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The University of Southampton

Southampton celebrates academic diversity for ‘This is Engineering’ Day

Published: 6 November 2019
This is Engineering Day
Professor Liudi Jiang is a leading expert in engineering materials and electromechanical systems.

The University of Southampton is challenging the public stereotypes of engineers as a supporting partner of ‘This is Engineering’ Day.

The Russell Group University has joined forces with the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) for the national celebration, which aims to change the public perception of engineers by showing a different – and more representative – image of the profession in the 21st Century.

The day has been created as part of the ‘This is Engineering’ campaign that is addressing a significant skills and diversity shortfall hampering the profession.

One of the major barriers to young people aspiring to be engineers is deeply rooted cultural perceptions of engineering as narrow, mechanical, too technical, and dull: a perception that’s sometimes reinforced online. Representative images results for ‘engineers’ from online search engines can offer a very narrow view, one that supports stereotypical ideas that engineering only happens in hard hats, on construction sites.

Today, universities and companies across the UK that depend on engineering and the ingenuity of engineers, are challenging this narrow stereotype of the engineer.

Southampton’s School of Engineering is promoting the journey of Professor Liudi Jiang, a leading expert in engineering materials and electromechanical systems.

Liudi heads a research group of nine PhD students and three postdoctoral fellows, who apply multidisciplinary engineering expertise across biomedical sensors and actuators, advanced functional materials, micro/nano-devices and intelligent systems to address some of the most challenging unmet needs in, for example, prosthetics and orthotics, smart body interfaces, mobility biomechanics as well as adaptive and tuneable systems.

Supported by a wide-ranging research funding portfolio, she has established strong collaborations with clinicians, patients and world-leading industries to successfully translate cutting-edge scientific and technological innovations into real-world impact.

Liudi is a co-investigator and engineering lead in a recent £11m National Centre for Doctoral Training in Prosthetics and Orthotics, improving the development of health-related assistive devices that will be needed by more than two billion people worldwide by 2030.

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CEO, Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “Engineering and technology play an incredible role in shaping the world around us and in addressing some of society’s biggest challenges, from providing a sustainable supply of food, water and clean energy, to advancing healthcare, and keeping us safe and secure. We know that young people increasingly want to tackle these issues and make a difference in the world, but unfortunately the lack of understanding around engineering is stopping them from exploring careers that will enable them to do this.

“This matters because we face an estimated shortfall of up to 59,000 engineers each year in the UK, and there is a pressing need to diversify our engineering workforce since only 12% of professional engineers are female and 9% are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. That’s why we’ve made 6 November ‘This is Engineering’ Day, to raise awareness of what engineers really do and celebrate those that are shaping the world we live in.”

The University of Southampton has signed the ‘This is Engineering’ pledge to reflect the breadth and diversity of engineering by making more representative images of engineers and engineering more visible to the public.

Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, Dean of Faculty Engineering and Physical Sciences, said: “We are delighted to join other universities and organisations in signing this pledge which firmly commits us to clearly reflect the breadth and diversity of our profession. Engineering is an exciting, varied and rewarding career, and yet the UK has a shortage of young people applying for engineering courses and engineering jobs.

“One of the prime reasons for this shortage is that many people hold outdated views of what engineering is and we will work hard to change that public perception by showing a different and more representative image of the engineering in the 21st Century.”

For more information on the campaign, and to show your support visit and follow @ThisIsEngineering on Instagram.


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