Colin Dick

Favourite Thing: Inventing



Webster’s High School (Scotland) 2000-06, University of Glasgow 2006-12


MEng Aeronautical Engineering

Work History:

Thales Optronics (Glasgow), Lotus F1 Team (Oxfordshire)

Current Job:

CFD Aerodynamicist


Lotus F1 Team

Me and my work

I try to find the best shapes for the wings so that the F1 car goes faster around the track.

My job is to work as part of a big team to help design the fastest Formula 1 car.

You probably know a few famous racing drivers – Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel… but did you know that there are around 500 people in a Formula 1 team!? Well, I’m one of the 500 that works for Lotus. I don’t get to stand on the podium or get on the TV, but I still get a little buzz when we win a race.

I use science to find the best shapes for the wings that are on the back of the car (some people call them ‘spoilers’) which provide downforce (it’s like the lift on an aeroplane, except upside down) which pushes the wheels into the tarmac and gives the car more grip when it goes around a corner. This type of science is called Aerodynamics.

Can you spot the wing on the back of the car?

And sometimes the drivers accidentally bash them off!

My Typical Day

1) Draw some new shapes -> 2) run an experiment and measure the downforce -> 3) try to work out which one is the best

Every day I draw new wing shapes to see if we can improve the existing design. These are drawn using a special type of computer program. We then use big, expensive machines to turn the drawings into real wings for the car.

However, we’re not allowed to test the new wings on a real car because somebody decided it was too expensive to drive the car every day because you need lots of tyres and petrol. So, we had to come up with an experiment…

The new wings are tested in a big machine called a wind tunnel, which is just a big tube with a fan at one end which blows air along it. The wind tunnel is so big that we can fit the car in the middle of it and, when we switch the fan on, the air flows across the car. This is really clever because it means that we don’t have to move the car (no tyres or petrol!) but we can still see how the air flows around it. On the racing track, it is the other way round because the car is moving and the air is still – but the interaction between the car and the air is the same!

This is how the Red Bull team do their tests. Can you see the way the air flows around the car?


When the car is in the wind tunnel, we measure the forces to decide if the new wings will give the car more downforce and, as a result, more grip. If the answer is yes, then the drivers are given the new wing for the next race. If the answer is no, then I come back the next day and try again!

There’s loads of info on YouTube. Don’t worry if it’s too complicated, the engineers and scientists take years trying to work out how this stuff works: – What is downforce? – Wind tunnel Tour – Lotus F1 Factory Tour

What I'd do with the money

I think this is a worthy cause –

Scientific research is the only way we can solve a problem like alzheimer’s. Hopefully this donation would have the double benefit of furthering scientific knowledge whilst also helping those in need.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Outgoing. Motivated. Team-player.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Biffy Clyro

What's your favourite food?

Fajitas (extra spicy)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Downhill mountain biking… or maybe music festivals!

What did you want to be after you left school?

Football Player

Were you ever in trouble in at school?


What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Going to F1 races

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

School teachers

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Sports coach

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

A lifetime supply of milky buttons; a huge castle; and someone to iron my shirts!

Tell us a joke.

I told a chemistry joke today. There was no reaction…

Other stuff

Work photos:

Here’s some fun videos that might give you a feel for aerodynamics:

This is our office. It’s quite new and it’s in a conservation area, so we need to be kind to the flora and fauna around us!


The wing shapes are drawn in this office.