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.
Case Study: Manjot Chana
“I’ve always had an massive affinity for solving problems, for me life itself is a series of micro problems which need to be solved or optimised”
From robots to degree apprenticeship
Manjot grew up in Wolverhampton. As a young child he remembers being a big fan of Power rangers and playing with LEGO. He was always curious about how the robots fitted together. After his A-levels he decided to “break the norm” and applied for a degree apprenticeship at Jaguar Landrover instead of going to university.
‘You get paid and you get your degree, and I thought this is incredible! […] I need to start money ASAP to help out the family as oppose to purely the knowledge and the experience of a university degree.’
It took him 6 years to complete his apprenticeship. During that time Manjot, gained a lot of “hands on” skills which allow him to progress in his career.
Changing lives and help tackle climate change
Manjot works at H2GO Power, a company that is developing technology to capture and store surplus hydrogen generated from renewable energy sources. He joined this company as he wanted to use his engineering skills to help tackle climate change, and improve the quality of life of millions of people worldwide who don’t have access to a reliably source of energy.
As a senior integration system engineer Manjot needs to be logical as he makes different parts of systems to work well together:
‘I ensure the subsystems are communicating together: the data is flowing, the wiring is correct, the software is correct. As an integration engineer you need to know a lot about everything but only a shallow amount.’
The data never lies
Manjot is also extremely organised at work as he enjoys “closing loops” of pending tasks. He also believes that the data from experiments never lies and that it has a story to tell us. We just need to make sense of it! In reality, Manjot is obsessed with collecting data from life in general.
Break the norm and follow your dreams
Outside of work Manjot loves to read. If he could get a superpower it would be the ability to read and retain information faster. He also encourages others to take chances, to stay truth to themselves and to follow their dreams.
Case Study: Angus MacGregor
Angus is a Geotechnical Engineer.
Apprenticeship or university ?
After school, Angus applied to both a university degree to study Civil Engineering and to be an apprentice draughtsperson (Civil Engineering Technician). When he was accepted for both, and just like many other young people, Angus had an important decision to make:
I was accepted for both and then had to choose. The university degree was a bit of a stretch for me at the time as my Higher exam results were not quite good enough. Also the university route involved moving 180 miles to Glasgow whereas the apprentice route involved staying at home.
In the end, Angus decided to go to university and after a year he changed to a similar course Civil Engineering with Geology. He spent 5 years studying at university, 4 of these were in Glasgow and one in Canada. After university, he applied to over 40 graduate engineer jobs and secured 3 job offers.
The importance of holiday jobs
Angus believes that the holidays jobs he had have helped him gain valuable experience. In the longer breaks, he recalls, like summer break, he gained a lot of experience in Civil Engineering as a trainee Civil Engineer. In the shorter breaks, like Christmas and Easter, he worked as a fencer and a joiner’s mate building timber kit houses.
What do geotechnical engineers do every day?
Geotechnical engineers can work in an office or on-site. When Angus is in the office, which can be anywhere in the UK, he is open-minded as he talks and communicates with people who do different jobs in STEM and non-STEM roles. He often provides advice and guidance on how to solve problems at construction sites.
Outside of the office, his work involves visiting current and future construction sites to understand each situation better and to meet all of the workers.
“Most commonly I get involved if there has been a landslide, there is maintenance needed to tunnels, or on sites where the ground conditions are poor and someone really wants to build something.”
Some of these situations are not easy to solve, so Angus needs to be resilient.
The best thing about being a geotechnical engineer
There are a lot of things that Angus loves about his job. He is constantly learning from others to widen his understanding of the world and he enjoys teaching others what he has learnt during his career. Through his job and education, Angus has also travelled to many places all around the world!
“I have worked across Scotland, the rest of UK, Europe and Internationally. Highlights include Shetland, Isle of Lewis, Isle of Eigg, Isle of Muck, Bangladesh, Netherlands, and Poland. I have helped out from afar on projects in South Georgia, St Helena, Falkland Islands, Antarctica, Sierra Leone and Ghana. “
In the photo above you can find Angus talk to one of his colleagues about methods for making the Haymarket South Tunnel in Edinburgh more stable.
curious, imaginative, open-minded
Case Study: XinRan Liu
XinRan is currently a Research Associate at the School of Physics and Astronomy of the Edinburgh University
How things work
XinRan was born in China and moved to Edinburgh when he was 7 years old. He has always been curious to find out how everything in the Universe works. To help him find some answers, XinRan studied science at GCSE and A-Levels. He then decided to study Physics at University.
“I have always been interested in learning how things work: Why are we stuck onto Earth? How does the Moon affect us? Why does gravity not suck us into the Sun? How are stars and galaxies are formed?”
A professional hunter of the invisible
XinRan describes himself as a professional hunter of the invisible. As he further explains,
“Our eyes cannot see tiny cosmic particles which are constantly passing through our planet so particle physics researchers need to use massive detectors that are deep below the Earth’s surface.”
These detectors need to be underground so that they are protected from interference that is present at the surface. These particles rarely interact with anything, so XinRan has to be patient while he waits for them to be detected. He is curious to find out what the particles can tell us about things like what is Dark Matter and origin of the Universe.
XinRan job has taken him to travel the world to work however he has always loved Scotland and he is happy to have found a job at the University of Edinburgh. According to him the best part of his job is as follows:
“It has taken me to some of the most spectacular places around the world many of which are deep underground. It has also introduced me to many amazing people along the way.”
XinRan is also passionate about work with young people. He is recently developed an activity for schools to build mini Mars rovers and exploring the STFC Mars Yard at The Boulby Underground Laboratory.
Getting better at tennis
In his free time XinRan loves reading, kayaking, mountain biking and hiking. He also enjoys watching tennis but when it comes to play it he needs to improve his game.
curious, passionate, patient
A-Levels, GCSEs, PhD, Physics, Research
Case Study: Jens Dopke
Jens is a senior detector scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
The importance of foreign languages
Jens is originally from Germany, so he had a slightly different education to here in the UK. Jens did the equivalent of A-Levels in Physics and Maths and studied Physics at university. He then completed a PhD in particle physics. Looking back at his time in school he underestimated the importance of learning a new foreign languages.
“I was never good at languages, but being able to use them, made me appreciate them a lot more and I noticed that it often takes a lot less than perfection to get somewhere.“
Being a senior detector scientist
According to Jens, being a senior detector scientist often involves being curious, thinking outside of the box and coming up with newer, more efficient ways to do experiments. A big part of his time at work is spent designing, assembling and testing devices for particle physics experiments worldwide.
“I often set out, not knowing how to fix a problem or build something and am very gratified if I can live up to the challenge.“
There is no place like CERN
CERN is home to the most advanced particle physics experiments and this is Jens favourite place to work. It reminds him of the collaborative nature of scientific research. He is open-minded about working with new colleagues from different backgrounds.
“The solution generally involves interaction with many people […] It often helps me to be able to understand people of different backgrounds and bridging (as best as I can) language barriers”
However CERN is also a beautiful place to visit because is located on the boarder between the Jura mountains in France and the Alps in Switzerland.
Ancient scrolls and hiking
When Jens is not working in particle physics experiments he has an unusual hobby: using physics and computing skills to make burnt ancient scrolls readable! He also loves hiking:
I love to go hiking, as far and high as possible and whilst I am afraid of sudden drops, I am perfectly ok when I am wearing my safety gear. I love the Scottish highlands, tend to visit early every year and meet interesting new people in the middle of nowhere.
Senior detector scientist
curious, open-minded, resilient
A-Levels, Degree, PhD
Professor Jane Entwistle
Jane is Professor of Environmental Geochemistry at Northumbria University.
How pollution impacts our health
Jane travels the world to collect samples of environmental media such as soils, plants, lake sediments and dusts, which she brings back to her laboratory for analysis. She is interested in understanding how environmental pollution is linked to health, and the samples she collects help her examine this connection.
“We need to explore these relationships in more detail. Environmental exposures to pollutants are complex; complex geochemically and complex geographically.”
As research linking the environment to human health is starting to mature, Jane and her colleagues across the world are starting to understand the many ways we come in contact with pollutants in our everyday lives, even before we are born!
Geography, allotments and dust
At primary school Jane’s favourite subject was geography, as she was keen to learn about the earth and the environment. She took geography, biology and geology as A-levels and went to study physical geography at university.
“Learning about soils and plants at school inspired me to go to University, where I was encouraged to go into research, a career I had never considered until then.”
More recently Jane has been studying the levels of lead in soil across urban agricultural sites, like allotments. In high concentrations, lead can be bad for your health. Jane is also interested in studying indoor pollutants by studying dust samples from people’s houses.
Jane’s advice to young people
“Stick with it. Decide on an area of particular interest but keep your reading and learning broad; the environment needs people who see issues holistically.”
Jane enjoys being outdoors as much as she can. She particularly likes running and gardening. Here’s a photo of her in an allotment collecting soil samples.
Professor of Environmental Geochemistry
curious, logical, self-motivated
A-Levels, biology, Degree, Geography, Geology, PhD, physical geography
Case Study: Dr Juna Sathian
Juna is a photonics physicist working at Northumbria University.
Photonics is the branch of physics that studies light and the technologies that create it. Juna is curious about finding new applications of photonics technology. She is particularly interested in improving a type of laser which uses alexandrite crystals to make these lasers more affordable and compact. She explains:
This technology should play an important technological role as the next generation of low-cost, high-brightness light sources in a range of scientific, medical and industrial applications.
Masers: microwaves + lasers
After finishing her physics studies in Australia, Juna moved to the UK, where she worked on masers and lasers. Masers are like lasers but they produce beams of microwaves instead of light.
The downside of masers, Juna says, is that they only work at very cold temperatures. Juna was part of the research team that developed a maser that could operate at room-temperature. This will make masers cheaper and easier to use.
As part of her job, Juna has been teaching physics to undergraduate students for a few years now and really enjoys it:
I love the freedom for scientific research, teaching and mentoring students, all in one job!
Juna’s advice to young people
Focus on your goal and be honest at work, you won’t be disappointed.
Outside of her work, Juna is a big fan of history. She loves reading about past civilisations and visiting places of historic interest. One of the favourite places she visited was the Taj_Mahal. Juna also enjoys pencil drawing and drew the diagram below showing all different aspects of science and STEM.
collaborative, curious, passionate
A-Levels, Degree, PhD, Physics
Geneticists study genes and the science of inherited traits passed down through generations. They study living organisms, from human beings and animals to crops and bacteria. Research is a major part of a geneticist’s job. They conduct experiments to determine the origins of particular inherited traits, such as medical conditions and seek and use this information to adjust genetic material to modify existing traits and create new ones.
Attributes: observant, creative, curious
A Biologist is a scientist who studies life and seeks to gain a better understanding of relationships that humans, animals and bacteria have with their environment. Biologists use research to gather data about how the bodies of different organisms work and how environmental factors impact on this. They then use this information to make advancements in medicine, agriculture or industrial processes.
Attributes: communicative, hard-working, curious
- The Primary Science Teaching Trust has a downloadable slideshow (PDF) about Amy Pickering who is a microbiologist. They also have a downloadable slideshow (PDF) about Dr Ahna Skop who is a cell biologist. There is another downloadable slideshow (PDF) about Dr Aarti Sehdev who is a neurobiologist. It’s part of their resource A Scientist Just Like Me.
Mechatronic engineers combine aspects of both mechanical engineering and robotic engineering into one discipline, called mechatronic engineering. They create smart machines that have an awareness of their surroundings for many different purposes and industries. Mechatronic engineers are involved in the entire development of smart machines, from design and testing to manufacture. Mechatronic engineers may work in a lab, processing plant or engineering office. They may be involved developing in robotics, bio-engineering, nanotechnology or in manufacturing unmanned vehicles or medical machines.
Attributes: imaginative, collaborative, curious
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