Our lives rely on good engineering. In fact, it’s probably a mark of really good engineering that you don’t really notice it – things just work, and intuitively so. Regrettably, engineers also tend to fade into the background, their innovation, creativity and technical skills going largely unrecognised. Yesterday, we marked National Women in Engineering Day by sharing the stories of six female engineers and ScienceGrrls – we chose six because a mere 6% of engineers are female.
Jennifer’s Dad, an electronics engineer, inspired her to become an engineer as he helped her learn how things worked. She studied Anatomy at Glasgow and then Bioengineering at Strathclyde University, where she gained an understanding of how engineering principles could be applied to healthcare. Her PhD was in tissue engineering at Dundee University.
Jennifer runs a Bioengineering research laboratory at the University of Edinburgh. Bioengineering has the potential to revolutionise healthcare. Researchers are hoping to work out how to build new bones, tendons, tissue and organs. One day, these innovations could dramatically reduce the amount of time people suffer from injury or disease.
Alison studied Physics and Maths at Reading University, although at school she enjoyed biology and geography too. She has worked in a variety of different jobs, and is now a Professor at the school of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University in Birmingham.
In one of her first jobs Alison led a research team who developed advanced micro-electronics, which were used in submarines and satellites and many things in-between.
Alison really enjoyed making and mending things when she was younger. She always wanted to take things apart to discover and understand how they worked.
Collete was inspired to become an engineer after hearing Alan Turing’s thoughts on intelligent machines. At school, Collete loved Chemistry, Physics, Computing and Art. She studied Design for Learning and then Computing at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).
She is now completing a PhD in Artificial Intelligence. In this photograph she is working with a group of pupils to create “chatbots” during the Alan Turing centenary events at MMU.
Collete now works at MMU where she has programmed a conversational agent called Betty. Betty helps elderly people who have memory loss by encouraging recall of memories and storytelling.
Gabriella chose to study Chemical Engineering at university because she found that the degree gave her options upon graduation. Chemical engineering is about changing raw materials, designing processes to extract or manufacture into useful products in a safe and cost effective way.
Gabriella has work experience in chemical manufacturing and refining but now works as a well completion engineer for a large oil company. She has recently been offshore as part of her work designing the conduit which carries the oil from deep underground in a reservoir, up through the seabed, through the sea, and onto an oil platform where it is processed.
Grace is now an experienced engineer and works at Amec Foster Wheeler. She chose to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Strathclyde University because she found it was the subject she excelled in at when she was in school. She really liked taking things apart and seeing how they worked.
Grace enjoys engineering because “You meet lots of interesting people and you can get a sense of achievement, as you can look at something and think: I helped make that and it’s helped other people. It’s just a great thing to do.” If you enjoy maths and physics and are willing to learn, you have what it takes to be an Engineer.
Nicola enjoys a challenge and studied for a joint degree in electrical and mechanical engineering. Taking her lead from her step-dad, and electrical engineer, she found her way into engineering because she enjoyed maths, physics and computing at school but didn’t want to study any of these by themselves at University.
Nicola has worked in both consultancy and research and has had some time out as a volunteer in Africa. She now works as a network analyst at National Grid, exploring how the gas transmission network will need to adapt to meet future needs in the UK. She joined the company through its graduate programme, which offered a great deal of training and experience in different parts of the business.
Most engineers work as part of a team, often multidisciplinary, and for many women considering a career in engineering this is one of the most interesting aspects. Here is Nicola with her National grid team:
More great career stories
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