Engineering is so diverse, multidisciplinary & gives me opportunities to work with colleagues & students from all over the world

Dr Shan-Shan Huang3
Dr Shan-Shan Huang
Senior Lecturer in the Department of Civil & Structural Engineering
Civil & Structural Engineering Alumna
Dr Shan-Shan Huang studied with the faculty for a postgraduate degree and, like many people, she loved Sheffield so much she stayed on and is now a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Civil & Structural Engineering - she was also recently named top 100 Women in Engineering in the WES annual awards.

Read: Our interview with Shan-Shan

Dr Shan-Shan Huang2

Congratulations on the 'Top 50 Women' nomination!

Thank you! Being put forward for the award was a surprise, a huge honour, and a great sense of responsibility to be one of the 100 Highly Commended Finalists for the 2021 Top 50 Women in Engineering.

It’s very important that women should consider engineering as a career because engineering can be benefited by more female involvement, due to the distinct perspectives they bring based on their unique experiences and ways of thinking. This creates a diverse workforce that drives innovation and increases productivity in the sector. It’d be a real waste of talent to exclude the 3.9 billion women in the world (49.5% of the world population) from engineering!

What is your background and why did you choose engineering as a career path?

I chose engineering initially because I loved Maths, Physics and Art at school. Then very soon, I realised I’d made the right choice – engineering allows one to use fascinating sciences to solve real world problems and civil and structural engineering particularly enables all those beautiful buildings, bridges, etc. to stand elegantly and steadily even in extreme conditions like earthquakes, fire, flood, and so on so it is just perfect for me.

What is your current role?

I'm a Senior Lecturer in Structural Engineering and Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering.

Why did you decide to study at Sheffield and what made you stay on to work for the university?

After my first degree, I decided to carry on with a Master abroad (I’m originally from China) and the University of Sheffield is world renowned so I felt this was an obvious reason for choosing the study here. But that’s not all: during my research on different civil and structural engineering departments in the world, I was very impressed by the outstanding quality and diversity of the research that Sheffield does. Also, Sheffield was ranked one of the safest cities in the country which is ideal.

The academic excellence of the Department surely didn’t disappoint me, and so I stayed on for a PhD and eventually to work. Sheffield, as a city, is perfect for both working and living. The city is very green, safe, friendly and vibrant. It’s minutes away from the Peak District, actually commutable if you want to live in the countryside and work in the city. 

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

People around me are the real highlights. Engineering is so diverse and multidisciplinary and gives me all opportunities to work with colleagues and students from all over the world and from different backgrounds.  

Being selected as one of the 100 Highly Commended Finalists for the 2021 Top 50 Women in Engineering is another highlight. 

But these are not all. As a researcher, I have the opportunity to set up and do new research to improve the fire engineering practices, considering not only safety and efficiency, but also sustainability. As a teacher, it’s always fulfilling to help my students build up engineering skills knowing they will then take them forward to build a better world! My involvement in the student recruitment allows me to engage with prospective students at a very early stage and gives me the chance to share my experience in engineering and encourage more girls to study it. 

What does the future hold for you?

I would love to carry on with my research in fire engineering, teach (and learn from) my students and help build a world encouraging young girls to become engineers. I like academia and will stay on, but I will also carry on working with industry to make an impact in the real world. 

Research has shown that to encourage women to think about a career in engineering we must start teaching what engineering is at a young age. How would you encourage primary school children to become interested in STEM?

Early education is the key indeed. Outreach events helping young kids realise that everything around them is the product of engineering is perhaps a good way forward. 

What’s the best thing about being an engineer?

Thinking out of the box, resolving real world problems, facing new challenges, and meeting/working with interesting people, daily!

We interviewed Shan-Shan in August 2021

Find a PhD

Search for PhD opportunities at Sheffield and be part of our world-leading research.