Mastering mechanics


ANTHONY REYNOLDS, who is from a farming background, is doing research at the Department of mechanical engineering at UCG, on a career break from his job as project engineer at ESB International.

Over the coming months he will concentrate on getting his Ph D in "computer modelling and simulation of process plants" under way, as well as doing some part-time lecturing. Before returning to the world of academia he was assistant project manager in the Ardnacrusha refurbishment project.

"It's different every day, you're constantly changing, it's very challenging and very rewarding," he says about his job as project engineer. The world of mechanical engineering has allowed him to move easily from a variety of industrial projects to research and teaching.

He is delighted that he chose mechanical engineering as his area of study in UCG. "It is such a broad area, it is something where you have plenty of scope, you can go into so many areas," An aspect of his job with the ESB, which he values highly, was its series of on-going training courses. He was also supported and encouraged by the ESB when he studied for a diploma in management for engineers at TCD.

His background provides some clues as to what reasons prompted him to study mechanical engineering at third level. He grew up in Corballa, near Ballina, Co Mayo. "We have a farm at home and there's a lot of machinery. I was always interested in machinery - engines, tractors, cars.

Reynolds went to school at St Muradach's College in Ballina. After completing his Leaving Cert there, he went to work on building sites in England for a year. Later he spent some months in the US "mainly touring around". When he came back he believes he was "more focused and ready for college. He had also saved a lot of money to support himself.

Working in England also influenced his decision to study. "I saw that the guy in the office had an easier job than those who were working out on the site."

He chose carefully. The course at UCG was, he says, "a very well-taught course. Galway is a very good place (to study), it's small, you mix with people from other faculties."

An important aspect of the course at UCG is the work experience which students are expected to acquire. Part of Reynolds's industrial placement consisted of working in the US with a company based in Pennsylvania which is involved in the production of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. This experience of working in industry "gives you an idea about work", he says. He also worked at plants in Ireland.

After studying steadily each year, he graduated with a first class honours degree in mechanical engineering in 1991. Over the next 18 months, he completed a Masters' in engineering science, sponsored by the ESB. His thesis was about the development of a computer system to enhance power plant operation. To prepare for this he was in close contact with Money Point power plant in Co Clare.

"I enjoyed it very much," he says. Although he had exams to do as well as completing his thesis, the period of time he says "made the transfer (from study to work) that bit easier, it was like a transition year."

After completing his Masters', he got a job with the ESB as a graduate engineer, after which he was seconded to ESB International, the consultancy wing of the ESB. Here he worked as mechanical engineer with the Poolbeg team. He worked at Money Point Power Plant for a year as a planning and development engineer.

As part of his work he was sent on loan for six months to Foster Wheeler Energy Corporation in New Jersey to study the workings of new technologies with a view to developing similar systems in Ireland.

"The mechanical engineering degree is very broad and very wide," he repeats, explaining that students can move from composite materials towards thermo dynamics or the aeronautical area, or the environmental area to modelling and simulation.