Women in engineering: UK and the World
‘Engineering is a way of thinking to create new things’
Dr Laura Torrente Murciano, Lecturer in Chemical Engineering.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the UK has a strong tradition in 'STEM' subjects.
And, thanks to a host of new scholarships and research grants from the UK government and other bodies, advancement opportunities in the UK are better than ever!
Traditionally, STEM subjects have attracted more men than women... but student numbers are now balancing out, as more and more women enter the field.
Here, female students, researchers and academics from the University of Bath tell us what inspired them to study in the UK – and how a UK education can kickstart your career in science, technology or engineering anywhere in the world.
Engineer at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy
I studied Aerospace Engineering basically because it sounded exciting. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to design aeroplanes, but I had no idea it was going to lead me to design wind turbines and nuclear fusion power plants. I think that just goes to show that an engineering degree sets you up for a huge variety of opportunities.
I wanted a job where I could make a positive influence on the world; where my work was varied; and where I could continue to learn and discover new things. I can honestly say that my career so far has delivered all three of those things by the bucket load.
When I saw that the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) was looking for engineers, I applied for a job. After all, I thought, what better way to fight climate change than to help develop the ultimate energy source, nuclear fusion, which produces no carbon emissions, creates no long-term nuclear waste, uses an abundant fuel source and is intrinsically safe?
Working in nuclear fusion is crazy interesting and I have loads to learn. At the moment I’m involved in the European project to design the first nuclear fusion power plant, DEMO, to supply a planned 2GW of nuclear-fusion-generated electricity to the grid by 2050.
My advice to women who are considering engineering is: Don’t let the small number of women currently working in the sector bother you. I’ve only ever experienced positive discrimination and I actually quite enjoy being the odd one out, as it gives me more freedom to be myself.
MEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering
I had a teacher who was a mechanical engineer who greatly influenced my decision to study the subject at university, and it turned out to be one of the best choices of my life.
As part of my UK degree I have done a year-long placement with the car manufacturer, MG.
I would strongly recommend a year in industry to any engineering student as it helps you create links in your field and develop as an engineer.
Most of my colleagues there had been in the company since the early days of MG-Rover; as a young international engineer I felt honoured to be part of such an experienced and talented team, and the engineers there were more than happy to share their knowledge and teach the future generation. What’s more, everyone was given the same amount of responsibility, regardless of gender.
Engineering is an exciting degree that challenges you and pushes you to the limits, but it does require perseverance. Do not give up if you do not enjoy a certain module or if you struggle to achieve the grades you were aiming for. I worked together with a group of friends to overcome challenges and I kept myself motivated by planning out my day and having a good balance between studies and social activities. I would also advise getting involved at your university, keeping up-to-date with your department and attending all lectures and problem-solving sessions.
I love the diverse range of careers that are available to an engineer, from banking to space shuttle design. I have had a great experience since my arrival in the UK and I am looking forward to my future career in engineering.
MEng (Hons) Aerospace Engineering
When I was little, I loved to sit at the airport and just watch the planes taxi, take off and land. I enjoyed physics at high school and gradually steered myself towards aerospace engineering.
For me, my one-year internship at Rolls-Royce Singapore gave me insight into an aerospace business and inspired me to have a career in the aviation industry.
In the future, I hope to be a commercial pilot or go back to Rolls-Royce as an engineer.
I like how engineering is made up of systematic and logical processes. It equips our minds with problem-solving skills, making us sought after in many industries.
I would advise any young women wanting to get into engineering to pursue your interests and dreams. Do not let stereotypes or negative pressure affect you. And definitely take up an industrial placement if you have the opportunity!
PhD research student
A UK degree is recognised worldwide, and as part of that degree you get so much academic freedom and access to networking and funding opportunities within UK institutions.
I have been able to participate in various seminars, workshops, conferences and outreach activities locally and globally, which has helped me widen my horizons, gain an appreciation of research in the wider community and enhance my presentation skills.
I have recently been awarded a Schlumberger Foundation fellowship, which will support me in pursuing advanced research and pave the way for me to be a role model for young women in engineering and science. My aim is to become a Chartered Engineer and an internationally renowned leader in my field with my own research group.
I believe engineering is about finding a solution that has far-reaching benefits for society. It builds on knowledge from, but not limited to, mathematics, physics and computer science, with the opportunity to verify theories through hands-on experiments.
What excites and encourages me most is being part of an engineering community that contributes to cutting-edge technology and science.
BSc (Hons) Architecture
I studied mathematics as well as creative subjects and was interested in the practical application of design. I discovered that architecture was a diverse subject that required a range of skills, and the BSc in Architecture at the University of Bath offered engineering and construction alongside design.
Studying on the Erasmus Programme in Spain as part of my course enabled me to recognise a different approach to architecture and highlighted the importance of diversity within architectural design and engineering.
I also did a work placement, which gave me an understanding of the practical application of my degree from the design stages to final construction.
I would like to gain as much experience and knowledge as possible of the architectural and engineering professions while I complete my studies to become a qualified architect.
Dr Laura Torrente Murciano
Lecturer in Chemical Engineering
Somebody said to me once: 'Engineering is a way of thinking to create new things.'
I enjoyed science at school and saw engineering as a link between the lab and the real world, fundamental research and technology.
After finishing my degree, I started working for a global energy company, but I really wanted to carry out fundamental research. I quit my job and came to the UK to do my PhD at Bath, followed by a post-doc at Imperial College London, after which I returned to Bath in 2010 as a lecturer.
I have since started my own research group and have recently been awarded an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Early Career Fellowship to establish this internationally, and collaborate with world leaders in the area.
I feel extremely grateful to the British system for the opportunities I am enjoying. The British public and politicians here clearly understand the impact that science and technology have on our quality of life and economic position in the world.
If you feel passionate about engineering and technology, do not allow others to decide for you what you can or can’t do based on historical ideas of some professions.
It is thanks to the work and effort of many women AND men that barriers are collapsing.
Make the most of the opportunities at hand and do not put limits on yourself!
Dr Alicia Kim
Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Structures
I enjoy researching new ways to solve problems that others have not been able to answer. I also love meeting people from all over the world who are working on similar challenges and discussing new ideas with them.
Studying engineering is a gateway to many exciting possibilities.
You could work on your own, in a small team or with many others on a global scale; you could end up managing a business, working in a lab, or becoming involved in manufacturing, computers or new technology.
I studied Aeronautical Engineering and did an undergraduate degree, a PhD, and a brief post-doc, which led to my current position at Bath.
As an engineering academic in the UK, I have travelled around the world and worked with top people who are advancing state-of-the-art technology.
I have just been given a fellowship which will allow me to focus on research for the next five years.
The UK is highly regarded in the international engineering industry, which means that UK engineers are internationally employable and have lots of exciting opportunities around the world.