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Masters by Research: Bradley Land

Combining engineering and sport

My Masters by Research was a natural progression of my BEng Mechanical Engineering dissertation which sought to design and produce an affordable device capable of monitoring the performance of the hip joint in competitive scenarios. To hold my interest, I knew that my dissertation needed to have a sporting element and I was fortunate to have the mentorship of USW Sport’s Dr Morgan Williams, who is actively involved in the development and trialling of strength testing devices, and Engineering’s Dr Rae Gordon and Dr Colin Morgan, who were a huge support.

By the end of my dissertation, I had a testable concept design. It wasn't pretty, but it could record a patient’s hip performance from low to high intensity sprints and agility drills. And you could watch back the motions of the hip joint and measure specific performance metrics such as range of motion, velocity and force through the upper legs while sprinting. 

I was on a high, and when my supervisors encouraged me to present the work at an international sports conference in Vienna, Austria, I had proof that my design was worth pursuing even further. 

Masters by Research versus PhD

A PhD seemed the obvious choice but I was unsure about committing myself to three years, especially on the back of my BEng degree, so I opted for the one-year Masters by Research. This would allow me to spend a year researching the project, just as if it was a PhD. After the year, I could transfer to a PhD or exit with a Masters by Research qualification that would set me apart in job applications. It was an exciting win-win option.

Working remotely

While the year didn’t take the structure I was expecting because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was definitely worth the roll of the dice. Remote working scuppered my plans for human testing, but I still managed to design and test the electrical configuration of the system at home in controlled conditions, and I succeeded in developing a method of motion capture that matched that of systems priced 200 times that of my design – a huge achievement. 

Brilliant first job

Undertaking a Masters by Research turned out to be one of my best decisions to date. The experience of researching, designing and developing a marketable product led to me being offered a great job as a project engineer, developing horticultural electrical systems. My interviewers said my experience in robotics and sensory system development put me ahead of the other candidates. 

It has also given me the basis for a product that I hope to pursue in my spare time. The Masters by Research has set me off on the right foot as I head into my engineering career.