Driven by a desire to make a positive impact through problem solving, Eric Munro enjoys the interesting and challenging nature of engineering and its many disciplines, from robotics to computer security to embedded design. As he prepares to study for a PhD (in January 2023), we caught up with Eric, from the United States, to find out more about his forthcoming research – developing next generation miniaturised spectrometers using novel nano materials.
What makes the engineering process so rewarding is the feeling of having made a positive impact.Eric Munro
The core goal of my research is to develop a novel method to fabricate miniaturised spectrometers – devices that measure characteristics of light. It is exciting to have the opportunity to contribute toward the forefront of spectroscopic analysis, which is characterised by a demand for shrinking devices and improved resolution. Such advancements in this field will contribute to the day-to-day lives of countless people – examples of miniature spectrometer applications include: analysing food for contaminants, identifying contaminants in the air, medical assessments, and drug analysis. Novel spectrometer fabrication methods can potentially allow for improvements in the aforementioned applications, in areas such as power consumption and cost.
Studying at Cambridge's Department of Engineering will give me an amazing opportunity to contribute toward solving meaningful and challenging problems in spectroscopic analysis, alongside some of the best minds in the field. Implementing a miniature spectrometer capable of spectral reconstruction in both the visible and near- to mid-infrared spectrum will contribute toward critical areas of application such as sensors and spectral imaging.
I have always been fascinated with the intersection of electrical engineering and computational methods. My research will involve experimenting with computational methods to improve the accuracy of spectrometer measurements, as well as the fabrication and measurement approach for a novel spectrometer. Even though spectrometers are very common analysis tools, and are commonplace in lab settings, the demand exists for portable spectrometers capable of spectroscopic analysis usable in the field. Additionally, when it comes to chips with limited physical space, miniaturised spectrometers help ease design constraints. Decreasing the physical footprint of spectrometers has positive and far-reaching effects on numerous fields across the research and private sector, where spectroscopic analysis is used, to include agriculture, chemistry, marine research and material composition analysis.
I feel immensely honoured and privileged to have been awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. The Gates Cambridge community fosters an interdisciplinary and supportive environment for its scholars and I am especially eager to meet and collaborate with my peers. What makes the engineering process so rewarding is the feeling of having made a positive impact. I still remember how great it felt to create a battery voltage alert system for my high school electric vehicle team. It was this feeling of having made a difference that encouraged me to pursue engineering.
Effective teamwork is one of the core competencies of being an engineer. It is critical to be able to successfully collaborate with others and bounce ideas off your peers. Look for mentors, help others and ask questions! I would not be the person that I am today, if it was not for the multitude of people throughout my career that have taken the time to involve me in interesting projects and who have helped me to develop my professional competencies. Some of the most rewarding things I have ever done have involved teaching and mentoring others. And just as I hope to meet new mentors at Cambridge, I also want to guide others as well in whatever area and way I can.
Remember, pressure makes diamonds. The hard problems are the ones worth staying with the longest, and you should never be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone – I believe there is no such thing as wasted effort. Do not rule out aspirations or goals because they seem far-fetched in the present. Trust in yourself and the process and take consistent, measurable steps towards achieving your desired end goals.
About the Gates Cambridge class of 2022
This year’s cohort comprises 79 new scholars from 30 countries. The class comprises 41 women and 38 men. The Gates Cambridge scholarship programme is the University of Cambridge’s leading international postgraduate scholarship programme.