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When we think about famous female engineers, we think about many women in science who changed the world as we know it. […]

June 23, 2021

When we think about famous female engineers, we think about many women in science who changed the world as we know it. Incredible engineers such as Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell paved the path for other women in STEM focused careers regardless of gender, stereotypes, and the ‘traditional’ expectations for what an engineer must look like.

With only 12% of engineering professionals* in Northern Ireland being women, the North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (NWCAM) are incredibly fortunate to work alongside some of the most impressive female engineers. International Women in Engineering Day 2021 gave us a great opportunity to catch up with some of them.

These women are delivering break-through innovations for our industrially led research, who step up to the plate, who dare to be part of the solution and want to pave the way for the next generation women and girls. They are our #EngineeringHeroes!

Tell us your name, where you work and the area you are working in.

Dr Elena Mancuso, Lecturer in Biomaterials, Ulster University – School of engineering 

Area of research is Biomaterials and biomanufacturing technologies for biomedical applications. 

Iliyana Samardzhieva, University of Glasgow studying for a PhD in Biomedical engineering.

Foram Dave, IT Sligo also studying a PhD, investigating laser transmission welding of semicrystalline polymer and its composites with a focus on Industry 4.0.

How or why did you choose engineering as a career path/area of study?

EM: I must admit that no one in my family has an engineering background, more engineering approach to life. My dad always taught me how to be creative and constructive. He let me do things and jobs considered not “ideal” for girls (of course in the common belief of a small town in the south of Italy). As a child, I always enjoyed finding out how things worked, fixing broken toys, and assembling new ones. Hence, I believe the way I grew up played a pivotal role when it came to choosing my study options. 

FD: I believe that engineering is a broad field that provides exciting career paths with creative ideas. After my masters, I worked as a senior engineer in Robert Bosch engineering and Business Solutions in the automotive electronics department. The curiosity for further studies was always there. I was looking for a PhD project which is associated along with the industry. I came across this position with NWCAM having Abbott Diagnostics as an industry partner and IT Sligo as the academic partners. I was happy to be selected as it would help me to solve a real-world problem.

What inspires you about engineering?

IS: Engineering is a broad field with many different areas of focus. It simply means that engineering sciences can influence and can be influenced by any other discipline and contribute to the development of revolutionary and sometimes life-saving concepts such as artificial organs, surgical robots, bionics, biomedical sensors, etc. It may well one day even make possible living on Mars. It is inspiring to be part of the driving force of technological development.

EM: Curiosity is something that has kept me going since I was a child. As a researcher, I have always been interested in new engineering technologies, and the possibility to apply them for future development revealed the key in my career so far. I am conscious that the best is yet to come. Although, working on multidisciplinary projects and with different stakeholders to find ideas for next generation treatments to allow people to live a healthier and happier life is what inspires me every day. 

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

IS: It is a life-changing experience to be involved in the wide network of academic experts, students, and industry professionals, sharing the same commitment to push the boundaries of science and technology. This gives me the opportunity to communicate and understand better the topic of my research, gain experience, competently execute experiments and collaborate with other researchers. Needless to mention the access to laboratories equipped with cutting-edge technology and implementing state-of-the-art methods. 

EM: Something extremely rewarding is the breadth and variety of activities on a weekly basis. Some days I am an educator and supervisor. Thus, I prepare lectures, assessments and have meetings with my students. On other days I am a scientist in the lab. There I have the possibility to be even more creative and apply creativity and knowledge to support other people, my institution, and the society overall; with the ultimate aim to foster innovation and develop novel solutions to global healthcare challenges. 

What are your hopes for the future of engineering? 

IS: I hope that engineering will continue to shape the future around us by turning ideas into real-world innovation. I hope that STEM awareness will inspire scientists from a young age to be curious and develop technical skills. I hope that more female engineers will join the horizon of progress.

EM: I am strongly convinced that women, as scientists, could foster innovation and excellence, applying knowledge and translational skills such as emotional intelligence, intuition, creativity, which are often omitted in engineering environments. Hence, along with the key role of engineers towards the development and implementation of technology to allow improvement of our economic wellbeing, health, and quality of life, my hope is that engineering will become a more inclusive world.Unfortunately, the number of women in leadership roles is still poorly represented. People need to be given equal opportunities, regardless of their gender, race and religious belief.

What would you say to girls in school/college who may be considering engineering as a career choice/study option? 

FD: With my 12 years of academic and industrial career in the field of polymer science and engineering, I would like to encourage girls in schools and colleges to consider engineering as a career choice. We used to think that working in an industry is an unsafe job. But with new technologies, we are working smarter and safer than ever before.

EM: Be curious, explore and discover. If you are not sure and still considering whether Engineering can be your career option, don’t be afraid, ask! STEM events are a great springboard opportunity and where you can find inspiring women to talk to. Engineering needs women. So do not give up and believe in yourself. It won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it.

IS: To all girls in school/college I would just say – Engineering needs you and if you consider it as your future endeavour you would be surprised how effortless it will become your second nature. Inventing tools and technology for the betterment of humanity needs your perspective, contribution, competence, attention-to-detail, gracefulness, and empathy.  

Let us be part of future innovation together!

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