Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres' Inspirational Women in Engineering

In honour of the UN's International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC) North East COO Rachel Chambers interviewed some of the fantastic women engineers who are connected with DER-IC across the UK.



At DER-IC, we are passionate about STEM outreach, and we know how important it is for young people, especially girls, to have positive role models if they are to consider a career in science. On this celebratory day, we spoke to women working across sectors and at all different stages of their careers, to showcase just some of the exciting work that's being done right now in the UK's Power Electronics, Machines and Drives sector.

 

To start us off, here's Rachel's own thoughts on her career journey:


"I often get asked ‘how did you end up working in Engineering?' The answer is, engineering kind of found me!

I began my journey in HR, working in manufacturing, the auto sector and logistics to name a few. I was working globally for about 15 years until having children and then wanted to make a difference in the North East where I live. During my time at CPI, one of the High Value Manufacturing Catapults, I had the opportunity to be seconded where I was given the mission to create an innovation centre in the North East for Advanced Manufacturing. What an opportunity! I worked closely with industry, government and academia and achieved just that! This took me on a journey through to electrification and the rest, is history!


Having worked in manufacturing for a long time, I knew that it wasn’t a particularly diverse environment, but to be honest that made it even more appealing in that I could do something about it by encouraging more women into engineering and other technical roles by acting as a mentor, sponsor and ambassador.

Women need to support each other! We all benefit from lifting each other up, being able to provide guidance and support makes everyone feel good.

Being an ambassador, mentor and sponsor etc for young women is hugely beneficial. I wanted to take this opportunity (Women and Girls in Science Day) to inspire women into engineering/technical roles through showcasing not only the wonderful women I know in the early part of their career, but also those in senior roles in the industry, which just makes it more believable and achievable for those just starting in there career. Having access to inspiring individuals and those who can create a supporting environment is key…..so here are just a very few who I have the pleasure of knowing and working with."


 

Kathleen Goldie

Commercial Director at the PNDC, University of Strathclyde.

Q. What did you want to do when you were at school?

A. Oh various things, ranging from a hairdresser, to the next Beyonce, an air traffic control co-ordinator – and an astronaut!


Q. How did you get into Engineering?

A. I chose to study a BSC Hons Maths and Physics at the University of Strathclyde. This gave me a lot of opportunities to move into careers in science and finance, however I loved seeing how science could be translated into real world impact and so I chose to do an MSc in high power radio frequency science & engineering. On finishing my degree I was offered an entry position into Doosan Babcock let me develop my knowledge & understanding of the renewables engineering sector, where I have stayed ever since!


Q. What would you say to girls in school/college who may be considering Engineering as a career?

A. I would quote Einstein and say that ‘A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new’ – what I mean by that is don’t be afraid to try something different from the ‘norm’ as you will regret it. I have made some of my best female friends throughout my career, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel Internationally learning about different cultures working with the European Commission; work on nuclear power stations, submarines & hydrogen fuel cells; And host many events and conferences with our academic & industry partners. And that’s all just in the past 10 years! Engineering provides the opportunity for so many different roles from technical careers, to project management and business development type responsibilities. The world is your Oyster, so go for it, you won’t regret it!

Q. What’s the best thing about your job?

A. I can’t choose one best thing so I will choose two if OK? Number one is being a small part of the global transition to net-zero. I feel really passionately about trying to protect our planet for future generations, and so the work our research teams are doing at Strathclyde to enable & accelerate that makes me feel really proud. Secondly, it is the people. We have such a talented, diverse and enthusiastic team driving excellence in so many areas, and I feel privileged to be working alongside these teams to drive impact.

 

Amy Maharati

Embedded Software Engineer at McLaren Applied

Q. What first got you interested in STEM?

A. My parents bought me a comic book about physics when I was very young. It explained basic physics laws such as Newton's Law of Motion and Archimedes Law in a funny, interesting way. I found it mesmerising and enjoyed physics in school from then on.


The first time I considered a career in engineering was when my physics teacher showed the class the basic principle of an electric motor by using a AA battery, some copper wire and a magnet. Since then, I have loved the idea of using the principle of physics to solve problems.


Q. What are the challenges and opportunities of being a woman working in your field?

A. I think one of the challenges of being a woman in STEM is navigating unconscious bias that people may have about you because of your gender. Although, I can see that it's starting to change. In a way this is also an opportunity for us to break that bias by showing that your ability as an engineer is not defined by your gender.


Q. This UN day of celebration focuses both on Women and Girls. What are some steps you’d like to see taken to encourage the next generation of girls to consider a career in STEM?

A. I think it's time to break the stereotypes. I'd like to stop hearing this idea of what is an ‘appropriate career’ for women. Girls and women should feel empowered and supported to consider a career in STEM.

I feel quite lucky because my Mum studied engineering, so I grew up thinking that I can be an engineer too. I may not feel that way if she wasn't an engineer. There is a need to have a visible role model for young women to look up to, to show them that a career in STEM is more than possible.

 

Philippa Oldham

Stakeholder Engagement Director at the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC)

Q. What did you want to do when you were at school?

A. When I was at school I wanted to work with cars and solve problems. I was always someone who learnt by doing so enjoyed any practical activity.


Q. What’s the best thing about your job?

A. Working with fantastic people who are changing the world within which we live. At the APC we are the bridge between industry, government, and academia, supporting the UK to become an industrial superpower in the development of low carbon technology.


Q. What does a typical day in your job involve?

A. It is very rare for any two days to be the same. One day I can be speaking at a conference about the opportunity for engineers within the role of electrification. The next I can be explaining to stakeholders how industry needs to transition to become more holistic, thinking about its impact across the supply chain. Then another time I can we working with innovative partner organisations e.g. Driving the Electric Revolution and the Faraday Battery Challenge, to make sure we are joining the dots to accelerate innovation. Or engaging with MPs and government departments about how best to develop policy, or the media to explain why this is so important and what it means to person on the street.


Q. What would you say to girls in school/college who may be considering Engineering as a career?

A. To anyone who enjoys any of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Maths) subjects or who loves practical activities I would encourage them to think about engineering. Engineers are going to be the people that provide the solutions that will stop climate change and provide the products to ensure that our future is green, safe, and sustainable.
 

Mateen Duresmain

Research Analyst, Exawatt

Q. What did you want to do when you were at school?

A. Pilot, artist, event planner, UFC fighter. I wanted to do everything.


Q. What’s the best thing about your job?

A. Currently, I am looking into the power electronics market to forecast future trends in the technology as well doing cost modelling to predict what the power electronic market will look like 5-10 years down the line. I get to research topics I find interesting and use my knowledge to offer useful insight to our customers so they can make better informed strategic decisions.


Q. What does a typical day in your job involve?

A. Usually, I track industry news and dig into what’s happening in different countries, review and analyse financials of various companies, contribute to a monthly report for our partners, and read around the topics I am analysing. Currently I am researching multi-level inverters with a view to create cost models comparing different semiconductors in various multi-level configurations.

Q. What are your hopes for the future of Engineering?

A. My hopes are that we have better representation for women in engineering and that one day all forms of sexism will be no longer exist in the industry, subtle or overt.

 

Melanie Michon

Head of Engineering at Motor Design Limited

Q. What does a typical day in your job involve?

A. I manage a team of 12 engineers. We work on motor design consultancy, collaborative research projects on latest innovations in motor design and we provide technical support to customers using our software.

My role involves day to day management, overseeing research and support done by the engineers, engaging with our partners and customers and working with other senior managers to set out the strategic direction on research and support.

On a typical day I will have meetings with our customers and/or partners, I will spend time with the team guiding the projects they are working on and often meet with partners on one of our research projects.


Q. What's the most challenging thing about your job?

A. Staying on top of new developments. It’s great to work at the forefront of engineering technology but can also be challenging to stay on top of everything.


Q. What would you say to girls in school/college who may be considering Engineering as a career?

A. It can be a demanding career choice and engineering is often seen as one of the more difficult degrees. But the rewards are great and you will be given many opportunities to work on interesting and challenging topics in your career. I believe engineering degrees certainly open up a career path in which you are given the opportunity to never stop learning new things.
 

Mona Faraji-Niri

Senior Research Fellow at WMG, University of Warwick

Q. What first got you interested in STEM?

My interest in STEM started quite early, I still remember the day in the lab, maybe 10-11 years old when we were told to test the movement of a mass-spring-damper test bench by applying various forces. There I said, wow! I got to know more about how this is working!


Later in high school I picked maths and physics focus and started my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering at Iran University of Science and Technology, it was there that I found the perfect combination for me which was Algebra plus Physics in the Major of Control Engineering.

Q. What projects are you currently working on in the areas of Power Electronics, Machines and Drives, or Electrification?

Currently I am a member of NEXTRODE consortium which is a collaboration between 6 UK lead institutions including WMG and Faraday Institution, for manufacturing of next generation electrodes for lithium-ion batteries. I am particularly working on Machine Learning techniques and Artificial Intelligence for data-oriented representation of manufacturing processes. Basically, I am investigating the opportunities for optimising lithium-ion battery manufacturing processes which are key players in the transition to net zero future with reduced environmental impacts, waste, and cost.


Q. What are some challenges and any potential opportunities of being a woman working in your field?

A. Diversity of all kinds has been shown to foster creativity and innovation. Women have different experiences, background, and points of views in different problems. I would say these experiences are specifically valuable for the electrification field as coming up with fast and effective solutions is critical in mitigating climate change.

Q. This UN day of celebration focuses both on Women and Girls. What are some steps you’d like to see taken to encourage the next generation of girls to consider a career in STEM?

A. The stereotype that interest in science is unfeminine is still heard. Giving girls the confidence that they have the capability to pursue STEM degrees and careers and they would be good enough to ask for equal positions and salaries with men is the most important thing. Also, the more we bring to notice the stories of successful women and role models, the more inspiring that would be.

 

Jess Cookson

Mechanical Design Engineer, Advanced Electric Machines

Q. What did you want to do when you were at school?

A. At school I went through a wide range of dream jobs: engineer, doctor, teacher, vet etc. I was particularly good at maths and science and was very curious as to how things work! During my A levels I studied mechanics in further maths and found it very interesting.


Q. What's the most challenging thing about your job?

A. The most challenging part of my job is problem solving when things don’t work. Some problems that arise with prototypes, no matter how small they may seem, can take a lot of time to work through and test. It can also be very frustrating when models, calculations or simulations aren’t behaving like you want them too. But all the work is worth it when you find a solution.


Q. What’s the best thing about your job?

A. My favourite part of the job is working on completely new designs. It is very rewarding to see something you have worked on from scratch turn into a real, tangible object and even more rewarding if it works first time!

Q. What does a typical day in your job involve?

A. A typical day consists of independent design work: research, 3d modelling, calculations and simulations. However, it also involves a great deal of collaborative time too, reviewing designs and discussing ideas. My job involves interaction with our suppliers and discussions between departments to ensure that my designs are feasible, cheap and won’t cause issues during assembly! I also spend time on the shop floor with the manufacturing team discussing problems/improvements so that we can create a better product.


Q. What are your hopes for the future of Engineering?

A. My hope is for more development into sustainable engineering practices at all levels, from the sourcing of materials up to the finished product. Making sustainable designs more readily available and affordable to everybody.

 

Find out more about International Women and Girls in Science Day.


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