March 14, 2012

How Did I Get Here – Story of an International EngD Student

Guest post from Courtney Thornberry, one of our latest recruits to the International EngD - and she really is international, hailing from the USA!

At Kenilworth Castle Family Portrait Marathon Runner

When I landed at Birmingham airport in August of 2011 for the Sustainability for Niche Applications and High Performance Transport (SNAPT) Summer School, I knew very little about the University of Warwick and WMG. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time in Indiana at IUPUI (Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis) to get the opportunity to attend. As a girl growing up in rural Indiana and Michigan, my knowledge about the UK in general was limited to the pop culture I had grown up on - Monty Python, Spinal Tap and The Beatles. I was very excited to travel, meet people, expand my knowledge of British culture and have new experiences.

Over the course of the week I came to learn a great deal, not only with the subject material of the summer school, but also about the people at WMG. Over dinner one evening, I had a chat with Dr Steve Maggs and Dr Nick Mallinson about the new International Engineering Doctorate programme at WMG. I had actually given Steve a tour of the fuel cell labs I was working in at IUPUI for my Master’s degree earlier in February 2011. I had completed my Master’s in Engineering Technology, focusing on fuel cell electrode fabrication, and I was considering either entering the work force, or going on for a doctorate degree, while I was doing some part time work at IUPUI. My advisors at IUPUI, among others, were encouraging me to go forward for a doctorate degree, but I had not yet found a programme I was completely interested in. I was not particularly interested in the structure of a typical PhD but the structure of the EngD was something completely different.

When I returned back to the States, I did more research on the programme and started communication with Nick, Dr Kerry Kirwan and Steve. I applied formally, after discussing a research topic with Steve and Dr Jay Bal via what was a very early morning Skype conversation for me. There was not enough time for me to start in October 2011, so it was decided that I would start in January 2012. I had to get accepted, which was facilitated a great deal by Kerry, and then I had to work on getting a student visa. I finally got my visa around the beginning of November 2011, and was able to purchase a plane ticket.

Moving anywhere is always an ordeal, but relocating to another country is huge. I had to essentially get rid of everything I owned, including my car and my motorcycle. I found a place to live through Warwick Accommodations, in Kenilworth. After much packing and saying goodbye to friends and family, I landed again in Birmingham on a Thursday afternoon a few days after New Year’s. I was greeted by Steve and Nick, who helped me get to my flat and settled in. I could not have got everything straightened out without help from Steve, Nick, Kerry, Dr Stuart Coles, Ruth Cherrington, Nikki-Ann Wensley, Thomas Blenkinsopp and many others. Everyone has been so nice and helpful, which has made this transition go very smoothly for me.

I’ve been exploring several areas of interest with regards to my EngD topic, which is looking at aspects of PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) and how those aspects can be beneficial to SMEs (Small to Medium-sized Enterprises). I’ve so far been doing this by working with the Warwick Racing Formula Student team to understand their working dynamics, researching types of collaboration, such as open source hardware design, and trying to fit in a sustainability theme as well. I took my first MSc module at the end of January on Collaborative Product Development. I’ve also starting working with some other EngD students on a couple of group projects that are required. We’ve come up with some good ideas so far, but are still in the early stages of project development. 

I’ve now been here for two months. I have had a myriad of cultural, social, and professional experiences, including: hanging out at the pub in Kenilworth; going out with the Formula Student team; meeting with my sponsor company, PTC; getting a French roommate in my flat; getting on the wrong bus; and coming down with Tonsillitis. I’ve also enjoyed running with people at WMG and other international students that are my neighbours. I’ve signed up for two 10k races this spring and I am looking forward to more races in the future, hopefully running a few marathons in my time here. I am very happy to be a part of WMG and I am looking forward to being an EngD student here for the next four years!

You can follow Courtney on her EngD journey via her personal blog

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Malibongwe

    Hi Courtney, I’m a graduate engineer in South Africa, I have a BSc.Eng in Chemical Engineering and a MSc.Eng in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cape Town. I’m interested in doing an EngD at a UK university, any advise on how to go about applying for the programme since I’m an international student and I’ve already figured out that some universities only consider uk and EU candidates for the programme.

    16 Apr 2012, 00:54

  2. Hannah Reese

    Hi Maligbongwe, I’ve just picked up your message. Do please contact our EngD team on and they should be able to answer any questions you have.

    Best regards,


    10 May 2012, 12:39

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