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By Larissa Suzuki on

Celebrating Women in Engineering on International Women’s Day

For #IWD24, guest author and Engineers gallery contributor, Professor Larissa Suzuki, speaks to three fellow female contributors about their recent work.

I’m Professor Larissa Suzuki and am thrilled to be a part of the engineering workforce. I’m based at UCL and also work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, plus hold a senior role in the tech industry.

My current focus is on artificial intelligence, distributed and decentralised learning, and communication technologies, particularly applied to space exploration, with promising applications to solve many of Earth’s challenges, including creating smart cities, autonomous robots, and assistive healthcare technology.

Today I have caught up with three fellow women engineers, Professor Rebecca Shipley, Tanda Kabanda, and Dr Jazmin Aguado Sierra to learn what positive strides they’ve all made since sharing our stories at the gallery’s opening and offering our tips on navigating a rewarding and inclusive engineering career.

Our collective engineering journey is showcased on the Engineers gallery in the Science Museum, in an exhibit that opened its doors in June 2023, bringing together QEPrize Laureates and today’s trailblazing engineers shaping the future.

Gallery view of Engineers, which celebrates engineers and their extraordinary stories.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is not just another day; it’s a vibrant celebration of the extraordinary achievements of women across diverse fields, and the field of engineering stands out with awe-inspiring contributions which have changed the world. From historical breakthroughs echoing through time to contemporary advancements shaping our present, and a future full of potential, women engineers have consistently redefined the engineering landscape.

Jazmin Aguado Sierra, a biomedical engineer at the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre and Elem Biotech, is a researcher in the fascinating field of cardiovascular physiology. For the Engineers gallery, Jazmin created a complex and beautiful simulation of a beating human heart using scans of her own heart. In a special animation, the complex interactions between electrical impulses, muscle contraction and blood flow in the heart are shown in a feat only made possible using supercomputer power.

She’s currently working on expanding her cardiac digital twin to replicate cardiovascular changes during pregnancy and childbirth, shedding light on conditions like pre-eclampsia. This intersection of engineering, computing, and healthcare underscores the incredible impact our work can have on human wellbeing.

Meanwhile, Rebecca, a Professor at UCL, is on a mission to revolutionise cancer treatment monitoring using wearable devices. Through a thoughtful blend of sensors, algorithms, and predictive models, she aims to optimise patient care, especially those requiring more help and support during treatment.

Professor Rebecca Shipley and the Mark I Ventura CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) Flow Generator collaboratively developed by UCL.

Whilst working in a multidisciplinary team at University College Hospital London during the pandemic, Rebecca and colleagues reverse engineered an off-patent mechanical non-invasive ventilation device, the Ventura CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) to help improve patient outcomes. After a rapid regulatory approval in just 10 days, 10,000 were made and distributed to NHS hospitals within a month and helped to save thousands of lives. The Mark I Ventura CPAP can be found in the Bodies section of the gallery.

Tanda Kabanda is a senior backend engineer at fashion giant Selfridges, working in the Point of Sale team. She’s currently working on a project that envisions a tool combining mathematical modelling and software engineering to improve sizing accuracy, offering personalized recommendations to minimize returns.

Tanda Kabanda and a Nikon CoolPix s3600 digital camera, the first camera owned by the software engineer.

Tanda began her career as a graduate software engineer at ASOS and has a BSc in Computer Science from Queen Mary’s University of London and an MSc in Computer Science from King’s College London, which she studied after securing a sponsorship. Her first digital camera features next to the world’s first digital colour camera in the Lives section.

Her exciting plans for IWD24 include hosting engineering sessions for children at the London Museum of Water and Steam. Her aim is to collaborate with women in engineering to demystify the field and make it accessible to all interested individuals. Investing in outreach programs like these are crucial to introducing engineering to women and minorities who might not consider it due to outdated stereotypes.

Reflecting on historical women engineers who paved the way, I also asked Tanda which historical figure she’d collaborate with. She chose mathematician Dorothy Vaughan for her foresight in machine computers and her emphasis on self-learning and teamwork. For myself, I would collaborate with Grace Hopper to build the Interplanetary Internet, empowering space vehicles with AI and give them the ability to think and make scientific discoveries beyond our solar system.

For young women embarking on an engineering career, I asked the engineers for their advice. As Tanda wisely puts it, ‘Embrace a growth mindset, foster positive habits for self-empowerment, and resist the limitations of a fixed mindset. Embrace Samuel Beckett’s wisdom: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’.

Jazmin emphasised the importance of creating gender-specific solutions to address the knowledge gap on human diversity, which is crucial for improving collective well-being. And my advice echoes Sam Altman’s wisdom: ‘Be a doer and not a talker. History belongs to the doers’. Building and creating things are challenging and risky, but as engineers, we can be truly optimistic!

Rebecca says, ‘Engineering is an incredibly diverse field of people who are all focused on solving problems – from healthcare to climate change to quantum computing, to space exploration and beyond. It’s an incredibly exciting area to work in as it’s so fast moving!’

We all agreed that seeing our work prominently featured in Engineers was monumental. The gallery helps to unveil the variety of engineering careers, breaking down stereotypes and showcasing how diversity acts as a catalyst for innovation.

The more examples of female engineers we highlight, the more we can inspire the next generation and drive positive outcomes in the engineering world. In addition, we as current female practitioners, will continue to leverage our influence to ensure engineering is a force for good, and collectively take responsibility for nurturing a society where women engineers are not just visible but valued and celebrated.

Happy International Women’s Day!

You can learn more about other women engineers in our web story. Engineers has been generously supported by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (Major Funder) and MathWorks (Major Sponsor).