Impressive women engineers head to the University of Sheffield

Impressive women engineers head to the University of Sheffield

 January 15, 2019

The University of Sheffield believes engineering is a fantastic career choice for women and men - but understands women are still underrepresented in the sector. The University of Sheffields likes to reinforce the huge diversity of the engineering discipline to break preconceived notions of what engineering is. They showcase their excellent Wall of Women.

"Forget what you think you know about engineering and find out why engineering is a great choice for women from our own female engineers; past, present and future," says the University of Sheffield.

Where Women Work shines the light on three impressive women working at the University of Sheffield who demonstrate the exciting breadth and depth of engineering and are thriving in their careers thanks to the University's fabulous research environment.

Dr Amy Gandy, Lecturer in Nuclear Engineering, Department of Materials Science & Engineering

Amy’s research centres on understanding radiation induced defect formation, accumulation, and thermal recovery, and the development of new materials for the next generation of nuclear technologies (fission and fusion).

Solving one of the greatest engineering challenges

What Amy loves best about being engineer is that it allows her to combine the fundamental maths and physics knowledge that she got during my degree with the electron microscopy that she then learned during my PhD and apply these alongside other techniques to help solve one of the greatest engineering challenges: to create safer and more efficient power production for nuclear energy.

"Engineering is an essential and integral part of our life here on Earth as well as our exploration into space," explains Amy. "It combines Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology and allows us to understand the world around us so it's truly interdiciplinary."

Researching nuclear materials

Amy's research understands how radiation affects materials at the atomic scale. She's particularly interested in how energetic particles interact with atoms in a material.

Amy explains that these particles can be produced, for example, inside the core of a nuclear reactor or in nuclear waste or in outer space in cosmic radiation. What happens when these particles collide with the atoms in a material is that it produces what we call radiation damage and this can lead to swelling, blistering and even cracking of the material as well as a whole host of other detrimental effects.

"At present the focus of my research is on nuclear materials, specifically ceramics and metallic alloys, and these can be used for nuclear fuel and also the structural materials within a nuclear reactor core. The nuclear reactors of the future, these are the fusion reactors and the generation for fisson reactors, are going to be even safer than the ones today," says Amy. 

"They are going to be more efficient and they are going to produce more power. In order for them to produce more power they have to operate at high temperatures and they are going to produce significantly higher levels of radiation so we have to engineer new materials that are going to be able to withstand these extreme conditions."

Lisa Hollands, Technical Team Leader for Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Sheffield

Lisa is a technical team leader at the University of Sheffield and the group that she oversees does a lot to do with materials processing. Lisa explains that this can involve things like melting glass and melting metals; squashing, pulling, grinding and cutting - any of those sorts of things goes with her team.

An excellent reputation for engineering

"I chose to come to Sheffield because the departments had a really excellent reputation for engineering. When I came and had a look around the department during my open days I was really excited by what they had to offer and whilst I was here I found out that I really loved materials science and stayed here with some excellent supervisors to do both a Masters and a PhD," explains Lisa.

Working with glass 

Lisa has worked both in industry and at the University of Sheffield. While she was working in industry she most often did consultancy work where she looked into solving glass making problems. Lisa worked with a wide breadth of glass making from flat glass making through to bottles and specialist glass making.

While at the University of Sheffield, Lisa has been researching incorporating radioactive waste into glasses, which is a great way of handling waste all the way through to making bioactive glasses for incorporating into the body.

Having great effects on people's lives

For Lisa, there are two potential routes in her future career journey. One is teaching, the other is becoming a technical manager for a department at The University of Sheffield.

"I love working in engineering," adds Lisa. "It's a discipline that uses science to make small changes to everyday items and the changes that are made can have great effects on people's lives and they don't even realise. Also I love coming in and working with hot glass every day."

Dr Xiaoli Chu, Lecturer in Electronic & Electrical Engineering

Xiaoli's research area is in wireless communications and we design wireless networks to connect to people everywhere, anywhere at anytime. She also researches into wireless communications to connect to machines and devices without human involvement to improve quality of life for people and offer support for connecting a society.

"To me, the excitement involved in technology development and innovation is the best part of being an engineer," says Xiaoli.

An life-long education in engineering

Xiaoli's education has always been in engineering. She did her bachelor's degree in Engineering from Xi'an Jiaotong University in China and then later a PhD degree at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. When she got her PhD she began searching for a job abroad and she got an offer from King's College London. Xiaoli came to the UK for the first time as a Research Fellow.

The best environment for engineering research

"In 2012 I moved to Sheffield because the Engineering Faculty of Engineering is bigger, stronger and the department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering is one of the largest so I chose Sheffield so that I could have an even better environment to focus on my engineering research," adds Xiaoli.

"The best thing about being an engineer to me is the involvement in innovation and technology development especially for us and the research in our mobile networks. We got involved in the most pioneering technology, for example, a few years ago people were using 3G networks and after that time we started researching 4G technology," says Xiaoli.

"Now that operators are selling their 4G networks, we are doing research on 5G and even beyond this technology. Although I look forward to working on this new technology a few years in advance of everybody else, it’s the excitement involved in technology development and innovation to me that is the best part of being an engineer."

Join talented women like Lisa, Amy and Xiaoli at The University of Sheffield

With a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and gender equality, there are plenty of opportunities for strong candidates in a host of academic and support roles. 

Search and apply for exciting and challenging jobs with the University of Sheffield today. 

Find out more

Stay connected by subscribing to our monthly newsletter and following us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

Share this page:

Join our women's careers community