Case study

How Ergonomics is helping Philippa save lives

For online student Philippa Tredget, Ergonomics is about making her products just right for the end user. It’s about getting everything in the perfect place. And it’s about saving lives. Because Philippa designs tanks for the British Army.

'If you can’t reach that button …'

Philippa balanced studying for our accredited online Ergonomics MSc while working for a defence contractor. Her job involves a lot of working with the end user, the soldiers.

She explains: “I spend a lot of time wandering around inside tanks, wearing a lot of body armour and chatting with the soldiers to understand how they use the vehicle in a battle environment.

“It’s understanding that, if you’re engaging an enemy, what do you need access to? Obviously the most important things to reach are guns but are things like gas masks in immediate arm’s reach? And, where things are rarely used, for example, the volume for the radio, perhaps that can sit behind you. By studying Ergonomics, it has given me the background to understand why.

“Ergonomics is all about understanding the end user. You get a lot of engineers who are very focused on making it go fast, making it light, understanding how best to make it technically do what it needs to do. Ergonomics is making sure that the person inside the vehicle can make it do that. It can have as much technology as it likes but, until you have an ergonomist, it may not actually work for the person. If they can’t reach that button, nothing works.

"My favourite thing about Ergonomics is knowing that I can make a difference to someone’s life at the end of the day. If I make sure that vehicle is right for that soldier, I might save a life. If they can get out safely when the tank’s been hit, they can get home to their family. And that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. That’s what makes my job worthwhile.”

Philippa Tredget at her graduation reception
Online Ergonomics MSc student Philippa Tredget at her graduation

Accreditation is key

Philippa knew that our accredited masters would be her first step to help her progress on to chartership. She realised that, though she was learning a lot about ergonomics on the job, without professional recognition, she didn't have the theoretical basis to stand her arguments on.

She says: “When you’re trying to explain to an engineer, ‘I understand you’re trying to make this vehicle light but, because of X, Y and Z theory , it’s really important that you allow me to make this change so that the vehicle is usable at the end of the day.’”

That’s where our Ergonomics MSc came in. Philippa says: “I needed a degree that would allow me to progress on to chartership. I was looking to get an accredited degree course, and that’s what Derby offers. It’s a real step on the route to chartership, it’s a real step progressing my career to where I want to get to.

“I've also had the opportunity with this extra theoretical knowledge and, with the proof of my background knowledge, to move into a new role, be promoted to senior because I now have the theory to back up what I'd learned on the job.

“I think eventually I want to lead my own team. It's the next step on the ladder, but admittedly will take several years of experience to get there. But I think having this masters is a real stepping stone to that. My next step is chartership, and I can get that because I've got this masters.”

Video: Philippa at Graduation

Philippa Tredget on her favourite thing about ergonomics.

View Online Ergonomics MSc student Philippa Tredget video transcript

Changing direction

Philippa didn’t start out in Ergonomics. Her first degree was in Chemical Engineering and, once she graduated, she worked for a defence contractor on a graduate programme as a materials scientist.

She says: “I first came across ergonomics on my graduate scheme. I started on an engineering rotation scheme, so initially I was a materials engineer. My friend was doing human factors, which is the same thing as ergonomics. I’d never heard of it before, but it sounded really fun.

“Because we got to choose where you go on the graduate scheme, we did a job swap. She took my job, I took hers and I went off and worked in human factors. I loved it and never left.”

The right balance

Although Philippa found it challenging balancing a full-time job and a degree, she says: “I enjoyed that I was able to complete the course at my own pace, which meant that, when I had deadlines to meet at work, I could then catch up on my studies when I had more time available.

“I’ve really found that the tutors at Derby have been so fantastic in supporting me. Whenever there’s been an issue, they’re always there to support you. To help you understand, how do you split that workload, how do you still make your deadline, how can you catch up if you need to. They’ve been there to make sure I reach the finish line.

“I think the thing I'm proudest of is that I didn't give up. There were some hard moments, I had a lot of trouble trying to balance my workload at work and at home and trying to understand how to fit everything in. And it would have been so easy just to go 'Oh, it's too much. I can't do it.' But I didn't do that. I kept going. And I'm really proud of myself for that.”

A diagram of the human body

Our online Ergonomics course

Our online Ergonomics course is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors. It meets their high standards and gives you the opportunity to gain graduate membership.

Find out more about our online Ergonomics courseFind out more about our online Ergonomics course