Celebrating our female engineers

To celebrate this year's International Women in Engineering Day (Sunday 23 June 2019), we’re showcasing the achievements of some of our female engineers. Thank you to everyone who submitted a profile.

Engineering is a fantastic career choice for both men and women but unfortunately one in which women are largely underrepresented. The international campaign aims to raise the profile of women in engineering and highlight the amazing career opportunities available to women and girls in this exciting industry. This year’s theme is #TransformTheFuture.

Dr Claire Corkhill

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow

Dr Claire Corkhill

I didn’t start life as an engineer, my undergraduate degree was in geology and from that I learnt a lot about geochemistry and mineralogy and then it was an easy step to materials science.

I work at the interface between materials science and engineering. My specific area of focus is looking at how the surfaces of very radioactive nuclear waste materials such as cement, glass or ceramics dissolve when they come into contact with groundwater. I'm developing new types of materials that are long-lived, extremely durable and radiation-resistant, so we can engineer safe waste disposal options.

This is really important because in the UK at the moment, we have 650,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste – enough to fill Wembley Stadium. It’s very radioactive and we’re planning to dispose of this in a very deep nuclear disposal facility which is going to be several hundred metres below the ground where there is lots of groundwater. It’s very important that we know the waste isn’t going to dissolve and it’s going to be safe.

I think engineering is often misrepresented in the media and in society - it’s not just the stereotypical man in a suit or overalls. If you’re a problem solver, then you’re an engineer - male or female - it’s really that simple. So I would say, ignore the stereotypes and do what you enjoy.

Dr Xinshan Li

Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering

Xinshan Li

My current research looks at paediatric applications as well as women’s health. I’m hoping to make a difference in the world in these two areas. I’m interested in using engineering modelling techniques to help solve medical problems. I think multi-scale modelling is an area where engineering can really help make a difference and that is why I decided to pursue a research career in this area.

In the fourth year of my biomedical engineering degree I chose to look into developing a virtual model for female pelvic floors, particularly looking into the effects of childbirth. This interests me because it’s a problem very closely related to women in general and I’m really keen to learn a bit more about how our muscles work and cope with this big challenge.

I really enjoyed the project, I liked the research aspect of it, and I enjoyed digging into a problem and trying to find out solutions. This led me to do a PhD on the same topic and during my PhD I got to know more clinicians, midwives and nurses who are actively researching in this area. They are all very passionate and keen to work with engineers because they think there is a lack of tools available to provide a better understanding in this area as well as quantitative evidence to back up some of the traditional thinking in medicine.

Dr Dana Damian

Lecturer in Automatic Control & Systems Engineering

Dana Damian

My interest in engineering started with my father who was a mechanical engineer and also very much interested in science. I also credit my mother because, although she was not an engineer, she inspired me and encouraged me to take a risky and unconventional path in my life.

The best thing about being an engineer is creating new technology that can directly help people. We are working on robotic implants – this is a new technology that would reside inside our body, be mounted on a tissue and by gently pulling on a tissue we can grow new tissue or organs. We are so excited and fascinated by the idea of how to control it using the technology that we build. 

Helen Wright

Teaching Technician for Bioengineering

Helen Wright

I'm a teaching technician in bioengineering and I work in the engineering faculty's new Multidisciplinary Engineering Education building. I teach over 500 undergraduate and postgraduate students, but it's not just bioengineering students I teach – I teach across all disciplines of engineering too.

Here in engineering we would love to see more female students because it's such an exciting career prospect for them. To my current female students I would definitely say never be afraid to take every opportunity that comes your way, never be afraid to volunteer for things and get involved in the projects that you're interested in so everything you do – every task you do – is an opportunity to learn something whether that's a new skill or an opportunity to practice an old skill or maybe it's just an opportunity to meet new people and expand your network these are all things that will benefit you and help you develop in your future career.

Discover more stories from our female engineers

Dr Ruby Hughes

Technical Fellow and Head of Manufacturing Intelligence at the AMRC Factory 2050

Dr Hughes is helping to transform the future of manufacturing using virtual reality (VR) modelling for factory layout planning and Discrete Event Simulation (DES) to determine the facility’s potential and validate productivity targets.

The modelling has proved so successful that Boeing could soon be rolling it out worldwide to new and existing sites as the simulation involves no disruption to the workshop floor, since it all takes place in the virtual world.

Ruby said: “We created a work package modelling Boeing Sheffield to simulate the proposed work-flow on the factory floor to validate productivity targets, examine any uncertainties or what-if events and identify resources such as machines and materials required in a risk-free environment before the factory went live.

“Linking a virtual simulation model to Boeing’s production data in real-time will provide continuing benefits for Boeing such as real-time factory monitoring.”


Inspiring the next generation of engineers

Rachael Rothman

Currently only 11% of UK engineers are female. We’re working to increase the proportion of female students studying in engineering and the proportion of female staff working in engineering.

“We need to be talking to kids in primary school about what engineering is and what engineers do, particularly to girls. They make up half the population, they should make up half the engineers.” Professor Mike Hounslow, Vice-President and Head of Engineering

"My hope for the future is that no child is ever told 'that's a job for boys' or 'that's a job for girls.' I support our amazing women in the engineering student society which celebrates the excitement of an engineering career and enables people to access it that may not have thought of it otherwise." Dr Gwen Reilly, Reader at the INSIGNEO Institute for in silico Medicine and Faculty of Engineering Director for Equality Diversity and Inclusion

“In my role as Associate Director for the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures I engage with the public, students, academics and industry. Enthusiastically discussing how engineering and my areas of research can contribute to solving some of the World's biggest problems, for example climate change and plastic waste, demonstrates that there doesn't need to be gender barriers in engineering.” Dr Rachael Rothman, Associate Director, Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures


 Dr Kathryn Jackson, Technology Researcher at the Nuclear AMRC, explains how our AMRC Training Centre is supporting women and girls who want to pursue a career in engineering.

The AMRC Training Centre is supporting women and girls who want to pursue a career in engineering through apprenticeships at any level, from Advanced Apprenticeships through to Degree Apprenticeships. We recognise that overcoming the barrier of the perception of engineering being a career for men, due to the under-representation of female role models or gender stereotyping, combined with the perception that practical work is associated with lower levels of academic achievement, can put girls off a career in this discipline. We are actively engaged with schools across the region to break down stereotypes around careers in STEM subjects early in the pipeline. One way in which we do this is through the AMRC’s staff STEM ambassadors who provide powerful real-life testimonies of their personal career pathways which they share with schools.

Once girls or women take the decision to start an apprenticeship, we have a continuing role to keep them on track and ensure that they achieve the best of their potential. For some girls, the need for an ally through a peer group or staff mentoring is important; whilst others thrive on the opportunity to stand out and be different. Feeling safe and supported to maintain a female identity is important for some girls, whereas others want to disassociate from the label of ‘female engineer’ and don’t want their gender to be any part of their professional identity. Our role is to recognise the diversity of experiences of being a female in engineering and to put in place whatever support is needed, or not needed, for women or girls entering this profession. This includes working with employers in addition to our own staff and students. We generally find that the girls themselves are the best source of advice for what they need, or don’t need, to thrive in this profession.


Gender equality, it's all of the time, everywhere

Our staff and students are helping to create a more gender-balanced world.

Gender equality at Sheffield

Let us know how you're progressing gender equality

If want to share how you’re working towards gender equality in your department, we’d love to hear from you.

Please email internalcommunications@sheffield.ac.uk

AESSEAL gives boost to Women in Engineering

Dr Gwen Reilly and students from the Women in Engineering scheme meeting Stephen Shaw from AESSEAL a

Our University's Women in Engineering initiative has received an incredible contribution thanks to local engineering company AESSEAL, who since 2016 have donated £100,000 to support efforts in the areas of gender equality in Engineering.

Read more 

Celebrating 100 years of the Women's Engineering Society

Thursday 27 June, 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Cutlers’ Hall, S1 1HG

Coinciding with the celebration of 100 years of the Women’s Engineering Society, the Institution of Mechanical Engineering are hosting an event presenting a showcase of speeches by highly achieved female engineers reflecting on their experiences and career paths.

Event details and registration