Where did you study and what area of engineering did you qualify in?
I developed a love of science and the natural environment during my school years and followed my passion through to college, studying Environmental and Earth Systems Sciences at University College Cork (UCC). I decided to specialise in environmental science, graduating with a BSc in 2016. I considered applying for a master’s in engineering, but when I was offered a graduate environmental scientist role at ROD, I decided to go straight into industry.
What have been the high points for you in terms of your chosen career?
Working as an environmental scientist within a civil engineering consultancy has taught me a lot, not least because of the sheer range of projects I have been involved in - from urban developments and greenways through to motorways and urban bypasses.
Leading the coordination of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) for the Trinity Wharf Development in Wexford – my home town - was a particular highlight. The proposed mixed-use development, which was granted approval by An Bord Pleanála in April 2020, will see the regeneration of a derelict, brownfield site along the Wexford quay front. The site has great potential as an economic hub, and I am looking forward to seeing how it will benefit the town in the years to come.
What type of challenge do you enjoy most?
I always enjoy starting work on a new project, taking time to understand the different elements of the environment and the design of the proposed development before coordinating a team of specialists to carry out their assessments.
Over the last few years, the projects I have worked on have been located in contrasting baseline environments, with their own unique sensitivities. New projects pose new challenges and opportunities not just in terms of developing the design but also in terms of the measures that can be implemented to mitigate the impact of the proposed development on the receiving environment and to ensure that sustainability is forefront in the design.
What projects have you learned most from?
Since joining ROD four years ago, I have greatly developed my knowledge of civil engineering and road design in particular. I acted as environmental coordinator on the Foynes to Limerick Road (including Adare Bypass) project, which was recently progressed through Oral Hearing. Through the development of the EIAR and Natura Impact Statement (NIS), I gained an in-depth knowledge of the complexities involved in designing major infrastructure schemes, including finding design solutions to meet the needs of the receiving environment across the full length of the proposed development.
What direction would you like to see your career taking?
Environmental assessment is a fast-moving field, with rulings from Irish and European Courts regularly resulting in changes to assessments. To keep up-to-date with developments, I am undertaking an Advanced Diploma in Planning and Environmental Law at King’s Inns in Dublin. I hope to take on more leadership roles as I progress my career, and I am currently acting as a mentor to a graduate environmental scientist within our team.
What advice would you give to a young woman starting out in her career?
I would encourage young women starting out in their careers to be confident, focus on their interests, promote their strengths and also work on their weaknesses, even if it means stepping out of their comfort zone to do so.
What advice would you give to a teacher or parent hoping to encourage young girls to consider engineering?
At primary level, I think it is important that teachers and parents encourage children to explore the “how and why of how things happen” by incorporating practical elements into classes and playtime. At secondary level, schools, particularly all-girls schools, should offer a broad range of subject choices, including physics and technical drawing, so students’ future career options are not limited.