The University of Southampton
Engineering and the EnvironmentUndergraduate study

Laura Marimon Giovannetti MEng Ship Science, 2013. Current PhD student, 2017

Fluid Structures Interaction Intern at Land Rover BAR

Laura Marimon Giovannetti's Photo

My biggest passion was sailing and when I found out that it was possible to choose Ship Science as an engineering course I decided that I wanted to come to Southampton to study the best Ship Science course in the world.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Southampton?

I have always liked maths and physics, and I was quite good at them too. My biggest passion was sailing and when I found out that it was possible to choose Ship Science as an engineering course I decided that I wanted to come to Southampton to study the best Ship Science course in the world. It was difficult at the beginning as I had to leave my friends and family in Italy, but it was completely worth it to come here to study Ship Science. The University of Southampton helped me and my sailing by providing me with a Sport Bursary since 2009.

When I was in my last year of my MEng, I decided that I wanted to continue my studies by doing a PhD. At the time I wasn’t sure about my future career as I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue an academic or an industrial career. However, I thought that entering into industry with a PhD could be valuable. The experience I have gained throughout my PhD, working alongside the design team at Land Rover BAR, helped me to understand what standards are required at the top industry level.

Why did you choose to study Ship Science?

I have been sailing competitively since 2003 and I have always balanced my studies with my passion for sports. I thought that studying Ship Science could help me understand better how to improve my performance in my boat. The course turned out to be extremely valuable, especially now that I sail NACRA 17 (that will soon be foiling). I now know how to best set up my boat to go faster!

What has been the highlight of your time at Southampton?

The best day of my life was when I received an email from the head of the Computational Fluid Dynamics group at Land Rover BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing). They contacted me to work with them to help BAR to win the America’s Cup. I was extremely overwhelmed, especially because they contacted me for the research I was conducting at the University of Southampton. The biggest thanks for this opportunity goes to my supervisors Dr Stephen Boyd and Professor Stephen Turnock; they gave me the opportunity to focus my PhD more on the sailing side.

You stayed at Southampton to study a PhD; what was your research project?

My research focused on changing the structural lamination to aero/hydrofoils to change the angle of attack passively. This research can be applied not only to high-performance sailing catamarans but also and more importantly to renewable energy wind and tidal turbine blades, aircraft wings and propeller blades.

What were your supervisors like? Did you find them supportive?

I really enjoyed working with my supervisors. They were, and still are, extremely supportive of my research and of me as a person and as a sport-woman. They have always believed in my potential and helped me throughout the three years of my PhD to achieve the best results I could. I would definitely recommend my supervisors to new PhD students in the Fluid Structure Interactions department!

How did the engineering facilities available at the University help you with your research?

I have used the Testing and Structures Research Laboratory and the R. J. Mitchell wind tunnel extensively, and I really hope to use the new towing tank soon. The facilities at the University of Southampton for engineering are excellent and we are very lucky that we can use them both as undergraduates and as PhD students. One thing that I really love about Southampton, and especially the faculty of Engineering and the Environment, is that most students get the opportunity to design and then build a real structure. When you can touch the outcome of your work, it is extremely satisfying.

Two more extremely valuable facilities that we have at the University of Southampton are the clusters, both iridis and lyceum. In the Engineering faculty we use them constantly to simulate numerically experiments that are too expensive to run in the real world.

What is your current role at Land Rover BAR?

I am an intern in the CFD team, working on the interaction between fluids and structures.

How did your course help you to prepare for your internship with Land Rover BAR?

The University of Southampton gave me the technical background I needed to be good in the engineering world. I graduated with a first class (hons) in my MEng and I believe that the most challenging courses of the undergraduate degree, but also the ones in which you learn more, are both the individual project and the group design project. The University of Southampton, and especially the Ship Science course, has always formed engineers at the top level in the marine and automotive industries.

Were you involved in any initiatives to encourage more women into engineering during your time at Southampton?

Yes, I took part in some Open Days and talked to the new generation of women in engineering who would like to come to study here. I was also involved in a Dragonfly event and in some talks of Women in Engineering internally at the university. I am also involved in a STEM project for excellence in sport through the IMechE in Salisbury at the beginning of December.

What advice would you offer to women thinking about going into engineering?

For what I could see through my course and during my PhD, the women who study engineering perform better than most of the men. We can be excellent in what we do, so my advice is to try and study an engineering degree, because we are actually very good at maths and physics! Another tip is: you should never be shy, as the more questions you ask, the more you expand your knowledge!

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