDP only happens after everyone in the cohort has completed their examinations.

My GDP involved me exploring the Track Simulation and Strategy for an electric race car for a regional competition. Throughout the GDP, I was exposed to a new level of inter-disciplinary teamwork and learning: Not only would you need to communicate effectively with other sub-teams, but there are also influences from external stakeholders who set the overall direction on how much freedom we had in our design process.

The GDP is a prime opportunity for everyone to be creative about their work and solutions. I had a wonderful time discussing regularly with other teammates (albeit virtually) about various issues and problems we faced while also having the opportunity to propose innovative ideas that meet the overall objectives. Knowledge about the topic at hand is also not crucial; I had to learn most things by myself along the way as they were in no way relevant to what I was taught. We also had fellow coursemates who were involved in Ergonomics, Team and Project Management, and Steering and Vehicle Dynamics, none of which were even remotely relevant to our degree. I believe that being able to adapt, transfer and apply existing skill sets (e.g. analytical and effective team & project management) was key to a successful and enjoyable GDP."

Chris Yao's Reflections

Profile

Where are you from and what is your educational background?

I grew up in Shenzhen, China. In high school, I did American curriculum and sat AP exams for Calculus, Statistics, Chemistry, 3 Physics courses in Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, and English Language.

Why Aero?

I’m passionate about Physics and Maths. This rigorous course provides me with the perfect avenue to prepare myself and develop my skills required to be a successful researcher in the broad field of Aeronautics. Plus, it's cool to tell others that I'm studying rocket science!

What do you do in your free time?

You can often find me: at the British Museum; treating myself to a good afternoon tea; playing tennis or the violin. When chilling at the bar with my friends, I'm always the only one drinking cranberry juice.

Where are you now?

Looking forward to Year 2 in Aero!

First Year

"In the first few weeks at Imperial Aero, I was a bit worried about being left behind relative to other students who did the more comprehensive A-levels. However, in the first two weeks, we had 10-hour revision lectures in Maths to help everyone 'un-rust' their brains from relaxing mode and prepare for further intense studies. And other modules all started from scratch.

There are multiple reasons for you to study Aeronautical Engineering: being passionate about aeroplanes, rockets, spacecraft, F1, or fascinated by maths and physics like me. At my high school, everyone needed to study numerous subjects ranging from Art, Literature, History and Politics to Maths and Sciences. After few weeks at Imperial Aero, I was absolutely thrilled - I finally had the opportunity to focus on the field I love, undisturbed by the Humanities courses that constantly troubled me.

The first year was delivered in 'multi-mode' delivery: the lectures and computing sessions were online, academic tutorials and lab sessions could be attended in person. I usually got up at 7:30 in the morning. Before lectures started at 9, I would often grab my breakfast and coffee from the College Cafe, bring them back to my room at Eastside and preview the lecture notes. Depending on the day, there were 4 hours or 2 hours of lectures in total in the morning. I was delighted to find that the lectures had a solid grounding in theory. I loved that we could ask questions at any time. The lecturers would either answer them along the way or we could help each other out through the online lecture's chat. There are also offices hours and the Piazza forum where you could ask any further questions that you have and to discuss with the lecturers.

Afternoons were more practical. Depending on the day, we had in-person academic and personal tutorials, lab sessions, and Imperial Horizons. We learnt to code in MATLAB and use various software such as Star CCM+, Abaqus, Solidworks CAD. When all College activities ended, I always jogged in Hyde Park, studied a bit, and finished my day by playing some peaceful pieces on my violin (Thank you, my flatmates, for bearing my noisy violin sound).

I found the Engineering Practice module most challenging since I did not have any experience in it. But luckily, my peers were friendly and helpful, so I learnt a lot from them. In Term 3, we did a project on wind turbines. It was my first taste going through a full engineering process: Theory-> Design -> Manufacturing-> Testing. 

I thought I would never touch upon Humanities subjects again. However, focusing purely on Aerospace unexpectedly intrigued my interest in Philosophy and History. I took Introduction to Philosophy for Horizons and dived into History books at weekends. At weekends, I usually go to the Union Bar with my friends, spend all day in the British Museum, and treated myself to great afternoon tea restaurants in London. 

One of my best memories this year was having dinner with my tutorial group at Sky Garden and chatting while walking along Thames River after dinner."

Profiles

Our History - Centenary

In 2019, our Department celebrated a significant milestone - Commemorating 100 years of teaching of Aeronautics at Imperial College London.

The timeline below shows the proud history of the Department, the progress and development, and the significant changes brought about over the past century.

Aeronautics Department timeline

You can find the full description of our proud history on our Centenary page.