Cosmo Graham

BEng Civil and Railways Engineering, 2018
Graduate Rail Engineer, Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure

I'm currently employed on Network Rail's project to construct a dive-under at Werrington Junction (north of Peterborough); Morgan Sindall are the Principal Contractor.

The project will allow long, heavy freight trains from East Anglia to traverse the busy East Coast Main Line without impeding fast intercity trains linking London with Yorkshire, the North East, and Scotland. Freight trains currently have to cross the fast lines "on the flat" (that is to say, at the same grade as the fast passenger trains), and this can cause unnecessary delays in the area. Such delays will be much less frequent once the scheme's finished in early 2021!

How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham?

Since graduating from Birmingham, this has been my first proper permanent job, but I did graduate whilst working housekeeping night shifts at Wimbledon Tennis. I can assure you, working on WGSP (Werrington Grade Separation Project) is a lot less tiring and exhausting than cleaning toilets and mopping floors in the Broadcast Centre at Wimbledon.

What is the best thing about what you are doing now?

The best thing about working with Morgan Sindall is their supportive work environment and friendly working culture - you really do feel valued whatever position you hold in the company! 

What motivates you?

Every day, if ever I'm feeling de-motivated at work or a bit down, I always look back at my life and how far I've come. I was diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger's Syndrome at age 5 and socialising can sometimes still be difficult, but that didn't stop me doing well in my GCSEs and A-levels. During my 3rd year of university I was diagnosed with high-functioning ADHD as well (which gave a partial sense of closure as to why I hadn't done as well in 2nd year as I'd hoped), but I managed to achieve a 1st in my final year project and a 2:1 overall so I feel that having overcome those hurdles, nothing is impossible.

Why did you originally apply to Birmingham?

I originally applied to Birmingham while searching for an engineering degree that specialised in railways. It's always been my dream to enter the world of rail engineering. Just at the right time, I got the message that Birmingham were offering dedicated undergraduate courses in Civil & Railway Engineering - I wasted no time at all in applying after that!

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We Are (Third Width)

What are your fondest memories of the University?

Some of my fondest memories came about with CivSoc (the Civil Engineering Society) - we all had plenty of fun as a year group, and knitted some very close friendships during the 4 years of our course. I also have very fond recollections of the 3 main extra-curricular societies I joined - RockSoc, MetalSoc, and (surprisingly) the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, UBGnS. In my final performance with UBGnS - Iolanthe - I was one of the chorus of Peers (in the house of Lords) and we make our entrance in the show with a very pompous march; you can imagine my surprise and joy when that same march was played during my Graduation Ceremony!

How did you grow as a person by coming to University?

When I arrived at Birmingham, as green as the grass on The Vale, I seemed very much more stubborn than I'd consider myself to be now. I've broadened my cultural horizons, tried many new things in societies, and (somehow) gained a confidence in myself that I never really knew I had.

What did you think of the learning experience within the University?

I was given invaluable advice from my personal tutors about applying the knowledge from lectures and putting it to practicable use in the tutorials. Obviously in such a large university trying to find a window to see a lecturer can be tricky at times, but the advice they give is always worth retaining. On my particular job, I'm finding that my Geotechnical Engineering and Soil Mechanics modules, plus my Railway Infrastructure module are coming in very useful indeed for the engineering work at Werrington.

What inspired you most during your time as a student?

My friends within my course were (and still are) some of the most supportive, friendly, funny people you could ever hope to meet. They always came to my aid whenever I was stuck on an item of coursework or on a point in a handout (they can back me up with how often this occurred!), and they always inspired me to keep my nose to the grindstone no matter how tricky the task. However, my greatest inspiration was my supervisor on my individual research project - Professor Felix Schmid. He gave me some of the greatest inspiration for my research project, and to him I owe unimaginable amounts of gratitude and thanks.

Cosmo's advice

“Definitely do something outside your course, don't keep your friends exclusively within the bubble of your study group. I joined a lot of societies at university, and I can safely add that if you keep yourself busy with other societies, as well as coursework, you'll feel a lot more fulfilled and happy in the long term.”