University of Sheffield engineering staff inspire students

University of Sheffield engineering staff inspire students

 October 10, 2019

Female academics working in the area of engineering with the University of Sheffield are undertaking impressive work. Not only is their research pioneering, they are also positive role models for students at the university.

Inspiring teachers and mentors can play a big part in what drives the next generation forward. Where Women Work profiles three inspirational female employees and three recent female graduates within engineering from the University of Sheffield.

Meet two inspirational university lecturers

Sheila MacNeil is Professor of Tissue Engineering

Working within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Sheila has an undergraduate degree in physiology from the University of Aberdeen and a doctorate on the endocrinology of manic depression from the Medical School of the University of Sheffield. She was a founding Director of the University of Sheffield spin-out company, CellTran Limited, and received the Suffrage Science Award for women in engineering and physical sciences.

Sheilda MaCNeil Sheffield

“I’ve always been interested in the sorts of clinical problems where you actually need to do things and bring things together. I started working with chemists and engineers and I started working with engineers more and more and eventually I moved into the engineering faculty,” says Sheila.

“The reason I ended up in the engineering faculty is because I’ve always been attracted to human health problems, problem solving and engineers are problem solving animals. The process begins by identifying what the problem is and then you put the team together to tackle it. My own interest for the last 20 years has been tissue engineering and you need to bring together biology and some engineering principles. You can put a team together in an engineering faculty fairly easily and one or two biologists can catalyse the rest to tackle the problem.”

Sheila’s role model is her biology teacher from school, Jonny McCardle. “He was a lovely guy, we had the Nuffield Syllabus for the first time at A Level and it was all about experimenting and finding out for yourself and making mistakes, and he took to it like a duck to water and so did I. A lot of the class didn’t like it, but I loved it. It was ‘let's try it and see what happens’ that becomes infectious, so I have a lot to owe to him.”

Sheila describes engineers as “problem solvers, whether they’re male or female engineers.”

Dr Amy Gandy is a Lecturer in Nuclear Engineering

Amy’s research within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering 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).

“What’s best about being an engineer is that it allows me to combine the fundamental maths and physics knowledge that I got during my degree with the electron microscopy that I learned during my PhD and apply these along with other techniques in order to help solve one of the greatest engineering challenges: to create safer and more efficient power production for nuclear energy,” says Amy.

“Engineering is an essential and integral part of our life here on earth as well as our exploration into space. It combines maths, physics, chemistry and biology and allows us to understand the world around us – so it’s truly interdisciplinary.”

Amy was also named by the university as an ‘Inspirational Academic’ for her work. Learn more in the following video.

The focus of Amy’s research is on nuclear materials, specifically ceramics and metallic alloys, and how these can be used for nuclear fuel and also the structural materials within a nuclear reactor core.

Meet two up-and-coming engineering graduates

Amy McLauchlan is an Aerospace Engineering graduate

Amy is a recent graduate who, while studying at Sheffield, made it through to the finals of the Rolls Royce sponsored Female Undergraduate of the Year Awards. She thanks her tutors for her success.

“The people I've met [at Sheffield] have been incredible from inspiring tutors to like-minded students: we help each other out all the time balancing each other's strengths and weaknesses and work together to try and get this pretty difficult degree,” says Amy.

A friend recommended that Amy apply for the Female Undergraduate of the Year Award and she was shocked when she found herself in the top 10, from over 600 applicants.

“I feel I managed to get through to the top 10 because of the range of activities I involve myself with in Sheffield,” explained Amy at the time. “I'm part of the army officer training corps so I'm off training every other weekend with the army and I also love adventure training so I do climbing with them. I'm also part of the Women in Engineering Society and its this range and this roundness that it's given me that I believe has allowed me to make it all the way through.”

Amy would like to encourage more women into engineering. “When I say to someone ‘I'm an aerospace engineer’ I want them to stop raising their eyebrows and being shocked - I want it to be a norm and for people not to be surprised by what I do,” she comments.

“I feel pride when I'm able to tell people that I'm an engineer and also the opportunity it is going to give me to help and improve people's lives all over the world.”

Saheela Mohammed is an Engineering Graduate

Saheela now works with a global healthcare company and was awarded the University of Sheffield Chancellor’s Medal.

“I chose to study at Sheffield because Sheffield itself is renowned for its research and all of its facilities that it has. During my time at the university I was also elected the President of the Women in Engineering Society,” says Saheela. “One of the key events that I launched was the Inspiring Women of the Future Panel event which brought together many academic leaders and industry leaders to talk about how they got to where they are today. Our main focus of that was to encourage current students and others to consider engineering as one of their future options later on in their careers.”

Saheela was awarded the Chancellor's medal because of her contribution to initiatives like Women in Engineering, Engineering Without Borders and Sheffield Volunteering.

“In the future I hope to continue and finish my Graduate Scheme, I would like to pursue the Chartered Engineer status professionally and also manage a large cross-functional team,” she adds. “In addition to this I think it's really important to give back to the local community so I really want to do my part in helping to inspire the next generation of young female engineers.”

These women are some of the many inspirational women working or graduating in engineering at the University of Sheffield. Read about further women contributing to the important and challenging world of engineering here.

Inspire the next generation by working with University of Sheffield

Want to be part of a university that is positively changing lives via amazing research and motivating students to pursue STEM careers?

There are many exciting opportunities across a host of roles – in engineering and beyond – at the University of Sheffield.

Search and apply for roles with the University of Sheffield today.


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

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