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 Senior Lecturer in Structural and Earthquake Engineering at the University of Bristol. My work encompasses teaching, research activities and to support the work of my institution as well as, more broadly, the civil engineering sector towards efficient and fair processes through administrative work. The thing I am most proud of, and I find most exciting is when I manage to transfer my enthusiasm for the discipline and the research work to students at all levels, from undergraduate to doctoral. I like to think that part of this excitement is also related to promoting a rigorous approach to societal challenges to provide fair decision-making tools to people.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
I wanted to build bridges in low- and middle-income countries to improve transports of people and goods. I also wanted to study a discipline that provided me with a professional profile in STEM allowing me to work in different countries.
How do you balance your professional and personal lives?
This is a challenging question. When strong passion and professional drive are very significant fcators, it is is always important to remind yourself that you cannot push yourself too much and that giving healthy space to personal life makes you a better and more caring professional as well. I have this personal way of dealing with decision – does this work-related thing genuinely need to be done now or not? Am I going to do it better if I delay this and take the opportunity to care about myself and relax?
In your opinion is there more that can be done to encourage a greater diversity of people into engineering careers?
Indeed, we can all do more! Communicate about opportunities, analyse barriers that prevent people accessing engineering careers and “engineer” ways to remove them (yes, as an engineer that engineers solutions), promote positive values and show the worthwhile outcomes of a rigorous approach, encouraging people, mentoring people in the earlier stages of their career. In a nutshell, create a welcoming stimulating environment that makes people feel free to propose new ideas!
What advice would you give for anyone interested in pursuing an engineering career?
Do not give up! Do not focus on your limitations but learn how to valorise your strengths and how they can be useful for the community. Listen to other people's advice in a constructive way even when they are pointing at your weaknesses. Look around at the experience of your peers and learn from it. If you are looking at a career that would valorise your problem-solving attitude then engineering is one of the best answers!
Dr. Flavia De Luca is a Senior Lecturer in Structural and Earthquake Engineering at the University of Bristol