Where are they now? Saheela Mohammed (MSc Bioengineering 2017)
Continuing our series of alumni profiles we spoke to recent bioengineering graduate Saheela Mohammed about life at Sheffield, winning the Chancellor’s Medal, and her plans for the future.
What did you study while at Sheffield?
During my time at Sheffield, I studied for an integrated Master’s degree in Bioengineering. I have always wanted to make a difference through helping people in whatever I did. Over the years at school I enjoyed most of my subjects however, I had a particular interest in design and technology, human biology and maths. At the time, bioengineering was (and perhaps still is) a relatively new field in engineering but it offered me a chance to make a change through solving problems faced in healthcare and helps to improve the lives of many.
What first attracted you to Sheffield?
The interdisciplinary nature of the course first attracted me to Sheffield as it was essentially a bridge between engineering, technology and medicine. Visiting Sheffield and the University with my family on a day out helped me to finalise my choice. I met some of the welcoming people of Sheffield and I liked that it was quieter (and much greener) than London, but it still had that urban-city feel which was perfect for me.
What were some of your favourite things to do in Sheffield?
Sheffield holds a lot of memories; walking in the Peaks was a must as we were practically situated on the doorstep of a National Park and visiting the many hideaway cafes and restaurants were amongst some of my favourite things to do in the city.
You were part of a lot of societies while at Sheffield – what were some of the best things you did?
Being a part of societies within the engineering faculty helped me to find some of my interests away from my studies, but it also helped to gain skills I would not have experienced otherwise.
I can remember volunteering at various events and interactive workshops in local schools and colleges, visiting local attractions with children and their siblings for Saturday Playgroup, planning and organising the annual ball with the Mechanical Engineering Society and attending a nationwide conference for Engineers Without Borders. A long video call on a lunchbreak during my summer placement led to my involvement in the ‘Engineering Is’ campaign which then went on to be launched in the Houses of Parliament in 2016.
Through your involvement with the Women in Engineering group you’ve been a great advocate to get more women interested in the subject – how did you get involved with this, and who was your inspiration?
After seeing a call for volunteers from the student society, I decided to put myself forward as a volunteer for a national Big Bang event. Volunteering at the event where a large number of organisations showcased the wonders of science, engineering and technology to young children was an acknowledgement of the need to educate, increase knowledge and widen participation in STEM subjects.
From this, I then volunteered in more local events and eventually ran for election as the Secretary, then later President, of the Society as I wanted to do my part in addressing gender parity in engineering and increase engagement in STEM. It is a tough challenge, one that I believe starts from the home and is then carried through school. Highlighting that there are different types of engineering available in addition to the more traditional disciplines plays a key part in inspiring the next generation.
Some key players for me personally included Prof Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, Roma Agrawal and Prof Sheila MacNeil for a variety of reasons.
How did you react on hearing you had been awarded the Chancellor’s Medal?
It is an honour to even be considered for the Medal. When I received the letter, I was surprised and humbled that I had been awarded the 2017 Chancellor’s Medal. It has been the culmination of my time at university and I am incredibly grateful to the people I have met along the way who have each inspired me or guided me to be the best I can be. It has been a pleasure to work alongside the students on various inspirational initiatives.
Throughout university, I have been lucky to be part of several groups and organisations where the staff and students have worked together to raise the profile of engineering worldwide and I am incredibly proud of the progress that we have made.
You’ve taken part in the Global Engineering Challenge which involves alumni working with students to support their projects. What benefits did you feel as a student, meeting with and talking to graduates from around your field?
Meeting graduates from Sheffield during the week-long challenge gave some insight into the working world. Some skills that we touched upon for the project itself included reshaping initial ideas, reinterpreting the specific challenge and adapting the solutions – all useful ideas for longer term projects in future years and working life. Participating in the Global Engineering Challenge alongside other first year students from the engineering faculty played a large part in me being selected for the Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy which also had a large presence from alumni and industry leaders.
And would you consider getting involved now you are on the other side, as an alumna?
After gaining some experience following my graduation and establishing a career, I would like to give back to the University by being involved in some of these programme as I benefitted from this, in addition to the eMentoring scheme. At the time, the advice and guidance gave a sense of confidence in the application process for internships and improved my professional network.
What is next for you now that you have graduated?
I will be starting work as a graduate engineer at a medical device manufacturing company.
What is your ultimate goal for the future?
To drive a positive change to advance healthcare technologies so that everyone, everywhere can benefit is the ultimate goal for me.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self or other Sheffield newcomers?
You may not see it for what it is straight away but say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Say yes to that social event with friends from your course, yes to running for a position on a society, yes to helping your flatmate on a volunteering programme. Any experience, good or bad, develops you as a person, grows your personal network and helps you to gain skills you would not have otherwise.
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