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Chartered Engineer (CEng)

Olusegun M. Ilori PhD CEng MIMechE

Published: 25/07/2022

Olusegun M. Ilori PhD CEng MIMechE

Education and qualifications:
PhD in Thermal-Fluid Sciences and Engineering Modelling & Simulation, University of Leeds
MSc Mechanical Engineering (Thermal option), University of Twente (The Netherlands)
MSC Industrial and Production Engineering (Project Management), University of Ibadan (Nigeria)
BSc Mechanical Engineering, University of Ibadan (Nigeria)

Job title:
Senior Lecturer in Engineering

Birmingham City University (BCU)

What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
I liked Maths at a very young age, and I enjoy watching documentary films about great engineering inventions around the world. Also, I enjoyed Physics as a subject and would say I liked to know how things worked. I was selected to be in the Science class in my high school, where I excelled in all my subjects in the final exams. Putting these together and following the advice of our students’ advisor then, it was natural for me to choose an engineering career to realise my full potential.

Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I’m a Senior Lecturer in Engineering at Birmingham City University (BCU). I teach, facilitate students’ employability, and I conduct fundamental (to develop new theories) and applied research. Previously, I was the Lead Research Engineer at Airedale International Air conditioning Ltd., where I was responsible for leading the innovation of thermal management systems (such as precision air conditioners, chillers and heat pumps) as well as optimising the performance of existing products to feed into the product development roadmap.

Currently, I use my theoretical and practical understanding of the fundamental principles of thermal-fluid sciences (thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, energy methods), engineering simulation (including computational fluid dynamics), and commercial knowledge to teach modules that include Thermofluids, Energy Systems, Integrated Management Systems, and many more. Ensuring students’ satisfaction through innovative teaching techniques and industry-relevant course content is key for me.

I also collaborate with internal disciplines and external partners, including companies, research institutions, trade organisations and government bodies, to research new ideas in areas such as the decarbonisation of heating/cooling through efficient thermal management and energy system solutions.

Can you describe a typical working day?
I would say every day is a new day for me in the office. I work on various interesting challenges, often with conflicting priorities, that require different solutions and approaches. A typical working day will consist of reviewing scheduled activities and their associated priorities, including teaching and learning activities, student supervision, brainstorming sessions to tackle specific research needs, assessing the progress of various research projects, and keeping up with the groundbreaking research around the world.

I regularly spend time ensuring experimental setup and tests work with the research intent, interpreting test data, problem-solving using fundamental laws of engineering and design principles, researching new concepts for thermal management, attending pre-start and project meetings, and liaising with colleagues – academic, technical and professional teams, collaborators and industry partners.

Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
The need to attain high student satisfaction through innovative teaching and learning techniques comes with unique and exciting challenges. Research supervision and coordination can be challenging in their own way. Also, in research, there can be a sudden change in priorities for projects, primarily dictated by societal needs, government requirements, technological trends or environmental concerns. Often the end goal of research can be quite difficult to predict and hard to achieve, especially when there are constraints on time or budget or both. Because there is no ‘standard’ method of gauging how much resource and effort go into research, be it fundamental or applied, sometimes the outcome of a research project can be seen as ‘too little impact for the resources spent’.

What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
The freedom to use my research experience and technical ability to bring out the best in my students and also develop new solutions for thermal management and energy systems, or optimise the performance of the existing ones, is very satisfying for me. I also enjoy the need to bring multiple experts together when a novel idea is proposed and the challenges this brings.

Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I have many professional achievements in my academic and engineering career. One of my recent accomplishments is when I took the Biomedical Engineering Students to compete in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Engineering Design Challenge of 2020/21 - and became the runner-up regional (North West) champion! I used the CDIO (Conceive, Design, Implement and Operate) framework to introduce these new first-year Biomedical students to the world of practical engineering design. All team members also had the opportunity to register as Associate Members of IMechE while looking forward to becoming Chartered Engineers in the future.

While at Airedale, I led a novel heat-pump chiller project from an initial concept through the proof of concept stage to the delivery of a prototype to the development team. This project resulted in an international patent application and would evolve into a new product range following the launch, helping the company to expand its product portfolio. This also strengthened the company as a global market leader in thermal management solutions.

What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
I wanted my professional experience to be recognised, and one of the ways to do that is to become a chartered member of a prestigious professional institution such as IMechE. Professional registration is also a distinct way of demonstrating to my employer that I take my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) very seriously and potentially be rewarded for it.

In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
For me, it is a thing of honour and an outstanding achievement. Professional registration has further increased my professional and engineering profile in the eyes of colleagues and senior management, and it is also highly valued by fellow professionals in the industry. I get more acceptance for engineering proposals and technical designs from my engineering and built environment team, and I am seen as an authority in my areas of expertise. I often get contacted for exciting career opportunities from unexpected sources. I get connection requests from top professionals willing to collaborate on high-level engineering and research projects. Professional registration has connected me to other professionals and created numerous networking opportunities for me.

How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
It strongly indicates that the University supports its staff in becoming chartered and has competent and recognised experts working for them. The University also benefits from increased student confidence and satisfaction in their programs and services. The University is more competitive and has a clear advantage when bidding for high-profile research grants, potentially leading to an increase in high-impact case studies.

Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Wholeheartedly, I would say professional registration is definitely the right step in the right direction for anyone considering it. Please do not procrastinate or delay it further. Go for it now!

Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I see myself taking on more leadership and management responsibility in teaching and learning, research and innovation, and enterprise and knowledge exchange aspects of my profession. I would be managing more team members as a university academic of the highest rank or chair.

Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I mentor colleagues, research associates and students (undergraduate and postgraduate) in the University and guide them in their applications for professional registration. I ensure I support and provide appropriate guidance for professional registration.

I am an approved Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Ambassador volunteering in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. I encourage young adults to go for a career in STEM and Medicine and provide tutoring and mentoring support when it is possible to do so.

I have been participating in STEM outreach and engagement in schools and at an event centre in Bradford for nearly five years. I like watching documentary movies about science and great engineering inventions and enjoy learning new things related to the engineering profession through workshops, conferences, seminars, and training courses.

Do you identify as disabled, or as a member of a minority or under-represented group? Would you like to comment on what impact or influence you feel this has had upon your career?
Yes, as a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) person, I often stand out from the ‘crowd’ easily, which has positively impacted my career. Sometimes, I feel I am getting ‘preferential’ treatment, and this has been a powerful source of motivation, propelling me always to give my best and make unique and significant positive contributions.