Industry insider – How working a gap year can jumpstart your career

In the second of our profiles on Tech Scholars at Cambridge Consultants, The Student Engineer speaks to Alexander Mitchell. Currently also a student at Oxford University, his work on the scholarship programme has included designing an innovative new drug delivery device. 

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How did you hear about the Technology Scholarship programme?   

I was introduced to the Technology Scholarship programme through the Year in Industry Scheme while I was at school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study at university and knew I would have more time with a gap year to decide. I joined a Formula 1 in Schools team and set about designing a car to compete. This was a small CO2 powered dragster that would race against another team down a 20m track. The design process was intriguing, henceforth I decided to study engineering.

What was the application process like?

The Year in Industry helped to sculpt my CV by advising me which of my experiences to put greatest emphasis on. I based my CV on my experiences with the Formula Student competition: for example the tools used and skills learned. The last stage was the interview. Year in Industry helped with this again by providing interview workshops. The interviews at Cambridge Consultants were friendly and involved design problems as well as some mathematics. It was a good chance to meet some older Tech Scholars and see what Cambridge Consultants worked on.

Engineering students play a key role in Northampton’s Formula Student programme (Credit: DUT Racing)

What are the benefits of a year at Cambridge Consultants before you start your studies?

The year at Cambridge Consultants helped me a great deal at university. It put into context a lot of the course. It also made the practical work very easy as I had used a lot of the equipment already during my gap year.

What did you study/are you studying at university following your initial stint at Cambridge Consultants?

I am currently studying engineering science at Oxford University. The course is very varied for the first two years and then specialises for the last two. Being at Cambridge Consultants helped me to choose what to specialise in. My interests in engineering have been broadened by my experiences at Cambridge Consultants. I have seen how different elements of engineering – such as mechanical, electrical and software – come to form a product.

Can you tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on at Cambridge Consultants as part of the Technology Scholarship scheme?

One of the projects that I have been working on at Cambridge Consultants is an advanced device to deliver biological drugs. These drugs are more potent at treating chronic diseases, such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

The properties of this new form of treatment mean that they are much more viscous and need to be delivered in higher doses. Injecting these drugs using syringes is difficult and painful. The number of user steps to use current technologies for this is large. This leads to patients being anxious, and increases the risk of needlestick injury.

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The aim of our current development is to design a plug-and-play device that can be worn during the injection process. This device reduces the number of user steps. The likelihood of mistakes and the time required for the drug to be delivered is diminished. Visits to hospital are negated, as is the need for multiple injections. Drug development is speeded up as the requirement for bespoke drug containers is no longer required.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved with Cambridge Consultants either with the latest Technology Scholarship programme or the Student Internships?

The Tech Scholar programme is a great way to get stuck into a variety of different types of engineering. The people working here are at the top of their field and always willing to help. The atmosphere is one of mutual respect and I have enjoyed working here.