Why did you study engineering?
It was during my final year in secondary school that my father first suggested engineering to me as a potential career. It wasn’t something I had ever really considered before because I didn’t have any real exposure to the world of engineering while growing up. In fact, I had been thinking about following my parents into teaching.
My father helped me see that I could apply my passion for solving complicated puzzles and figuring out how things worked to the study of real-world engineering applications.
Where did you study?
I studied civil, structural and environmental engineering at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), graduating in 2016.
I subsequently undertook a master’s in structural engineering in TCD, graduating first in my class. My thesis project was among the finalists for the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) Student Project Prize in 2017.
How did you become interested in research?
As a student, I was mainly interested in bridges and structures. In the fourth year of my degree programme, I studied at KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm, where I developed a special interest in bridge dynamics. It later became the subject of my master’s thesis and ultimately led me to a career in research.
When did you join ROD?
I joined ROD’s two-year graduate programme in 2017. The programme helped to confirm that my main interest lies in structural projects and that solving problems which require out-of-the-box, lateral thinking is something I enjoy. It is very satisfying when you can apply different or lesser-known solutions to improve project outcomes and, for me, that is part of the attraction of research!
What type of projects are you currently working on?
I am working on the EU-funded SAFE-10-T project with ROD-IS, a research subsidiary of ROD. The project aims to develop a safety framework for critical road, rail and inland waterway infrastructure along the European TEN-T network.
I am also working with the bridges team on the Waterford City Public Infrastructure project, a large, multidisciplinary project involving the design of infrastructure for the development of Waterford city’s North Quays. I am working on the design of the Sustainable Transport Bridge, which will cross over the River Suir in the city centre.
Why do so few women choose to study engineering?
In Ireland, it is unusual for all-girls’ secondary schools to offer engineering-related subjects, such as applied maths, technology or construction studies. As a result, young girls do not have the same opportunity to familiarise themselves with the work of engineers as their male counterparts.
Whereas engineering is often presented as the default career choice for boys with an interest in maths and physical sciences, girls with an aptitude for the same subjects are not encouraged in the same direction.
Have you faced any obstacles as a female engineer?
My family, friends and colleagues have always been supportive of my studies and my career.
I am occasionally reminded of an unconscious bias in the engineering sector when I hear comments suggesting that my gender will be advantageous when I am applying for promotional opportunities in the future. I find that frustrating because I have worked hard academically and professionally to prove my capabilities, and I hope to advance my career based on merit, not gender.
Do you think it is an exciting time for women in engineering?
Although there is still a journey ahead of us, I think the gender gap in the sector is closing: the number of women entering the engineering profession is increasing, our presence on site and in design offices has become more ‘normalised’ and career satisfaction is high.
I would like to see more women engineers in middle and senior management roles, however. Seeing and working with skilled women in management positions shows younger female engineers that there is a level playing field and that their hard work will be recognised and rewarded.
What's next for you?
I am currently focused on building my technical experience and developing the skills I need to become chartered.