John McDowell – MSc Marine Renewable Energy graduate

Current employer: IDCORE, Sustainable Marine Energy Ltd.

Current job title: Research Engineer

Current location: Isle of Wight

“My previous work experience was enjoyable, and has undoubtedly been useful, but I feel that it was my MSc that really unlocked the door to my current career.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Since graduation, I have undertaken an engineering doctorate with the Industrial Doctoral Centre for Offshore Renewable Energy (IDCORE). This course differs from most doctorates in that it is very much industry focused, and has an intense year-long taught component (encompassing a variety of modules relating to the engineering, technical, theoretical, and policy aspects of offshore renewable energy). For the remaining three years of the course, I will be working with the tidal energy company Sustainable Marine Energy Ltd (SME), and will be looking at aspects of improving their moorings and device efficiency.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

Getting on to the IDCORE EngD has always been my short-term career goal, so there’s been no real change to my career path – except that I now have the qualifications to follow it through!

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

The exact same as the challenge: I’m truly enjoying learning about so many fields. I especially enjoy the practical applications that both Plymouth and IDCORE have provided – using world-class facilities like the COAST Laboratory draws a variety of subjects together, and cements difficult concepts in place.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I would have applied for my MSc with Plymouth University sooner. My previous work experience was enjoyable, and has undoubtedly been useful, but I feel that it was my MSc that really unlocked the door to my current career.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Stick to what you’re truly interested and passionate about. I had an engaging job, in a somewhat related line of work, and I’m sure that I could’ve happily stayed there for many years. One of the hardest choices I’ve had to make was that decision, to leave and choose a more focused course of education so that I could pursue what I really wanted to do.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

My MSc with Plymouth University enabled me to take my first steps into the technical/engineering side of the renewable energy industry. Without it, I would not have had the industry knowledge, or scientific understanding to progress within such a demanding sector.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

My favourite moment was finishing an exam for the module mechanics of marine renewables. I walked out of that exam knowing I had done well, and feeling like I truly understood a subject in which a few months previously I had no expertise. I will soon start work on my EngD thesis on mooring design and turbine efficiency. It involves many of the principles that I first learned about at Plymouth University.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

I have kept in touch with the vast majority of people on my MSc in Marine Renewable Energy. We were always on good terms, socially and academically. While I see less of them since moving away, we regularly chat, exchange information and employment opportunities, and meet up at industry conferences. I also keep in touch with many of the postgraduates and a few of the lecturers with whom I worked on my MSc dissertation.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Yes! The academic staff at Plymouth University are excellent. If you have a question, or are finding something difficult, do not hesitate to go and see the relevant lecturer. In my experience, they were pleased to have enthusiastic individuals engaging with the material, and would always give help/feedback.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

Plymouth is a great place to live and study. Everything you need for both is a short walk from your door, so maintaining a good work-life balance is easy. Make the most of it while you can: try new activities and immerse yourself in your chosen subject.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about our range of courses within the School of Biological and Marine Sciences please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other relevant alumni are currently doing, please visit the marine, earth, geography and environment interest area.