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Jacob designing the fast-jet cockpit of the future

Former sports student Dr Jacob Greene on his journey from Coleg Llandrillo to working for defence giant BAE Systems

Dr Jacob Greene studied a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport (Performance and Excellence) at Coleg Llandrillo from 2011-2013, achieving a triple distinction. Ten years later, he works as a Senior Aerospace Human Factors Engineer for BAE systems, designing a fast-jet cockpit system that optimises human performance. We caught up with Jacob, originally from Rhos-on-Sea, to find out about his journey.

Your current role is Senior Aerospace Human Factors Engineer - what does this mean and what do you do?

I work for BAE Systems Air, a British aerospace and technology-led defence company. My role as a Senior Human Factors Engineer is to design and develop a future cockpit system for a next-generation fast-jet aircraft, to ensure optimal human performance.

Our challenge is to determine what future technologies could provide the pilot with intuitive and user-friendly methods of interacting with the cockpit human-machine interface - including physical displays, controls and software - within a complex and dynamic environment.

My specialism within the team is psychophysiological monitoring. This area of research explores how wearable technologies could be used to monitor pilot performance, by capturing physiological signals including brain wave activity, eye tracking, and cardiovascular measures.

We can then use this data to help improve cockpit design, enhance pilot training, and even to measure behaviours such as mental overload or fatigue during challenging and stressful situations during flight.

How did you get into this field of work, and what do you enjoy about the job?

Prior to joining BAE Systems, I completed my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Liverpool John Moores University. The aim of my research was to develop a novel wearable electromagnetic sensor to measure physiological markers in athletes. As part of my PhD, I had the opportunity to work alongside professional athletes, including players from Liverpool Football Club, which was always a childhood dream and aspiration of mine.

Pilot monitoring is something that is currently not used on today’s generation of fast-jet aircraft. Being able to apply my background, developing cutting-edge technology that will feed into a next-generation platform is incredibly exciting. As part of my current role, I’m fortunate enough to collaborate with world-leading experts across a vast range of engineering disciplines, including working closely with test pilots to assess technology within the cockpit environment, as well as travelling to attend conferences and engage with our international partners and customers.

Was this the career path you envisaged when you were studying at Coleg Llandrillo?

My hobbies and interests have always centred around sport. During my time in college I played football and was involved in athletics. I have always been fascinated by how you could improve human performance by using science and technology. I think I knew early on that I wanted to study sports and exercise science at university, and college provided me with the perfect gateway to achieving that goal.

I’ve personally always found it important to study a topic that I was genuinely interested in. As my education progressed, I quickly realised that scientific research and technology development was an area that I was passionate about, and I was fortunate enough to have the right opportunities and doors open at the right time.

I believe sports and exercise science provides a varied and in-depth insight into topic areas such as exercise physiology, psychology and biomechanics, and provides insight into how to use scientific research methods. All of these areas have many applications across multiple disciplines outside of just the world of sport, including healthcare, science and technology, and engineering.

What did you enjoy about your course at Coleg Llandrillo?

During my time at college, there was an amazing team of lecturers who shared their wealth of knowledge and experience.

As the supervisor and senior lecturer for our year we were fortunate enough to have Rhodri Davies, who I know remains a key figure within the sport department. I have to thank Rhodri personally for his support and playing such a vital role in helping me secure a place at university, and the rest of the department for providing such an all-round brilliant and memorable experience.

At the time, Benjamin Owen, owner of FAST Way to Fitness, provided regular lectures to our group. Ben’s prior background and experience really shed light on the world of applied sports and exercise research at the time, adding to a really informative course.

What was your work experience as a coach at Torino FC like?

In my final year of my course, the college football team was selected for an all-inclusive trip to Turin, Italy, to complete two weeks of work experience. This trip provided the unique opportunity to work abroad with professional football clubs including Torino FC, to coach their youth teams and watch their first team. Prior to the trip, the college organised Italian lessons for us all and provided coaching sessions to get us up to speed. We also played regular football against local teams, and had the opportunity to visit Juventus training facilities, and watch AC Millan play at the San Siro Stadium. This trip was unbelievable and reinforced all of our motivations to remain within the industry.

Away from sport, the course offered the opportunity to complete the RNLI Lifeguard qualification. This is something I went for at the time, and I became a lifeguard throughout my time at college and university. This qualification also enabled me to travel and work in America as a lifeguard at summer camp. College provided many opportunities away from what you may typically expect, and this has proved beneficial on numerous occasions.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking of studying at Coleg Llandrillo?

College can provide a brilliant gateway for many different career paths. I’ve often found the more you enjoy your work and the industry you’re in, the more dedicated time and effort you’re prepared to put into it. Consequently, if you keep putting yourself out there, and continue to build upon your own knowledge and experiences, then often the right opportunities present themselves.

There are still places available on Sport and Outdoor Education courses at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai. For more information including how to apply, click here.