SMEATON MEDAL WINNERS
The second series of Smeaton Medals was commissioned by the Society in 1999 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the commissioning of Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse in 1759. The second series was intended to recognise achievement by young (student/research) engineers at universities around the UK not routinely in the public eye. The first five medals of the current series were awarded to students at the University of Plymouth (recognising the connection with Smeaton and the Eddystone Lighthouse). Three medals were awarded to students of the University of Hull. The ninth, tenth and eleventh medals were awarded to students at Heriot-Watt University. For the award of the second series of medals, the Society invited the engineering faculty in the selected university to nominate an outstanding final year student or researcher to receive the award. The process was completed in time for the award to be announced at the degree ceremony at which the winner of the medal received her/his degree. The second series of medals concluded in 2020.
Chloe graduated in 2020 from Heriot Watt University (School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society) with a First Class Honours MEng degree in Civil Engineering. In addition to her top-class degree, Chloe also collected an unprecedented number of awards in recognition of her academic excellence across several disciplines of civil engineering:
• The Watt Club Medal (awarded for exceptional merit and distinction)
• The Institution of Civil Engineers Prize (awarded to best performing Civil Engineering student)
• The Scottish Geotechnical Group Student Prize (awarded to the top student in Geotechnical Engineering)
• The J A Hood Civil Engineering Prize (awarded to the top three students in Structural Engineering)
Chloe has exhibited great passion and enthusiasm for her studies throughout her time at university. She is an excellent problem solver of outstanding capability. She has a warm and friendly nature and was a popular member of her class amongst fellow students. Unsurprisingly, she is an excellent team player and assumed leadership roles in many of the group exercises during the degree.
During her final year Chloe was involved with the student Civil Engineering Society and held the role of Heriot Watt Union representative. As a committee member she would meet regularly with fellow committee members and would link with the ICE student representatives to disseminate information from ICE Graduates and Students meetings to the HWU Civil Engineering society members.
In her final year of study, Chloe acted as a mentor to a Year 1 student as part of the peer to peer programme mentoring scheme set up in the School. Through her committee role, Chloe was active in organising several events including a charity bingo night where money was raised for the Scottish Association for Mental Health, and a summer placement networking event where 5th year students met with lower years to discuss experiences with applying and working for various companies. She was also involved in the planning of the 2020 Graduate Ball which unfortunately had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
Chloe was awarded an ICE Into Civil Engineering Scholarship in June 2015 before starting first year at Heriot Watt. As part of the scholarship she became a STEM ambassador in 2017 and has volunteered at several events in the Scottish region. These include the Midlothian Science Festival, the Edinburgh Science Festival and at various ICE Bridges to Schools events. Her participation involved setting up and running festival stalls, and leading activities to engage youngsters to encourage them to study STEM subjects. She is rightly passionate about promoting engineering and science to people of all ages and backgrounds and she found her participation in these events to be very rewarding.
In her 3rd year, Chloe was nominated for the 2018 ‘Women in Property’ Student Awards and went on to become the regional winner for Central Scotland. In addition to the valuable experience gained through competing in the event, Chloe was also introduced to the work of the Central Scotland Committee. She maintains a link with the committee and through this she has been involved in mentoring future candidates.
Her Major Project Dissertation was linked to a research project being run by Professor Gabi Medero on landslides in vulnerable communities in Medellin in Colombia.
Due to several logistical and financial constraints in these communities, it wasn’t possible for a traditional retaining wall to be constructed. Chloe proposed a feasible and sustainable alternative retaining wall solution to be used in informal (slum) communities. She took her work very seriously and clearly wanted to help make a difference to peoples’ lives by developing a tailored retaining wall design for the informal settlement in Medellin.
When the team from Medellin came to Edinburgh, she engaged with them and showed how much she cared about helping to improve people’s quality of life, and very importantly reducing the risk of a landslide. Her solution was a vegetative bamboo crib wall. She developed an Excel spreadsheet which allowed the analysis of 2 wall configurations in 48 different scenarios, taking account of variable surcharge loads and the intense rainfall which is experienced in Medellin. The final design performed well, and her analysis concluded that the wall could be a suitable and successful method of slope stabilisation.
Outwith university Chloe enjoys weight training and yoga and is passionate about the benefits daily movement can have on all aspects of life. At Heriot Watt she took up Powerlifting, training as a new hobby, training 3-4 times a week. She says it is a great way to balance her studies and unwind after a long day.
Melanie graduated in summer 2019 with a Masters with Distinction in Architectural Engineering, a fitting celebration rounding off a uniquely successful five years at Heriot Watt University. Melanie’s success is not limited to curricular achievement: she has been prominent across the academic, social and sporting communities of the university, leading a student engineering team representing the UK in international competition; contributing weekly to the essential community-building activities of our multicultural university chaplaincy; selected as the only undergraduate student to speak at our first global AGM; and playing at home and abroad as vice-president of the university’s football club and captain of the 1st women’s team.
As an engineer, Melanie brings this varied skillset to bear by excelling in tackling complex problems with ingenuity and good humour. She instigated and led a mixed team of five students from a variety of engineering disciplines, ‘Skoon Maji’ (‘Clean Water’) in 2017, successfully steering this team through gruelling preliminary rounds and selection criteria in the Royal Academy of Engineering/National Academy of Engineering Global Grand Challenges Summit. Under her leadership, the team were selected from an original pool of >50 to represent the UK at the final of the Global Grand Challenges for Engineering Summit in Washington DC, where Melanie proved an excellent ambassador, both for the university and for UK engineering. The team’s innovation was to propose a Solar-powered, logistically-integrated solution using ceramic and activated carbon to provide potable water to remote communities in Tanzania: a country Melanie had visited the previous year, and the experience of which, had a profound effect on her.
On return from the US, Melanie embarked on a related self-directed thesis project, looking at the thermal performance of indigenous building materials in domestic architecture in Nigeria, using sophisticated CAD simulation software to model the impact of design decisions on internal comfort conditions. This excellent work was supported by IES (Integrated Environmental Systems) Ltd, a Scottish SME, who initially employed Melanie as an intern after competitive interview, and later retained her services in consultancy.
Keen to further develop the themes arising from her thesis, Melanie took the initiative to develop a collaborative bid, and secured competitive funding from the ETP (Energy Technology Partnership) for a research project investigating the calibration of simulation models in thermal performance and energy use. This successful £9,000 project was selected to be showcased at the ETP Annual conference and Melanie’s report was published by both ETP and IES on their respective websites: the work was of excellent, postgraduate-research-level quality. She also presented her experience to the university’s inaugural AGM, to great acclaim.
Melanie’s start to higher education was not so smooth. In her first year at university, Melanie was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a low vision condition that doesn’t allow her to see the blackboard in lectures, read normal size print, or recognise the faces of friends and colleagues at a distance. Her determination to succeed, resourcefulness and her continued pursuit of excellence has ensured that the significant challenges of her visual disabilities have been rendered of secondary importance in a blossoming career.
Melanie’s citation cannot be complete without recognising the work she has done in building and supporting the wider community at University. As Vice-President of the Football Club, she has frequently represented the University, and her skills ensured she was selected by Santander for a sports scholarship in Barcelona in her final year. Throughout her studies, Melanie has been a core part of the University Chaplaincy team: she lives on-campus, volunteering in providing weekly meals and activities for international students, and engaging with the wider student community across disciplines and stages of study, in interpersonal and community support. She has been a valued Teaching Assistant in her final year, supporting younger engineering students in developing their studies.
It is these warm, human qualities, combined with academic excellence and rigour, and an international outlook that saw her - as an undergraduate - successfully tackle intractable Global Challenges on a world stage. Her ability to synthesise real-world problems with her undoubted engineering skills, and her initiative in then engendering collaborations to drive these insights forward, is extraordinary and commendable. Engineering is in need of people with her warmth, global outlook and creativity to meet the considerable challenges of the human condition in a modern world.
Previous Second Series Winners
2018 - Grzegorz Marecki
2017 - Christina (Tina) Irvine
2016 - Jazmin Hafeez
2015 - Brian Houston
2014 - Adam Stephenson
2013 - Michael Buckingham
2012 - Adam Stables
2011- Andrew Oliver
2010 - Samuel Nichols
2009 - Graham Knott