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'... But You Don't Look Like an Engineer'

02/28/2016 08:46 pm 20:46:39 | Updated 28 February 2016

Ok, then, so what does an engineer look like? This isn't an existential or hypothetical question for me, I would genuinely like an answer. It is remarkable how often I tell people I am studying to be an engineer and the response is just that - Ceri, you don't look like one. It's frustrating that people have these archaic preconceptions! I think the closest I have come to find a compelling answer was the brilliant Twitter campaign last year #Ilooklikeanengineer. It was a drive to showcase the diversity of engineers and predominantly it was women taking selfies and holding up signs describing their jobs. They were developers, enterprise software engineers, senior automotive professionals all posting under the hashtag. That was inspiring for me.

I'm half way through my first year studying for a general engineering degree at Durham University and I am learning so much. We've worked in teams to build a hydroelectric generator and the physics and lab work is challenging and rewarding. In our third year we will specialise, it's still a way off for me but I am pretty sure I want to focus on the environment and energy. It will be engineers who lead the way in solving some of our energy problems and I want to be a part of that. I know that less people are choosing it as a career and that there are so few girls who study STEM and enter the profession and it sometimes baffles me because how many people can say that what they do genuinely changes the world for the better?

I am lucky enough to be a recipient of the Institution of Engineering and Technology's (IET) Diamond Jubilee Scholarship programme. They are given out to applicants who achieve at least 3 'A's at A-level or equivalent Scottish qualifications. It means I receive £1,000 each academic year and benefit from the IET's extensive engineering network, I'm looking forward to going to events and doing some work experience through my contact with them. My scholarship has been funded by Siemens and is especially to encourage more women into the sector - I was pretty proud to be chosen and it was a relatively simple process. I would encourage anyone going to university next year to study engineering to look into it.

Sciences and maths have always been of interest to me and the reason why I decided to study it was because my A-Level Physics teacher encouraged me to take part in an Engineering Education Scheme and I was then hooked. I went on to complete an Extended Project Qualification looking at Formula One and carbon emissions. I know I was lucky, I had a fantastic teacher and my parents were really supportive - it made the difference.

One of the things that I don't think is spoken about enough is how creative a profession it is. We're encouraged daily to think differently and to problem solve but whilst being logical and having an interest in science and maths is needed, often engineering is about design, you need to be able to think creatively, it's one of the aspects I find so rewarding.

Someone asked me recently what I would say to any young girls who wanted to be an engineer, the short answer is simple - 'Go for it'. I would also however, emphasise that with engineering you can have such a positive impact on people's lives and that it's exciting that something that you could create has the potential to leave a legacy. There are so many opportunities in engineering if you get past the idea that engineering is limited to cars and mechanical engineering. Don't let your gender and the stereotypes associated with that limit you.

I think for some young people it's hard to find out more about what a job as an engineer actually is. I know the IET runs Engineering Open House Day and also fun science competitions called Faraday Challenge Days. I think if you look into those they could definitely start shedding some light.

So if you want a creative job, in an industry where there are so many opportunities and you could really change the world then I think it's time to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself - do I look like an engineer? I know I do.

• For more information on Diamond Jubilee Scholarships please visit www.theiet.org/diamond
• For more information on Engineering Open House Day please visit http://www.engineer-a-better-world.org/engineering-open-house-day/
• For more information on Faraday Challenge Days please visit http://faraday.theiet.org/stem-activity-days/faraday-challenge-days/

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