People don’t realise engineers solve big problems for people

Heidi Christensen
Professor Heidi Christensen
Deputy Head of Department
Department of Computer Science
My name is Heidi Christensen, I’m interested in seeing how we can use speech technology to help people, I’ve worked on making speech enabled software to help give people a better quality of life. I'm a Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science.

Watch: our interview with Heidi

I was always interested in maths and physics, I imagined I'd do civil engineering and building bridges but eventually I was shown around the different departments and I got very interested in electrical engineering, the programming part of it. Eventually I ended up in speech technology, which is good fun.

Why did you choose engineering?

I saw mathematics as less hands on. I really like the practical stuff, I quite like seeing things being completed and being built such as bridges and software. I like actual applications, having a big project and seeing things progress. 

What excites you about engineering?

I think its fun, I like solving problems, I like the logic of it, thinking abstract and coming up with solutions. It’s got a dusty image but it’s nothing like i thought it would be. I also like that you can help people, people don’t realise engineers solve big problems for people. I feel like I am helping people and doing good things in the world. 

I’m interested in seeing how I can use speech technology to help people in general, especially people with serious handicaps who find it difficult to use their hands. I’ve worked on making speech enabled interfaces with people to give them a better quality of life. It’s a very rewarding bit of research, working with real people is challenging but very interesting.

What is it like being a woman in engineering?

I never found it a challenge, but I would love to see more women. They are missing out on a really exciting career. It would be great to have more women in top roles. 

How do we encourage more women to study and work in engineering?

More women might be interested if the old image of engineering is removed, it’s very inaccurate and just having more knowledge of engineers change everything. Seeing many more role models of lots of different types of women engineers will help. It’s important to go out to schools and speak to children very early on. Getting out there as early as possible and telling them is important.

We interviewed Heidi in 2014.