Danielius Samsonas

Super student - Danielius Samsonas

Winner of the 2012 Sir William Siemens Medal, Danielius has just completed the second year of his mechanical engineering degree year at the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus and is currently on a 13-month placement at Siemens healthcare division.

Danielius Samsonas, 22, was named the overall winner in the prestigious 2012 Sir William Siemens Medal, which recognises the most outstanding engineering students in their year. Judges of the award were impressed by his project on graphene and nuclear fusion, and his prize included a medal and an internship with Siemens.

The University of Nottingham student has just completed the second year of his mechanical engineering degree year at the institution’s Malaysia campus as part of its student exchange programme and is currently on his 13-month placement at Siemens healthcare division. Here he talks to the IET about fusion, his passion for motorbikes and studying in Malaysia.

What first prompted your interest in engineering?

My fascination with motorcycles was one of the many catalysts that sparked my infatuation with mechanical engineering. It started when I was 12-years-old and bought my first scooter, which was actually broken. After having spent about a week studying how its engine worked, I repaired it. Since then, I’ve always been propelled by thinking about how I can make something work better and more efficiently.

I realised that technological improvements can help facilitate the lifestyles of many people, while also making a contribution to preserving the environment, and this is something I intend to pursue.

After high school I didn’t study mechanical engineering straight away though, and did one year of a BSc in physics of modern technologies and management at Vilnius University in Lithuania, where I am from.

What are you doing on your placement at Siemens?

Currently I’m working in the research and development department of Siemens Magnet Technology. I’m working on interesting projects, including the development of future generation MRI scanners. I’m surrounded by very talented, interesting and helpful people that are making the placement extremely enjoyable. It’s not only an invaluable experience but also a great foundation for my future career.

Can you tell us about your Sir William Siemens Medal application?

The main task in the competition was to answer the question: what's the most important technology breakthrough of the last decade and what will be the most important one of the next decade? I tried to look at this not only from an engineer’s but also from a physicist’s point of view. I gave an answer from a broad perspective and tried to talk about technologies that have already caused or will cause fundamental changes in as many technological fields as possible.

Graphene is a material 200 times stronger than steel and at the same time is extremely light and even greatly excels carbon fibre. It is also very interesting that it produces current when struck by light of almost any wavelength so it will be used to develop even more efficient solar panels. On top of all that, in 2010 IBM created a graphene transistor, which is much faster and promises far more powerful computers in the near future.

[As for nuclear fusion], it is very safe, produces minimal radioactive waste and has no carbon dioxide emission. So basically, it will provide us with safe and limitless source of energy.

How did you find studying at the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus?

It was one of the best years in my life so far. From an academic point of view, it gave me an opportunity to see my subject from a different perspective and I got to work with extremely diverse groups of students on projects.

I met lots of interesting people from all over the world, especially Asia. Only about half of students on this campus are Malaysians. While I can’t impress anyone with my Malaysian language skills after this year, I’ve improved my Russian since there are quite a lot of Kazakh and other Russian-speaking students. The experience also changed my understanding of global problems. Malaysia was a great place to visit with some beautiful landmarks and I plan to go back there.

How do you like to relax?

I have a huge passion for motorcycles. Over the years I had more than ten different bikes. My best friend and I have also already built a couple of custom choppers, which attracted quite a lot of attention and turned into lucrative projects when we sold them.

I love windsurfing and joined the windsurfing society at the University of Nottingham. It is one of the best ways to clear your mind -- there is simply no time to think about things when you are fighting the wind. I also love music and have been playing clarinet for seven years and guitar for about five years.

What are your ambitions?

For now I want to get as much experience and contacts as I can from my placement. I have quite big ambitions but I never plan the future, I just set milestones for myself.

I find that planning your life too much can actually stop you from taking chances when opportunities present themselves. I prefer to be adaptable to when these opportunities do arise. I’m simply trying to get as much as I can from every day, invest in myself through hard work and get involved into as many activities as I can.

I am sure that this will lead me to where I am meant to be and where I hope my ideas and work will have a big impact on technological improvement.

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