Michelle Hicks, female civil engineer, smiles at the camera in a theme park

Michelle Hicks

Michelle grew up near Portsmouth and since she was 12 has loved rollercoasters. Now she works as a Project Manager at Chessington World of Adventures Resort, creating rides and attractions for the Surrey theme park and zoo.

Female civil engineer stands next to a roller-coaster
Twisting roller-coaster
Log flume theme park ride
Female civil engineer designs theme park rides on a computer

Michelle’s favourite rollercoaster is Nemesis at Alton Towers Resort. She loves how the scenery creates near misses to make an adrenaline filled experience for those on the ride. When she was at school, Michelle went to a lecture about rollercoaster design and realised that engineering would let her design the rides she loved.


Michelle decided to study civil engineering at the University of Surrey. She worked on bridge design and railways before finding a job at a theme park and zoo. In her job at Chessington World of Adventures she manages projects from start to finish, from design, to construction and testing before opening to guests. Michelle describes her job like being a conductor of an orchestra – making sure all the parts come together for a great experience.


She has worked on water rides, animatronics and walk-through attractions with custom smells and special effects. She gets to learn something new every day. Every ride and attraction should be new and exciting, so Michelle helps develop new ways to keep the fun going. She is excited about how Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will shape theme park rides in the future.


Michelle admires John Wardley, the rollercoaster designer for Nemesis and Oblivion at Alton Towers. He has also worked on the video game Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 and was involved in designing the original attractions for Chessington. Michelle has now worked on projects redeveloping some of his creations – making her mark for future adrenaline junkies.


Her biggest engineering challenge so far was building a 50-foot tiger head over a log flume ride, Tiger Rock. The ride drops over a waterfall that is surrounded by tiger enclosures, so she had to include calculations in the design for how far tigers could jump! She finds it rewarding that she also gets to design new homes for animals as part of her work.


Michelle’s favourite thing about her job is seeing the reactions of guests who’ve experienced her creations – if they are smiling she knows that what she has designed is fun and the project has been a success!

Where to next?

Find out more about how you can turn what you love into engineering, and what a future in engineering could look like, by exploring the links below. And if you have a question or comment, get in touch, we’d be happy to help!