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Breaking down barriers: National Women in Engineering Day

Published: 
20 June 2016
NWED 2016
Dr Liudi Jiang

National Women in Engineering Day (#NWED2016) is an International awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry.

We spoke to a number of Southampton academics and students and asked what inspired them to study and undertake a career in engineering.

Professor Anna Barney, Professor of Biomedical Acoustic Engineering:

“I started out as a physics student, but an interest in sound, which came first from playing musical instruments and then from sound engineering for bands, led me to make shift to engineering. Now I work on speech and biomedical sounds to try to improve diagnosis and monitoring of diseases. It’s not traditional, heavy engineering but it has the same kind of requirement for structured problem-solving and that’s the aspect I really enjoy.”

Professor Liudi Jiang, Professor of Materials and Electromechanical Systems:

“From a very early age I was interested in how things worked. At school, Physics was my favourite subject and this continued on to university where my BEng and MSc degrees were in applied physics and microelectronics engineering. I was fortunate to be offered a PhD scholarship in engineering materials at the University of Dundee. My academic career had since led me down various engineering paths, from engineering at the micro/nano scale, to engineering new technologies to interface with the human body. The multidisciplinary nature of problems and never ending challenges that can be found within engineering makes it very rewarding profession.”

Angeliki Laskari, Research Student in the Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics group:

“I initially became an engineer to study ships because they always fascinated me: how they are designed, built and also how they interact with the water. This is still true but I continued my studies further because it is a profession, especially when research-based, that satisfies my curiosity.”

Olivia Ojuroye, PhD in Smart Textiles for Wearable Technology and Industrial Applications:

“In the future I would like to craft my career around my PhD research and the skills I gained from my undergraduate degree. I feel that the smart textiles/wearable technology fields are going to increase in their international reputation, academic credibility, and commercial appeal during the next ten years and I would like to contribute to that either as an expert consultant, by forming my own business or working with or for a business that has the same work/life ethos and ambitions as me.

“In the long-term I would like to be a key influencer, contributor and disruptor in the smart textiles industry - to be a voice of the industry.”

Jessica Spurrell, Talk to US! Project Manager:

“At secondary school I remember seeing a poster and hearing the story of the person who figured out how to recycle mobile phones. People said it would be too difficult and not worth the effort but someone had figured out a way – and thanks to them the world can cope a little better with our commoditised attitude towards technology.

“‘Wouldn’t it be great to do something like that?’ I thought. To find a problem – a universal, far-reaching problem – and be the person that solves it? So I asked my A-Level Physics teacher, ‘How do I get to be that person?’ and that’s when I heard about Engineering.

“Wanting to find out exactly what this ‘Engineering’ lark was I then embarked on a Headstart Course at Imperial College London, an Women in Science and Engineering course at Bradford University and eventually studied Aerospace Engineering at Southampton with work placements at Air Products and General Electric. It turns out Engineering is quite broad so while studying I also got to work on the Anaconda wave energy converter and spend a year in Toulouse, France. Now I’m writing up a PhD in Cryogenic Engineering and Superconductivity, while working full-time on the Public Engagement Project Talk to US!. I also got to play with steam trains in North Wales and join some CERN scientists at a medieval banquet.

“My message to anyone considering working in and/or studying engineering, at any stage in their lives – and, indeed, to anyone not quite sure what they want to do next – would be this: engineering opens a lot of doors and very rarely closes any. Try things, make opportunities for yourself and talk to people – you never know where you might end up.”

Bekah Endersby, third-year Electromechanical Engineering student:

"I would love to see the gender gap in engineering shift as more girls consider maths and physics as a rewarding and exciting career prospect. After graduation I would like to promote Engineering and see applications to study it at degree increase from both genders."

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