Date of release: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Julio PonteA former soldier and bricklayer has told how gaining a first-class Engineering Master's from the University of Greenwich has changed his life.

Julio Ponte won an award for outstanding academic achievement for his MEng (Hons) project from the Institution of Measurement & Control (InstMC). From there he landed an accelerated graduate post with Bechtel Ltd, a global engineering consultancy. Then, Bechtel presented him with a gold medal for the contribution his excellent work is making to the company.

Julio is now set for a great career in engineering but he believes it would not have been possible without the University of Greenwich's widening participation programme. This allowed him to study for a four-year extended BEng(Hons), despite lacking qualifications.

"I didn't complete my secondary education at school in Portugal and joined the army instead where I served for ten years" says Julio. "I'd always been interested in engineering and, after leaving the army, I worked to raise the funds to invest in gaining the qualifications for a professional career.

"In my first year at the university, I learned so much which prepared me for the challenges of the next three years. Alongside the academic studies, it gave me the opportunity to improve my English skills, and learn about university life and culture."

Since joining Bechtel, Julio has worked on the design of parts for a gas plant in Egypt. This has also taken him to Holland, where the parts are being manufactured, to inspect their testing.

Julio's tutor, Dr Bob Jenner, Principal Lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering & Science at the university's Medway Campus, also has personal reasons for being an enthusiast for the extended engineering degree programme.

"I was a bricklayer when I was accepted on the university's first extended degree which was pioneered by the engineering department in the 1990s. Now extended degrees are available across the university as part of our widening participation initiative," says Dr Jenner.

"The initial year of an extended degree is perfect for potential students who have not achieved the A-levels they need to apply for a three-year programme. It is also ideal for people like me, and Julio, who are changing careers."

At least 60 students are accepted for an extended engineering degree at Greenwich each year and more than 85 per cent go on to complete their BEng (Hons).

According to Dr Jenner, many people do not apply for engineering courses because they perceive the mathematics and physics required as too difficult.

"Unfortunately, this is often the way the subjects are taught in schools – they are presented as almost completely abstract," he says. "In the initial year of our extended degree, students learn their mathematics and physics by putting them into practice.

"They are set increasingly difficult projects. They research the engineering, design their own versions, build and then test them before reporting back on their successes and failures. Mathematics and physics are no long longer abstract subjects – they are the practical tools they need to complete their projects."

Dr Jenner is not surprised at Julio's successes at university and at Bechtel. "He is very intelligent and works really hard – his work ethic is faultless," he adds.

"Julio's excellent Master's project researched the movement and control of particles on a pneumatic conveyor – bulk solids handling research conducted with our world-recognised Wolfson Centre, at Medway. His award was very well deserved," he says.

Story by Public Relations

Picture: Julio Ponte.