Dr Bryce Dyer’s journey at BU, both as a student and a lecturer, began over 20 years ago and has since taken him climbing up mountains with amputees, winning awards for his public engagement work and helping paralympians reach their potential.
As an eight year old in the rural Essex town of Halstead, he knew he wanted to be a designer. That clear ambition led him to apply for an undergraduate course at BU but his path here was not straight-forward.
“What a lot of people won’t know is that I was originally rejected from the degree course I applied for,” Bryce says.
“A week before arrival I was actually packing to go to study in Lancashire. Purely by chance though, I was at a school friend’s house one day, trying to help him convince his parents about him going to university too. He had a copy of a newspaper that day that had a list of universities with clearing places advertised.”
Bryce realised the BSc (Hons) Product Design course he originally wanted to do had places available, so called up, got an interview and says the rest is history.
“I still have that rejection letter framed on my wall. The irony of all of this was that in 2005, I then became programme leader of the course I’d been rejected from a decade or so earlier.”
As an undergraduate student Bryce realised his full potential during his placement year, which he spent designing surfing apparel at Animal in Wareham in Dorset and then bolt-on products for Land Rover vehicles at a company in Luton. After exploring the practical applications of his course he returned for his final year more focused and more self-confident, finally graduating with a 2:1 in 1997.
Bryce got a taste for the academic life, after lecturing part-time at BU. He was sold on pursuing an academic career but felt the need to gain professional experience in industry first.
“I felt that it wasn’t right for me to ‘talk the talk’ yet until I’d at least ‘walked the walk’ so I headed into industry for a few years,” said Bryce. “The challenge when I returned to BU in 2001 was not just to have the knowledge, it was to learn how to communicate it. Believe me, that’s a harder job than it looks if you want to do it well.”
Bryce returned to BU as lecturer following four years working as a designer in industry. After 13 years of teaching he says he has never regretted it once. In 2008, while teaching, Bryce was encouraged to undertake more research and he began to work towards his PhD part-time. The choice of subject was an obvious one, as Bryce explained, “I’ve competed all over the world in various sports for years and the cultural shift at BU then provided me the perfect opportunity to bolt my profession and hobbies together. As a result, I started researching into sports technology. That decision took me up mountains, climbing with amputees, and invited across the world to speak at conferences and eventually on TV and radio.”
The research into sports prosthetics led to Bryce and his colleagues winning awards for their work and in 2013 he gave the prestigious Isambard Kingdom Brunel Award lecture at the British Science Festival in Newcastle. Just five academics a year are selected for this national award and are invited to take part in a public lecture series focusing on the fields of engineering, technology and industry, with previous winners including Professor Brian Cox and Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
Through giving public lectures and various appearances in the media, Bryce found he had a passion for public engagement - particularly bringing science and technology to school children. He has been involved in both the Festival of Learning and the Festival of Innovation & Design at BU.
“I really enjoy taking the work we do here at BU and getting it out on the road in front of a keen - or even a hostile - audience. For me, it makes me keep my work relevant and gives it impact.”
Reflecting on his long journey at BU, Bryce said, “I wanted to come back here [to teach] as there was always a buzz about our design courses and the staff were totally committed to them. I’ve seen BU grow from what was little more than a technical college when I applied in 1992 to literally doubling in size and reputation two decades later.”
“Closer to home though, I love the fact that I’m involved on our design courses which have now been going strong for over 25 years. Despite the world changing around them, they have remained relevant, popular year-on-year, and with a strong reputation nationally. For me personally, I love being associated with their history and the hundreds of graduates that have gone through our doors.”