Christopher Caulcrick is a researcher in the biomechatronics lab in Imperial College London's Department of Mechanical Engineering. He is currently researching exoskeletons as a member of the college's Centre for Doctoral Training in Neurotechnology, and he works as teaching assistant, tutoring embedded C for microcontrollers and stress analysis.
Christopher also featured in the Academy's This is Engineering campaign.
“As part of research for my master’s degree I worked on a human-machine interface for a quadruple amputee and I am proud to have contributed research that will make a real difference to the quality of life for those with disabilities as this is something I believe is very important.”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
I am currently a PhD student at Imperial College London. My research at the university focuses on developing exoskeletons for post-stroke rehabilitation and looking at how we can harness available data from both patient and device to deliver robotic assistance more intelligently and effectively. I collaborate with McLaren Applied Technologies in an industrial cooperative partnership, which provides training, facilities and expertise not available in an academic setting alone.
My work as a graduate teaching assistant and tutor on a number of courses also allows me to interact and share ideas with the next generation of students.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
Throughout my childhood, I always liked to tinker with things and solve problems. At school, I found that I was good at, and enjoyed, maths and physics. For me, engineering was a natural choice as it resonated with my interests and offered a hands-on, creative experience. I was also drawn to the broad career opportunities and future pathways that a background in engineering would afford me.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
I find engineering stimulating and rewarding as I enjoy the challenges it presents and the process of problem-solving and delivering solutions. It is also a varied field, which makes it interesting. Engineers tackle a real variety of topics and challenges across society. I also like being an engineer because of the teamwork involved – I am always working and interacting with people from diverse backgrounds to solve problems collaboratively.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.
As part of the research for my master’s degree I worked on a human-machine interface for a quadruple amputee, and I am proud to have contributed research that will make a real difference to the quality of life for those with disabilities as this is something I believe is very important. I am also proud to be a protagonist for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s This is Engineering campaign to change young people’s perceptions of the engineering profession. This involved starring in a promotional video as well as ongoing public outreach work.
How do you think racial parity in engineering can be achieved?
While it is great to see many young BAME students on engineering courses at university level, it is a shame that this representation is not reflected at professional level in industry. In my opinion, one way of challenging this status quo is to have targeted BAME careers events and recruitment campaigns in engineering, and to provide careers and applications guidance aimed at BAME students in order to increase participation and make senior roles in the industry more accessible.
It is also important for BAME role models to be more visible, to inspire young BAME people and enable them to see a future for themselves in the field. Young BAME students need to be able to see themselves as part of the future of the profession, so we must create a more diverse and accessible idea of who engineers are. I love engineering, so I want to spread that message however I can.
Has being a BAME engineer had an impact on your career either positive or negative?
I have noticed considerably few BAME role models in leading positions throughout the engineering industry. I hope that in the long term, through campaigns such as this one, we can make a difference and contribute to serious progress, leading to representation of minorities in boardrooms across the globe.
How has the ethnic diversity of the profession changed since you started working in engineering?
I am relatively new to engineering, but at academic and graduate level I have noticed increasing levels of dialogue about ethnic diversity. Representation of BAME candidates on graduate schemes is encouraged through some tailored recruitment drives and campus events. Although these examples are a positive, there should be more, not just at university level but in schools and within industry too. With raised awareness and active encouragement, we can make progress towards fair representation throughout the engineering sector.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
A career in engineering is a brilliant choice that offers a huge range of options for the future and a stimulating career. Spend some time exploring the kind of jobs engineers do. Endeavour to find work experience if possible, and even if these opportunities do not arise, get a sense of the industry by attending public outreach events such as New Scientist Live and Imperial Festival. There is a lot of information about the industry available online through outlets such as the Real Engineering YouTube channel. There are many areas of the industry where you can contribute, so find what genuinely excites you!