Muhammad Ali
Second year engineering science student

Muhammad was one of the first in his family to go to university. He explains why studying engineering science makes him happy.

Maths and physics have always been my strongest subjects, but I didn’t get interested in engineering until sixth form. My physics teacher ran an aeronautical society, and took us on field trips. If I had 15 spare minutes, I’d read an aviation magazine for fun.

Don’t limit yourself to the subjects you study at school. Read about different careers. Ask for advice from people who’ve done what you want to do. If something interests you, just go for it. If you enjoy your subject, you’ll excel.

Engineering is really interesting. You see how the maths you studied at school is used to solve real world problems. I started off wanting to specialize in aeronautical engineering (designing and building aircraft), but I’m keeping my options open. At the moment I’m interested in biomedical engineering, which mixes biology, medicine and engineering to find new ways to keep people healthy.

Being Muslim and coming from Tower Hamlets in London, I thought it would be difficult to start at the University of Oxford. My mum and dad didn’t go to university, but they taught my siblings and me to work hard. When I got here, I got involved with the Islamic Society and found many people from the same background. It’s much easier when you find a community.

I’ve done a lot of volunteering. My dad works with vulnerable adults and during the holidays I volunteer to help run activities. Engineering will also give me that opportunity to help people and give back.


Don’t just focus on schoolwork – do everything you can to broaden your horizons. I did things to push me out of my comfort zone, like debating and music, even though I wasn’t that good at it.


At school I did any sport
going – gymnastics, football, hockey.
I’ve always been part of my local
football club.

Muhammad Ali Image
Muhammad's Journey


Paper engineering

Time: 10 minutes

You need: A4 paper, scissors, drinking straws, paper clips, sticky tape, internet access; and a safe, open space

Activity 1. Design the ultimate paper aeroplane
  • Challenge each person to fold a paper aeroplane from one sheet of A4 paper. Race the aeroplanes to see how far they go.
  • Visit this website with an adult helper for instructions on folding a record-breaking paper aeroplane.
  • Can you use the ideas in this film to improve your own designs?
Activity 2. Keep a straw off the ground
  • Each person needs two strips of paper (10x1cm and 20x1cm), and a drinking straw.
  • Your challenge is to join the paper to the straw in a way that will keep the straw in the air for as long as possible after dropping or throwing it.
  • Test your designs by dropping or throwing them from standing height. How can you improve them?

Enjoyed This? What’s Next…

Talking points

#1 Keep dreaming

Encourage your child to dream up completely different solutions. Not all paper planes need to look like paper planes!

#2 Refine

Using an inexpensive
resource like paper means
you can build and test new
models as often as you like.
What other materials can
you use around your house?

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Paper plane doodle