To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day we're sharing individual stories of women engineers from across UKCRIC member institutions.
Tell us about your role and what you find most exciting about it.
I am a material scientist and engineer in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London. My research is motivated by the climate emergency and urban flooding that is projected to have an annual global cost of £500bn by 2030, from £60bn in 2019. The most exciting thing about my research is that I am developing novel and sustainable materials technologies for flood resistant infrastructure used in the built environment, offering resilience to both increasing climate uncertainties and urbanisation.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
Throughout my career I have been exposed to many successful professionals in both academia and industry which has had a tremendous influence on my career decisions and journey to date. Their strength, courage, intellect and achievements ignited my desire to become an engineer and an academic, providing the inspiration to follow this exciting and stimulating career path. In this same way, I also aim to motivate future generations to become world leading engineers and scientists for the benefit of all.
How do you balance your professional and personal lives?
It is not always easy for academics to balance their professional and personal lives and I personally face this challenge every day. I try to maintain my work/life balance by first focusing on important tasks that require my immediate attention and eliminating the ones that are neither important nor urgent. I found that it is very important to take a small break from work every day doing something that you are passionate about or relaxes you in order to physically and mentally recharge yourself.
In your opinion is there more that can be done to encourage a greater diversity of people into engineering careers?
Yes, I believe that we can encourage more young women to become the next-generation of engineers by regularly giving talks and organising events that would inspire and encourage them into pursuing an engineering career. To date, I have designed and delivered a number of talks and outreach activities to increase the number of female engineers. Through my involvement in female focus groups and university enterprise networks, I try to foster a positive work environment that retains women in engineering and encourages them to communicate their research and innovations, providing significant benefit to them and society.
What advice would you give for anyone interested in pursuing an engineering career?
I would tell them do it now, learn by trying and embrace all ideas, even those that initially appear to be unusual and unachievable. These unconventional concepts will provide an invaluable learning opportunity, that will make you a wiser, more knowledgeable and successful scientist and engineer in the future; and can lead to a breakthrough with significant impact on the society, environment and economy.
Dr. Alalea Kia is a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow at Imperial College London