DPhils and researchers help to inspire the next generation of female engineers

Department of Engineering Science's International Women in Engineering Day celebrations 2019

“The day reinforced the fact that engineering is such an exciting discipline that is constantly changing and adapting, which has made me really look forward to studying it”

In June we welcomed 12 girls in Year 12 and 13 to join us in Oxford as part of our International Women in Engineering Day celebrations. They took part in hands-on experiments on the effect of temperature on liquid crystals with DPhil candidate Naomi Mburu, had afternoon tea with current female academics, researchers and students at Keble College, and did a People Like Me quiz to determine which careers would suit their preferred ways of working.

One of the student visitors said she “really enjoyed the practical part of the workshop, since you don’t get that very often” and for another, the highlight of the day was “meeting female engineers that are doing what I aspire to do”. Other participants commented that the day “showed me that there are lots of options and not one right way to get into engineering”, and that “it reinforced the fact that engineering is such an exciting discipline that is constantly changing and adapting, which has made me really look forward to studying it”.

International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. The Women in Engineering Day was launched for the first time in the UK on 23 June 2014 by the Women’s Engineering Society. This year INWED falls on Sunday 23 June, with the theme #TransformtheFuture.

“To do effective engineering work, you need diverse perspectives at the table. Humanity is diverse. You cannot engineer systems and structures for diverse people without a diverse team”

Alycia Leonard, DPhil candidate

In the UK as a whole, only around 15% of our engineering undergraduates are female (although around 20% of the Department of Engineering Science’s undergraduate admissions for 2019 are female). The Department is committed to inspiring more women to enter Engineering, by encouraging them to study Maths and Physics at GCSE and ‘A’ level, to choose Engineering degrees and to develop careers within this exciting field. As part of our outreach activities we reach out to girls in secondary schools to show them what a career in Engineering can offer, and how they can give themselves the best chance of studying at Oxford.

“Women bring a great energy and different perspective to any working environment and the world needs more female engineers”

Suria Subiah, DPhil candidate, Fulbright Scholar

Rhodes Scholar Naomi Mburu, who led the interactive workshop for the sixth-formers, developed an interest in physics and chemistry in high school and went on to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Maryland. She is now researching nuclear fusion as a DPhil candidate at the Oxford Thermofluids Institute.

When advising girls interested in Engineering she says, “There is no need to worry too much about what specific field of engineering you study in university, because you can always find a way to apply that to whatever you choose to work in later in your life”. Following her workshop one of the school students said, “the talk from Naomi Mburu showed the many possibilities available and potential careers”.

“Engineering is a fun and creativity-driven career that directs us to accomplish incredible things and help the world to evolve. Women need to be a part of that”

Barbara Souza, DPhil candidate

We were also keen to celebrate our own female engineers within the Department, holding a poster display in our main Engineering building all week featuring DPhils, postdoctoral researchers and academics. The Head of Department Professor Lionel Tarassenko and Associate Head of Department Professor Ronald Roy showed their support for this important initiative during a special viewing of the posters on Tuesday.


“Throw away any pre-conceived notions of what an engineer ‘should’ be like and appreciate that, whatever your style of thinking or approach to work, you will bring new and valuable ideas to the projects you are working on”

Dr Rebecca McFadden, Daphne Jackson Fellow

Department Head Professor Lionel Tarassenko and Associate Head Professor Ron Roy joined female academics and researchers in celebrating International Women in Engineering Day

Photos from the INWED celebrations

INWED talks and afternoon tea at Keble College