My highlight is winning the ‘Best Paper Award in Medical Robotics’ at ICRA2020, the world’s largest robotics conference for my first ever paper!

Lavanya Balasubramanian
Lavanya Balasubramanian
Project Assistant for ASTUTE 2020
MSc Robotics Alumna
Lavanya is an MSc Robotics alumna who graduated in 2019 from the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering. She now works for ASTUTE 2020 and here she tells us why engineering and Sheffield was for her.

Read: Our interview with Lavanya

Lavanya Balasubramanian3

Why did you choose engineering?

When I finished school, the mere fascination about problem solving is what made me take up engineering. Growing up, I did not have engineers around to guide me about all the things I could achieve here. The question of “Why not?” is what pushed me towards this field. Today, I am extremely glad that I took that plunge and over the years, my interest towards engineering developed radically. This drove me to pursue a Master’s degree at Sheffield and it was the most empowering and enriching experience of my life. The opportunities I got to explore and the projects I got to be a part of further cemented my desire to be in this field.

What has been the highlight of your engineering journey so far?

Winning the ‘Best Paper Award in Medical Robotics’ at ICRA2020, the world’s largest robotics conference for my first ever paper! For my Master’s final project, I was part of the Sheffield Biomedical Robotics Lab where I worked on a flexible and implantable robot aimed to treat Oesophageal Atresia. It was one of the most challenging works I have done in my life and it led to a lot of personal and professional growth. Being a part of such an impactful research and winning an award for it has definitely been the highlight of my engineering journey.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I came to the University of Sheffield through a Women In STEM scholarship from the British Council. I realised that it wasn’t just a monetary benefit and I now have a responsibility towards inspiring the next generation as well as my fellow engineers. We need to come together and make sure the next generation of female engineers go on to become role models for generations to come. My ambition for the future is to be part of initiatives that actively work towards this to fix the leaky pipeline of Women in STEM. 

Can you tell us about working for ASTUTE and what your role is there?

I work as a Project Assistant in ASTUTE 2020 at Swansea University. ASTUTE’s  focus is towards sustainable manufacturing. My day to day work involves tackling the technical challenges of Welsh manufacturing companies through research and innovation. The Department of ACSE at the University of Sheffield offered an Industrial Training Module on Advanced Manufacturing which was a practical exposure to what a job in my field would be like. It was one of the most challenging and fulfilling modules of my course and it was a golden opportunity that led me to the job I do now. 

How would you encourage primary school children to become interested in STEM?

Children are naturally curious, and it is important for the curriculum to kindle their exploratory nature. There are also certain misconceptions that STEM is only for certain groups of people and that it is uncool to be interested in it. I would strongly encourage investigative and project-based learning to be introduced from a young age.

I don’t think women at a young age are told about problem solving and the amount of impact they can create with that. There is a dearth of female role models which has often made me feel intimidated and doubtful of my suitability for this field. There weren’t many female engineers around me whose experiences I could draw from, whose success I could be inspired by. This further discourages even the few girls who are interested in STEM.  I would encourage schools to improve the students’ exposure to STEM professionals during the highly influential stages of their lives. 

What is the best thing about being an engineer?

The best thing about being an engineer is knowing that what you do for a living is actively changing the world around you from saving the environment to creating more jobs. It is also exciting as no two days are the same. There are a lot of challenges and learning involved but it is equally rewarding.

Watch: Lavanya talks about why she choose ACSE, her time studying in the department and how her degree and experience gained helped her embark on an exciting career: Lavanya's graduate profile.

Read: Lavanya talks about Sheffield, what she liked about her degree and gives a tip to new students: read more.

We interviewed Lavanya in February 2021.

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

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