Dirty hands and insatiable curiosity are career assets
Nathan Bamsey knows that problems can come from anywhere. But so can the solutions.
As a materials and processes engineer with the European Space Agency, he’s responsible for testing and failure analysis of spacecraft components – a job that sees him investigating problems with everything from satellite optics to bearings, from solar cells and printed circuit boards to valves and fasteners.
“It’s impossible to predict from one day to the next what knowledge will be needed and what previous experience will come in handy,” he says. “The best asset is an insatiable curiosity about how things work, and not just within one engineering discipline.
“The other big asset is real hands-on experience in as wide a variety of areas as possible. The connections and inspiration for ideas often comes from the most surprising areas.”
After completing his undergraduate degree in materials engineering and management in 2008, Bamsey earned a master’s degree in engineering physics in 2010.
Over the last five years working for the European Space Agency out of the Netherlands, he’s watched the successful launch of spacecraft he’s worked on and seen cutting-edge science develop.
“What I love most is that space exploration is tied to science which is rooted in discovery and ultimately adventure,” he says. “We have to find answers to build technology which allows us to explore new worlds and new knowledge, and also we need to work on technologies that will further enable this in the future.”
He urges students to seek out co-op placements, try out future careers and gain work experience.
“Get your hands dirty,” he says. “Hands-on experience will help in so many ways in your career.
“You really don’t know what connections and knowledge will guide you through your life, so absorb knowledge like a sponge, you never know when it will come in handy.”
Know a great McMaster Engineering alumnus or alumna who deserves to be in the spotlight? We’d love to hear from you. Send your nominations for our McMaster Engineering Alumni Spotlight series today.