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: Rory Harris
Rory is a Science Communication placement student with UKRI Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
Rory studies Physics at the University of Manchester. As part of his degree, he has taken a one year placement with STFC as a science communicator. He loves science and after finishing his GCSE’s he chose to study Maths, Further Maths and Physics at college.
Communicating science with the public
Rory collaborates with scientists to tell the public about the work they are doing. He has great communication skills and can explain why science is important and what it all means in an easy way.
“My job is to tell everyone all about the great work being done by particle physicists!”
Science communication is very important, a scientist’s work is a lot more useful if everyone knows about it and can understand it too! As part of his job, Rory is also hard-working as he ensures he meets deadlines for news articles and social media updates during his placement.
Whilst studying at university, Rory volunteered at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, giving public tours and answering questions about exhibits.
He really enjoyed doing this and found it was great helping engage people with science. Now, on his placement Rory has helped to create some exhibits for their visitor centre as well!
Science Communicator (Placement Student)
collaborative, Communicator, hard-working
A-Levels, Further Mathematics, Mathematics, Physics, Physics, Placement
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: Melinda Baptista
Melinda is currently studying for a Mathematics Degree at the Dundee University.
Melinda took maths, further maths, physics and chemistry for her A-levels and she had great support from her teachers and family to explore maths and physics:
“I had a female Physics teacher, which I thought was really cool”
Looking back at her own education she mentions that ” I think science taught me to be more inquisitive […] a lot of people thinks that maths is about finding an answer, but it’s not. It’s about how do you find the answer, and how you can then use that answer in other scenarios.”
Women in Science Society
Her own experience of being the only girl in her Physics class at secondary school led Melinda to join forces with others at Dundee University to co-found a Women in Science Society. She is happy to take the lead in projects, and is very proud of the society.
We started last year, and it’s nice to get lots of women in STEM together and talk about the issues we face […] We have a series running called My future self where we have women at different stages of their careers coming in and giving talks about their career progression, where they started, where do they want to be and I think it really inspires everyone to pursue their career aspirations [..] We want to start doing outreach with primary schools and secondary schools in the area to really encourage the growth of science capital.
Melinda’s advice to young people
Keep being inquisitive, keep asking questions and keep making contact everywhere you go […] always writes people’s emails down and try to find out ways to further progress in STEM. […] Ask your teachers if they know of any summer schools or programmes and things [you] could get involved in.
Reading books & travelling the world
When she is not busy with her studies Melinda likes to to spend her time reading and travelling: “I recently challenged myself to read a book a week and it’s going well. I am currently reading a book called algorithms to live by which is about human decision-making and is really interesting because then you start looking how to to plan your day […] I live in Scotland which is a really beautiful country and I love travel around the Highlands […] in Europe, Berlin is my favourite city to go to every summer.”
Confidence, Leadership, Tenacity
A-Levels, Mathematics, Physics
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