Nathan Turner, Gas Turbine Performance Engineer

Nathan Turner works at Rolls-Royce plc in Derby. He works as a Performance Engineer and his work involves using Maths and Physics to help understand and analyse jet engines.

Name: Nathan Turner

Job Title: Gas Turbine Performance Engineer

Organisation: Rolls-Royce plc

Degree: MMath Mathematics, University of Oxford
A Levels: Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology


What did you want to do as a career when you were younger?

I’ve always been really interested in nature, space and engineering (and how it all works!) I pursued a degree in mathematics to keep my options open. But it has been my interest in engineering that has led the way and I have ended up designing jet engines.


What did you enjoy about Mathematics at school?

I have always found maths very satisfying to do on its own, but it’s the application of maths to understand the mechanics and principles of a problem that I really enjoy. Designing or optimising a product is all about making the best use of the data and information you have around you, and maths is a great tool to help.


What is your background in Mathematics?

Maths and Physics were my favourite subjects at school and continued to be during university. Being a strong mathematician has certainly helped me since I was young, but the desire to keep learning it comes from its applications. Since I realised maths could be used to describe everything from space to biology, I have only become more interested to learn and use more.


What is your education and job history?

I studied for my GCSEs and A Levels in my home town of Peterborough. I was fortunate enough (and worked very hard!) to get a place at the University of Oxford to study maths. I massively enjoyed my time at university and got involved in lots of extra curricular activities, from sports to organising the college ball. One Easter break I got some business experience working for a start-up company in London, who were designing a web-based payment platform. After that, I worked at Rolls-Royce for two summer breaks, gaining experience in the Supply Chain (Logistics & Planning) department. Since then I have joined Rolls-Royce full-time on their Graduate Development Scheme as an engineer. After rotating around a number of roles (a massive advantage of the Rolls-Royce development schemes), I have settled into my role as a performance engineer; mainly producing and analysing data to help understand and design the systems that make up a jet engine.


How does your Mathematics background help you in day to day aspects of your job?

My job is very analytical and requires a fundamental ability to understand and question new concepts very quickly. I feel that training as a mathematician has given me a great foundation to build upon in this sense. I also use some of the thermodynamics, mechanics and statistics that I learned in school and at university in my day to day job.


Has your perception of Mathematics changed in moving from an education atmosphere to the world of work?

In the context of my day to day work, absolutely my perception has changed. The maths I studied now gives me a very firm basis from which I can build more knowledge, as opposed to using the specific equations and techniques every day. One thing that studying maths did not teach me was the compromises that we often face when designing something – having to consider cost, weight, risk and capability before going for the ‘optimum theoretical’ solution.


What are some of your hobbies in your spare time?

Outside of work, I like to play football, squash, badminton, tennis and snooker. I am also very keen follower of Formula 1, often reading about the technical and political developments within the sport, as well as watching all the races throughout the season. Something else I enjoy is maths tutoring; both in person and answering questions of budding mathematicians posted in on-line forums.