Dr Laurie Wilkinson

EngD Thesis Title: Assessment of a nearshore modular flap-type wave energy converter

Company/Organisation: Aquamarine Power Ltd

Industrial supervisor: Dr Kenneth Doherty

Academic supervisors: Prof. Sandy Day, Dr Philipp Thies and Prof. David Ingram

Programme start: September 2012

Industrial Project start: June 2013

Educational background

I completed a BEng in Environmental Engineering from University College London (UCL) in 2010. During this I did quite a lot of physical experiments, including ones involving the use of a wave tank. I also took a module in coastal engineering, which got me academically interested in the ocean.

What were you doing prior to this programme?

I worked for two years after graduating. This included internships at the sustainability education organisation, the Centre for Alternative Technology, in Wales, and at the hydraulic engineering company, HR Wallingford, in Oxfordshire.

What attracted you to studying with IDCORE?

I knew that I wanted to get into wave energy research but I wanted to do a master’s first, to get specialised knowledge and I wanted the research to be industrially focused. Therefore, the IDCORE programme was perfect because its first year was similar to a master’s and the research projects were based at companies.

What attracted you to offshore renewables industry?/ What aspects of the industry do you find most inspiring, interesting or important for the future?

I knew that I wanted to work in an area helping to tackle climate change. The area of renewable energy was ideal because it combined my interests in engineering and natural processes. Offshore renewable energy was, and still is, a relatively young industry and so one that was still an area that needed research. The UK is also arguably the leader in this field so here was a good place to be involved in it. I have also always been quite fond of the ocean. 

I find the determination and knowledge of the people working in the industry most inspiring. 

The multidisciplinary nature of the industry is the most interesting for me. This means having a need for knowledge in all the main fields of engineering and of the science of the physical environment, such as waves, winds and currents, and biological environment, such as marine mammals. I think that it is important for the future that knowledge is shared, such as between universities and companies, so that common problems can be overcome.

Main responsibilities and challenges as a Research Engineer

My main responsibilities as a Research Engineer were conducting physical and numerical modelling of a wave energy converter. The physical modelling involved designing, setting up and running experiments, as well as the data analysis afterwards. The numerical modelling, which was validated with the physical experiments, was used to explore the range of scenarios that would become impractical to do in the wave tank.

My main challenges were acquiring and using new equipment for my physical experiments, and creating an accurate numerical model.

What was your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement was to get a motion-capture system working and produce good data in my physical experiments.

Experience with IDCORE

The taught first year period was difficult but I learnt a lot, with the modules in hydrodynamics, resource assessment and physical modelling particularly useful for my research project. I enjoyed the research phase and I am very glad that I chose my project.

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