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Reaching out to the next generation: International Women in Engineering Day 2020

Budding young engineers had the opportunity to hear what a career in engineering is really like from our female DPhils, researchers and academics

Our first session, aimed at pupils in Years 6-7, featured three of our DPhil students

International Women in Engineering Day (or InWED) is a day when we celebrate our female students, researchers and academics and reach out to the next generation of engineers. This year, on 23 June 2020, the activities took place virtually. We hosted 3 talks with Q&A sessions aimed at different school age years, with a total of 80 students in attendance.

Our first session was for years 6 and 7, and featured DPhil students Lis Pickles and Emma Bluemke and Postdoctoral researcher Joana Pinto. Joana and Lis gave short presentations on their fields of study, before all three answered questions from our live audience.

Joana Pinto talked about biomedical engineering, on her work to detect and study diseases in the brain using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs). When asked what inspired her to go into engineering she said,

“[I wanted] to develop tools that actually would make a difference and help people. And I thought biomedical engineering was a great fit because it involves a bit of everything from biology to chemistry to physics to maths - also design, and it's something that would improve people's quality of life, so that was my main motivation”.

Joana told the students, “Be curious – try to understand how things work and why. Be patient. And try out different things and see what you like.” When asked about her job she said,

“Every day is very different, you’re always learning”


Lis Pickles talked about how during her undergraduate degree in maths and physics she discovered she liked applying these subjects to the real world and using her skills to help others. In terms of what makes an engineer, Lis said, “I think you need an inquisitive and questioning mind. You really need to want to explore things further.”

She advised young students, “don’t limit yourself” and on what makes the best part of her job she said,

“I get to work with a lot of different people: physicists, doctors and people from across the world, in other universities”

Associate member of Faculty and Deputy Course Director of the MSc in Energy Systems Dr Sarah Sparrow works in Information Engineering and was our main speaker for years 8-11. Dr Sparrow uses citizen science to help develop reliable early warning systems for extreme weather. On the day to day life of engineering she said, “It's quite a creative experience as to how to actually generate solutions to the different problems that crop up”, and told us of her own creative pursuits and how she applies creative thinking to engineering.

Later she added, “I really want to try and enthuse new people about the diversity that engineering offers.”

The last session, for students of years 12 and 13, featured Associate Professor Barbara Rossi who is a structural engineer. In introducing her talk, Professor Rossi spoke about what makes engineers so special,

“[Engineers] solve problems. They invent, they create, they build software, engines, machines, structures that will hopefully make life better for us all”

These inspirational talks are available to watch in full on our YouTube channel.