Case Study: Larissa Suzuki
“I think there are lot of transferability in skills from one area to another, and that is why I find engineering a very exciting career because we can be curious and inventive at all times.”
Music and engineering
Larissa grew up in São Paulo in Brazil, and since the age of 5, she knew that she wanted to be an engineer. She recalls that her family and friends had to stop giving her electronics as gifts (like radios and TV’s) because she would pull them apart to understand how they worked.
Engineering was very natural path to me. I did a degree in computer science because I wanted to do engineering I could control data and get things to do what I wanted them to do.
Her parents were not keen in having a female engineer in the house and encouraged her to study music instead. Determined to go to university, Larissa had to work in industry all the time to help fund her studies. She did a degree in Electrical Engineering where she was the only woman in her class.
Designing smarter cities
Larissa believes that being collaborative and sharing data will enhance the quality of life of people living in smart cities.
When we design cities we need to make sure that we don’t design them to fit just a small proportion of the population we have to build a city that mirrors society. If we have a lot of senior citizens living in a city we have to create technology that is understandable by them and we also need to cater services to those people. A one size fits all approach will never work!
According to her a smart city is as city where citizens are provided with everything they need at the time they need and where they need it: a good and fair cost transport system, affordable housing, affordable energy and water supply and fair access to internet and mobile signal amongst others.
To understand how important sharing data is Larissa talks about the current pandemic and how hospitals in London should invest in sharing data regarding the number of available beds for covid patients.
If you have data and that data is processed by machines in real time, we can predict the likelihood of having beds available in hospital x at time y and then we can better plan for your citizens.
Larissa believes that more needs doing to fight stereotypes and increase the diversity of people working in computer science and engineering:
We need to demystify that idea that computer science is a very isolated career. This is not true! You have to be very collaborative… Engineering is a great career option for any type of person. If you can’t see blood you can still help to cure cancer!
She also mentions the amazing women who contributed to advancements in computer science and are often “erased from history”:
Things like Bluetooth, Wifi, AI and programming have been strongly influenced by the work of Ada Lovelace . The first person to create a compiler that would allow us to use natural language to programme a computer was also a female pioneer.
There are several benefits of having a diverse team working collaboratively: creating better products with a better fit. Self-regulating people who think from different perspectives and different angles so a team can scrutinise a product and make it better for the user. Diversity is very important in fields such Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
I truly believe that we are inventors, we create and invent things and that is one of the hardest jobs that we have: to have the creativity to create something that has never been; is a very powerful statement!
Recognitions and prizes
Larissa is neuro divergent and over the past few years has won several Recognitions and awards linked with her career. She was awarded the Engineer of the Year 2021 award by the Engineering Talents Awards and was a finalist for the Women in Science and Technology WISE Awards in 2018. You can find more about Larissa here.
Electronics engineering technicians design, build and maintain electrical components. They are very hands-on and enjoy trying out different circuit set ups, and are very good at spotting problems and fixing them so that the components work correctly. Electronics engineering technicians enjoy doing practical work, being organised and helping electronic engineers test their designs.
Attributes: logical, creative, observant
Case Study: Greg Bowie
Apprenticeship into engineering
Greg remembers having a curious mind as a young child. He loved looking at things to see how they work, which drove his parents mad! At school he was good at maths and science, and joined the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. He was never interested in going to university, so left school at 16 and took up an apprenticeship at a tool moulding company.
“I was never sort of an academic kind of person, and I find that for me a much more valuable way of learning is getting your hands stuck in, working out how things work …”
Healing broken bones
Greg is currently a manufacturing engineer at Invibio, a company working on biomaterials for medical applications. He uses his hands-on skills and creativity to create and test trauma plates, which are used to hold broken pieces of bone together and allow them to heal. When someone suffers a nasty fracture, they might have one of Invibio’s plates surgically implanted to help stabilise the injury while the bone grows back.
Usually trauma plates are made of metals such as titanium or steel. However, Greg and his team are developing a new material which combines carbon fibres thinner than human hair and plastics.
Greg says the way the material is engineered is much closer to the natural structure of bone, which can lead to good biocompatibility so the plates will encourage broken bones to heal faster. But there are other advantages too:
“When we have these carbon fibre reenforced plastic plates another benefit is that they can X-ray through the plate and see how that bone is developing and healing.”
Learning from failures
When starting his journey into engineering as an apprentice, Greg became resilient by learning from his mistakes. One of his favourites quotes is, “You can’t let your failures define you. You have to let your failures teach you” (Barack Obama).
Being resilient and patient helps him better to understand the best ratio of carbon fibres to plastic and how the materials should be layered together.
“We’ve got some understanding [of] how the material may work, but we need to make it, we need to test, it we need to see if it fails, how it fails, and [work out] what we need to change.”
In particular Greg and his colleagues need to understand how much carbon fibre reinforced plastic plates bend without breaking (this is called flexural strength), and how tightly screws can be inserted through the material. It goes without saying how important it is to study these properties before a plate goes inside a human body.
Under the sea and other medical applications
Carbon fibre reinforced plastics have become common engineering materials, used everywhere from car components to tennis racquets. They’re also used in pipes for deep sea applications. Being able to tailor the strength and flexibility of the material, they can be ideal for encasing pipes which will have to sit on the seabed without being crushed by the high pressures.
Invibio is also developing other materials for medical applications. For example, they 3D print porous (sponge-like) plastic materials as spinal cages. This allows bone to grow into the implant as well as growing around it.
Gregs loves that his engineering work, and the biomaterials and products he helps to develop, make a difference and improve people’s lives.
“That is what I love about where I work now, it’s an interesting field to be in.”
Going back in time
Greg had a superpower he would like to be able to time travel. Not necessarily into the future: to go back in time, to see how engineers and inventors developed the things they did. That said, he is curious about where biomaterials technology is going to be in 10 years’ time.
“How many bones can we fix in the human body with these plates? Because it not necessarily always suitable for all the applications giving the existing manufacturing process that we use …”
creative, patient, resilient
Case Study: Sophie Robinson
“One of the good things about engineering is that there are a lot of opportunities where you can use your skillset to make a difference, and make a difference in lots of different fields as well!”
Sophie grew up in a working class family from a mining village in the North of England. As a child, she remembers wanted to be an astronaut and being fascinated with Lego (she claims to have had the equivalent of her body weight in Lego!) and Meccano. Her parents encouraged her to go to university: they saw it as a good route to a professional job. Sophie recalls:
“When I was young I was always really into maths and science. I would have done a pure maths degree but there was something always nagging in the back of my mind […] I always wanted something more practical.”
With this combination of academic interests and practicality, she thinks engineering became an “inevitable” career path.
After she finished a PhD in flight mechanics from the University of Liverpool, Sophie got involved in many projects as an aerospace engineer. It’s a job she describes as being involved in the whole lifecycle of anything that flies: design, certification, operation, maintenance and safe disposal (decommissioning).
Sophie’s currently a senior flight dynamics engineer at Vertical Aerospace, a company working on creating the world’s first commercial eVTOL aircraft – electric vertical take-off and landing. It’s planned as an air taxi, to transport people and goods on short journeys.
Vertical’s aircraft will be 100% electric, affordable, and could help ease road traffic in densely populated areas.
“All of the technologies to make this kind vehicle happen exist, we are not conjuring things out of thin air that don’t exist at the moment. It’s all about bringing those technologies together into a package to make it happen.”
A lifetime achievement
In her current role Sophie is responsible for the simulator that will train pilots to fly the aircraft: she needs to be creative and logical. She also studies the performance of the air taxi, in particular how manipulating the controls translates into aircraft motion. The air taxi will be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for Sophie and her colleagues, so she tells us that hard work is essential.
“Why did I become an engineer in first place? Because I wanted to be involved in projects like this, it’s completely innovative! That is human nature, we always want to find the next step, the next new thing. How can we put together the different technologies we’ve developed?”
Nothing great is easy
Outside of work. Sophie enjoys travel and particularly swimming. In 2012 she swam the English Channel, inspired by the first person to do so, Captain Webb, who said, “Nothing great is easy”. She has his quote as a tattoo.
“I am a mermaid when I’m not an engineer!”
She often colours her hair a different colour as this makes people notice and remember her. She says it‘s a good conversation starter!
Case Study: Shrouk El-Attar
“That idea of what an engineer looks like is really out of date and it needs to change […] people engineer in their heels, people engineer in their dresses, and for me it’s such a creative field!”
A journey of resilience
Shrouk left her native Egypt at the age of 15, arriving in the UK with her family. She was eventually granted refugee status on the basis of her sexuality, but her mother, sister and brother were deported. Showing remarkable resilience, she enrolled to study electrical engineering at Cardiff University, but could only start to study once her asylum case was complete – which took several years. She believes that more needs to be done to enable asylum seekers to access higher education, and to help people considering engineering as a career:
“We need to produce more than 186,000 engineers every single year, just to meet our engineering shortfall by 2024, and the same time we prevent people from accessing engineering”
Improving the quality of life of others
Since graduating from university, Shrouk has collaborated with others in a variety of projects. She’s designed robots that can measure tiny things just a few nanometers across, and built a machine that can detect cancer cells based on how electrons wobble in the presence of magnetic fields.
Currently, she gets to release her creativity designing and testing products which help improve the quality of life of many women and others across the world. She find engineering to be a very collaborative field:
“You work with other engineers, scientists, data scientists and artists to make your product look nice …”
Changing perceptions of engineering
Shrouk is a passionate advocate for changing perceptions of engineering, as there is still a long way to go in terms of attracting creative people into the sector. She also works towards valuing non-univeristy routes into engineering:
“We need to change our language. We need to make it more accessible, we also need to change the default routes into engineering. Why is just the university route considered? Why can’t we take on more apprentices?”
A passionate advocate
In her free time Shrouk is a belly dancer, and she fundraises to help the LGBTQ community in countries such as Egypt. In 2018 she was awarded Young Woman of the Year in the Women on the Move Awards, from Migrants Organise and the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency).
Shrouk is featured in an episode of the Inventive Podcast:
Case Study: Emmanuel Olaiya
Emmanuel is a particle physicist working at the Particle Physics Department with STFC.
A passion for physics and travelling
Emmanuel studied maths, physics and chemistry for his A-levels. However it was his passion for physics which push him into university and beyond.
“Physics was always my favourite subject and for further education I wanted to do something that I enjoyed so I studied physics at university and then completed a particle physics PhD”
After finishing his degree at university, Emmanuel continued to study towards a PhD in particle physics. This opportunity allowed him to travel the world. He lived in Geneva in Switzerland for a year to do his PhD. Then after that he moved to California, USA to work on a particle detector for 4 years.
“Another one of the great things about my job is it has enabled me to live in other parts of the world.“
He lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for a year to do his PhD. Then after that he moved to California, USA to work on a particle detector for 4 years.
Being a particle physicist
According to Emmanuel the job of a particle physicist can be described as follows:
“I investigate the smallest particles and the forces they interact with. To do this I work with physicists around the world on experiments that detect what happens when you collide particles together at very high energies.”
Emmanuel is logical as he programs hundreds of computers to help him identify particles that are produced in accelerator collisions. He needs to be self- motivated because these experiments create so much data which needs looking through carefully. Emmanuel looks through the data creatively hoping to find missing particles that can explain how massive the Universe is.
“My main ambition is to detect particles that could explain Dark Matter which we believe form the majority of particles out there in space.”
Always learning new things
Emmanuel is always learning physics through his job. He also gets to teach physics and write research papers which he enjoys a lot. Other tasks involve spending time computer programming and working on detector development which he finds very interesting.
“I really love how varied and stimulating my job is.”
In his spare time, Emmanuel loves to explore his beautiful surroundings by hiking or cycling. He also loves to go skiing, something that he found he really enjoyed whilst working in Geneva.
creative, logical, self-motivated
A-Levels, Chemistry, Mathematics, PhD, Physics, Physics, Research
Case Study: Mika Shearwood
Mika is a Software Engineering Apprentice with the STFC.
Route into software engineering apprentice.
Mika studied maths, further maths and physics at A Level and they knew that university wasn’t the right pathway for them. Mika decided to take a gap year to gain work experience and save money to prepare for the future. During their gap year, they have applied to lots of apprenticeships before being successful at securing a STFC placement.
“I knew for a long time that I wanted to be an apprentice instead of going to university, so I spent a gap year getting work experience “
The many roles of software engineers
Every day is different for a software engineer. Sometimes they are writing code, talking to databases, fixing websites and more. These are the types of task that Mika does during their apprentice: learning bits of everything. Mika also gets opportunities to deliver talks to the public about coding or being an apprentice:
“I do lots of things, work with lots of lovely people, and there’s always lots of talks, events and news to join in on. With all the stuff going on the word I’d use is ‘exciting’. It creates so many opportunities for me to take if I want to! “
Creativity is important
Mika believes that creativity is an important skill for their apprenticeship:
“I am a creative person and I am able to apply this in a lot of ways to my work: designing websites and software for others to use, and my personal favourite of writing and hosting a virtual Python workshop for work experience students”
A passion for media
Mika takes their creativity beyond work and into a lot of hobbies: music and video-making are two of Mika’s favourite hobbies and they can be mixed together for musical theatre which Mika loves to be involved with!
On top of all of these hobbies, Mika still has time for friends and loves to play video games with them.
Software Engineering Apprentice
creative, organised, self-motivated
Apprenticeship, Further Mathematics, GCSEs, Mathematics, Physics
Case Study: Dr Kate Winter
Kate is a glaciologist working at Northumbria University.
The importance of ice
Kate studies what lies underneath the ice in Antarctica using radar. She is particularly interested to see how thick the ice is, and what the land looks like under the ice.
Radar uses radio waves to make images of the ice, and the land underneath it. It’s a bit like using X-rays to ‘see’ inside the body. Kate’s research is contributing to one of the defining issues of our time: climate change. She explains:
Once we know how thick the ice is, we can see how much it is changing. This is really important because global sea levels could rise if the ice in Antarctica melts.
From Scotland to Antartica
When Kate was younger she really questioned why things looked the way they did – for example, why there are hills, and sand dunes, and why rivers have bends in them.
Taking geography and geology at secondary school helped her find some of the answers to her questions. When she was told that ice could flow like a river she wanted to never stopp learning about ice!
Travelling to Antarctica is definitely the most amazing part of my job, but I also like to be creative, making drawings so that other people can understand the work I do.
After school Kate studied for a Geography and Geology degree at Aberdeen University. Then she studied for a Masters in Polar and Alpine Change at the University of Sheffield, and finally Kate completed a PhD at Northumbria University.
Kate’s advice to young people
Think about the kind of setting you’d like to work in (for example, in a big office, in a small office, at home, in a classroom, at the beach, in another country…). I wanted to work in Antarctica, so I had to find a career that would take me there!
Sewing and knitting
In her spare time Kate loves being creative and spends lots of time sewing and knitting. She recently finished an embroidery showing Antarctica and the currents in the Southern Ocean. These currents transport nutrients around the continent. The red cross shows the location of the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station, where Kate does most of her research.
Kate recently wrote an article about her time in Antarctica which you can read online – Iron woman: searching for iron at the end of the earth.
communicative, creative, hard-working
A-Levels, Geography, Geology, PhD
Stewart is an Environmental Engineer who studies ways to protect people from floods, droughts and fires. He uses computers to understands how the climate changes over time. Stewart helped other engineers to develop an app to monitor the water supplies in big cities, like Sydney. Stewart enjoys football and he used to coach a local club.
Stewart is an Environmental Engineer who studies ways to protect people from floods, droughts and fires. He uses computers to understands how the climate changes over time. Stewart helped other engineers to develop an app to monitor the water supplies in big cities, like Sydney.
Stewart enjoys football and he used to coach a local club.
Stewart’s most magnificent thing
Rainfall is very important natural resource for communities that undergo drought periods. You can make a rain gauge using everyday materials and record rainfall levels in you local area. Have look below:
collaborative, creative, tenacious
Talib is an Environmental Engineer who uses computers to understand how to look after the environment better, and improve our health and wellbeing. He advises people working in industry and university students how to better look after natural resources such as water, land, and air. In his free time, Talib enjoys dancing, especially Salsa.
Talib is an Environmental Engineer who uses computers to understand how to look after the environment better, and improve our health and wellbeing.
He advises people working in industry and university students how to better look after natural resources such as water, land, and air.
In his free time, Talib enjoys dancing, especially Salsa.
Talib’s most magnificent thing
“Energy is all around us and gets transferred all the time! Static electricity can be really fun to explore with your children, and has many different applications in engineering.”
When you rub plastic, you transfer electrons (tiny particles with negative charges) from one material to the other. They are then stored in one material (making it a bit more negative) while their absence makes the other material a bit more positive.
Because plastic is an insulator, the electrons cannot flow through it so they effectively get stuck there – they are static.
creative, imaginative, observant
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