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Andy McNamara

Age: 39, Research Fellow, City University and Geotechnical Engineer, Skanska UK Building

Route to the job
As you can see I have two jobs. I joined the construction industry as a 16-year-old school leaver 1980, initially working as a draughtsman with Pell Frischmann and Partners. Having gained an ONC and HNC on the way, in 1990 I moved into contracting by joining Trollope & Colls, now Skanska. I was encouraged to study for a BEng in civil engineering on day release, but the big turning point in my career came when we were awarded the contract to construct the deep basement at Knightsbridge Crown Court. Fascinated by the complexities of this project, I decided to do an MSc in geotechnical engineering. Having met the research group at City there was no turning back and I found that I had to stay for a PhD! I find research stimulating and rewarding, but believe that it is advantageous to have close links with industry and work for Skanska one day a week.

Typical day
A typical day doesn't exist. The only common activity is a train ride at each end. At City, my research is related to the geotechnical centrifuge, either carrying out my own work or now more often helping others. I spend a lot of time talking to industry colleagues trying to maximise industry input to research and undergraduate teaching activities. During term, I offer a practical perspective in student design projects and oversee geotechnical laboratory experiments. At Skanska, most of my time is spent dealing with the design development issues of constructing the 50m-deep, 8.5m-diameter CrossRail draught relief shaft at the Moorhouse development.

Highs and lows
I enjoy the opportunity to meet and work with leading geotechnical engineers both in academia and practice. A recent high at City was getting EPSRC funding for my first grant application and at Skanska nothing beats coming up with a job-winning solution. The main low is the amount of time it takes to get a research project going.

To develop my research and industry careers and make a positive contribution to geotechnical engineering practice.

You must be persistent. Most people think that you can't combine careers in research and industry. You can, you just have to make sure that you offer opportunities for both parties and I believe it will become an increasing trend.