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 work as an Associate Professor, conducting research into topics related to the energy challenge and the resilience of our critical infrastructure, as well as delivering education to a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in civil engineering.
I enjoy the self-determination in working to solve problems effecting society, the challenge of always trying to do something new, different and often difficult, and the excitement of when a new idea comes successfully to fruition.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
I became an engineer by accident. I studied Earth Science at University and was looking for a way to make use of my pure science degree in practice. I undertook a masters in Engineering Geology and this gave me access to a career in the civil engineering sector, working on site and in design offices. I rapidly discovered I love the technical and practical challenges of the work. Later I switched to an academic role, bringing applied research and development as my main focus.
How do you balance your professional and personal lives?
I take my work life balance seriously, but the concept of exploration is important in both. At work I am always exploring new ideas, looking for new knowledges or ways or designing or implementing engineering solutions. At the weekends and in my holidays I engage in my passion for cave exploration. It’s one of the few pass times remaining (bar deep ocean or space travel) where you can go somewhere that truly no one has been before. In the last two and a half decades I have been privileged to explore and map tens of kilometres of previous unseen cave passages.
In your opinion is there more that can be done to encourage a greater diversity of people into engineering careers?
On the one hand we need get the message across about the diversity of careers available in engineering and better communicate those opportunities. But unfortunately there also remain wider societal biases in place that mean some people get told that engineering or other careers are not for them. I therefore think we all have a role to play in busting stereotypes whenever we have the opportunity.
What advice would you give for anyone interested in pursuing an engineering career?
It would depend a bit on an individual’s background and interests, but essentially, go for it! Don’t be afraid to take the plunge. If you are not sure about the type of engineering that might interest you then you can contact local companies for work experience. Most of the engineering institutions, for example the Institution of Civil Engineers, also have careers information on their websites where you can find out more.
Dr. Fleur Loveridge is an Associate Professor of Geostructures at the University of Leeds.