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 Lecturer in Risk and Resilience Engineering within the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE) at UCL. My role involves a mixture of conducting and managing research activities, teaching UCL engineering students, and carrying out some administration duties to support the activities of CEGE. The most exciting aspect of my role is that it constantly changes but never fails to be rewarding – for instance, I could be designing new lectures for the modules I teach in the morning, and the afternoon could be spent providing feedback to students on their research projects or reading through some of the latest state-of-the-art papers in risk and resilience engineering to get some inspiration for future research proposals.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
Maths and physics were my favourite subjects in school, but I was most interested in how the tools and theory could be applied in a practical way to solve real-world problems. After several helpful discussions with my uncle Declan, himself a civil engineer, I realised that a career in engineering was the perfect fit for me.
How do you balance your professional and personal lives?
I have fortunately become much better at this over the last year by setting some hard boundaries on my professional life. These involved switching off work email notifications on my personal phone and consciously setting a time limit on my working week, realising that my quality of work diminishes rapidly when my quantity of hours worked increases beyond a certain point. I like to transition between the two “lives” by starting or ending my day with a run and a (non-work-related) podcast, leaving my phone at home.
In your opinion is there more that can be done to encourage a greater diversity of people into engineering careers?
Yes, there is of course much more to do, one of which is properly communicating the flexibility of the term “engineering”. Even if we think only about what it means to be a civil engineer, the career options are vast: you could be helping to save lives either by designing a clean drinking water system or developing an AI algorithm to issue earthquake early warning alerts before a damaging earthquake, for instance.
What advice would you give for anyone interested in pursuing an engineering career?
See my response to the last question and don’t be put off by any traditional preconceptions you might have of what it means to be an engineer. If you like the idea of putting knowledge of maths and physics to uses that have tangible beneficial impacts on society, then a career in engineering is for you.
Dr. Gemma Cremen is a Lecturer in Risk and Resilience Engineering within the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE) at University College London.