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Engineering the Modern World

Modern society often takes for granted the wealth and standards of living that we all enjoy. Comfortable accommodation, electricity at the flick of a switch, a plentiful supply of food and modern communication systems are some of the things that we have come to expect.

If we look deeper we find a number of basic factors that support modern life:

  • Raw materials generally come from natural resources within the crust of the earth.
  • These raw materials must be processed to provide the higher grade materials and energy for further use.
  • Environmental pressures mean that developments must be sustainable and pollution must be minimised.

The modern world now relies on the engineering skills of those who support these basic needs. If we take an everyday item such as a car we find that:

  • Metals and minerals (such as iron ore and petroleum) must be taken from the ground for production of the car and operation of it during its lifetime.
  • The metals and minerals must be processed before they can be used in the production of steel, plastics and fuel for the car.
  • Environmental considerations mean that production processes must be clean, the car must be fuel efficient and that, once the car reaches the end of its useful life, the disposal must be planned and co-ordinated.

Typical engineering disciplines that support these fundamental activities include:

  • Mining Engineering - study of the methods of safely and economically extracting raw materials from the ground.
  • Chemical Engineering - study of the processing of materials to upgrade them for further use in society.
  • Environmental Engineering - study of solutions to real environmental problems.

Careers in these engineering fields are varied and rewarding. Industries include the mining and minerals companies, chemical engineering and process companies, environmental companies including waste management and pollution control. Many of these companies work on a global basis and often provide opportunities to work abroad.

Rewards are excellent with a number of graduates able to start work with salaries of over £30,000 per annum. Progression is often quick and opportunities to manage multi-million pound projects within a few years of graduation are typical.

Without these engineering foundations it is difficult to visualise what the world would be like. Responsible management of the earth's resources requires a wide range of integrated engineering disciplines and the opportunities for graduates in these fields are enormous.

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