Women in Engineering Day 2021: Our Heroes

Montage of female engineering heroes

Women in Engineering Day 2021: Our Heroes

We asked our students and staff to nominate their Engineering Heroes in line with the International Women in Engineering Day 2021 theme.

Many of our own staff feature alongside students, innovators, and trailblazers from history, and we’ve loved hearing about the women who inspire our community. What connects all of these women is that during the course of their engineering work, they’ve also motivated, influenced and enabled the work of those around them and those who will follow them.

  1. Flo Ingram

    is studying Civil Engineering. She is Chair of the Faculty’s staff student liaison committee, Chair of the SU’s Education network and secretary of Civ Soc. She was nominated by a staff member:

    “Flo has shown exemplary leadership in bringing together student feedback in one of the most difficult academic years in memory. Her commitment, collaborative approach, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail, has been without parallel. In fact, she has demonstrated all the qualities of a fine engineer. She has driven innovation and improved the student experience for all.”

  2. Professor Susan Stepney

    is a professor of Computer Science at the University of York. Nominated by Professor Ian Nabney, Head of the School of Computer Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Engineering Maths:

    “Susan was a colleague of mine at Logica’s research lab in Cambridge and I worked for her on a (computing) formal methods project. She had created a very rigorous framework for provably correct compilers, and my job was to help with the mathematical proofs. She was one of the brightest people I have ever worked and had a very self-deprecating sense of humour.”

  3. Dr Julie Etches

    Is the Health and Safety Manager and Adviser in the Faculty of Engineering. She was nominated by her colleagues:

    “Julie is an absolute inspiration. She works tirelessly to ensure we all stay safe in our jobs, helping us to push the boundaries of research and engineering education. She is a fantastic engineer and has to solve some of the trickiest engineering problems in the Faculty. She leads collaboratively and contributes enormously to the success of everything we do by bringing pragmatism, common sense and a can-do attitude.

    Julie’s job is not easy and in her position as Health and Safety Manager it’s easy to take her for granted – but she makes our lives better as engineers and is an inspiration to others around her for her resilience, intelligence, and general brilliance. She is definitely an Engineering Hero of the Faculty, and our work is better and safer because she’s an integral part of making it happen.”

  4. Brittany Harris

    is Co-founder and CEO of Qualis Flow, a tech company enabling construction teams to minimise waste and carbon emissions. She was nominated by James Norman, Associate Professor of Sustainable Design:

    “Brittany graduated from the University of Bristol a few years back and went to work for a major engineering consultancy. Like many graduates she was frustrated by how the industry was approaching the challenge of net zero. Unlike many graduates she left the practice, set up her own software company and is trying to solve the problems she encountered.”

  5. Chantal Lewis

    is a PhD student working on sustainable materials as part of Bristol Composites Institute. Chantal was nominated by one of her peers:

    “Chantal is working successfully on her PhD and she is also a mother with caring responsibilities. She is an excellent example that when we have a strong drive to succeed we can manage it in parallel with other important responsibilities. I believe that it’s especially important for women in science and engineering to have role models like Chantal who demonstrate that it is possible to have a successful career alongside a family without sacrificing one or the other.”

  6. Dr Chloe Martindale

    is a Lecturer in Cryptography. Her research focusses on finding encryption methods that are safe against “quantum computers”. Chloe was nominated by one of her students:

    “Chloe is one of the newer lecturers in Computer Science and I’ve been fortunate to have been taught by her over past two years. I could write a lot about why she is amazing. From the quality of her teaching, to her enthusiasm and encouragement. But the reason I’m nominating her is that she proved to me that a woman in Academia can be friendly, kind, and cheerful, and still be respected and admired by her students and peers. To meet an academic who is, like me, bubbly and excitable, reassured me that I don’t need to compromise my personality to be respected if I choose to go into academia. And this lesson, that I can be both myself and an academic, is something I was sorely missing.”

  7. Emily Matthews

    is a studying for an MEng in Civil Engineering. She was nominated by one of her peers:

    “My course mate Emily is probably the reason I’ve made it through this academic year. She’s always has time to help if I’m struggling with something and shares her notes and spreadsheets, which are possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. She is extremely creative and the most hard-working person I’ve ever met. Definitely an engineering hero and the most generous friend.”

  8. Lynn Conway

    Nominated by one of our students:

    “Lynn Conway, computer scientist and transgender activist, is a pioneer of microelectronics chip design and much of the modern silicon chip design revolution is based on her work.

    She had to leave the successes of her first career with IBM behind in the 1960s when she underwent gender affirmation surgery. Taking a new name, she built another successful career in computer science, coming out as a transwoman only as she neared retirement in 2000. Since then, she has worked to protect and expand the rights of transgender people.”

  9. Mrs Janet John

    Nominated by Steve Bullock

    “Mrs John was my GCSE electronics teacher at Dr Challoner’s Grammar School. I was lucky to have the opportunity to take electronics in school, and Mrs John fostered an engaging and collaborative learning environment. I remember some excellent teaching and fantastic project work. In an all-boys school, having a female role model in a physics/engineering subject, and one who really knew her stuff, was particularly inspiring. She played a big part in focusing my interests on science, and I went on to study engineering, become a science teacher, and then moved into supporting students in higher education, including in my role as Faculty Widening Participation lead.”

  10. Professor Janice Barton

    is a Professor of Experimental Mechanics in the Bristol Composite Institute and in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She was nominated by one of her students:

    “She was my PhD supervisor; she is a great engineer and professor and is up for fighting for women’s rights and women’s visibility in engineering. She was the first woman to win the Murray Lecture Award of Society of Experimental Mechanics XIV International Congress-Virtual in September 2020. She is a very inspiring woman!”

  11. Professor Dame Julia Higgins FRS, FREng

    Nominated by Professor Michael Wisnom

    “She is an outstanding researcher, leader and role model. She has made huge contributions as a polymer scientist, and in other areas e.g. as Chair of EPSRC and a patron of Women in Science and Engineering.”

  12. Professor Kerstin Eder

    is a Professor of Computer Science and leads the Trustworthy Systems Lab. She was nominated by one of her students:

    “Professor Eder always stays at the cutting-edge of technology and guides her students in advanced topics with zeal. She makes it easy for us to understand and she employs novel approaches to problem solving. She urges us to think differently. She has been a great source of inspiration to me and I’ve succeeded at the University and during interviews, by taking her advice. She will forever remain my greatest inspiration and a true engineering hero!”

  13. Margaret Cooke

    Nominated by Dr James Norman Associate Professor in Sustainable Design

    “Margaret is a director at Integral Engineering Design. She works mostly in conservation and reuse of existing building. People are now waking up to how important reuse is if we are to achieve net zero, but she has been doing it for decades. Plus, she leads an engineering practice in a brilliant way challenging many of the industry norms in the process.”

  14. Dr Karen Aplin

    is an Associate Professor in Aerospace Engineering. Her research focuses on planetary atmospheric electricity. She was nominated by a colleague:

    “Having worked as a teaching assistant in labs for some of Karen’s courses, I’ve found the teaching and learning environment to be fun and effective, and it seems her students feel the same way. Karen always provides valuable feedback, both to her students and to me, and wisely listens to the advice and input of all those around her.”

  15. Professor Sheryl A. Sorby

    Nominated by Jeff Barrie Senior Lecturer in Engineering Design:

    “Prof SA Sorby is the president-elect of the American Society of Engineering Education, author of seven textbooks and 150+ papers on educational and research programs in spatial visualisation and engineering graphics. Sorby’s educational research work is pioneering within the fast-developing field of Computing Aided Drawing and technical communication from the 1990s and early 2000’s; and still highly relevant to this day.”

  16. Dr Anne Roudaut

    is an Associate Professor in in Human-Computer Interaction. She is working toward creating synergies with Material Engineering and Soft Robotics. Anne was nominated by a colleague:

    “Anne is an amazing supervisor, amazing researcher, and an amazing ally to underrepresented groups in STEM. She is a role model for how to achieve so much in a STEM career whilst also balancing her caring responsibilities.”

  17. Lorraine Graham
    Lorraine Graham (L) starting her apprenticeship

    Nominated by Mark Graham Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering and Lorraine’s son

    “Lorraine started work as an Apprentice straight from school and became a successful Mechanical Engineer in the manufacturing industry in the 1960’s (an extremely male dominated industry). She managed this whilst raising a young family and had to work harder than the men around her to be respected in the workplace. One of the significant challenges of working in the factory environment for Lorraine was the requirement to instruct shop floor staff about their work. Lorraine’s main strategy for being taken seriously was to know her subject inside out. By being highly competent and professional no room was left for criticism or doubt, but even towards the end of her career she still didn’t achieve parity of renumeration. She progressed through various roles, finally ending up as a Project Manager prior to retiring in 2003.”

  18. Professor Lucy Berthoud

    is a Professor of Space Engineering and has worked for worked for 25 years in Spacecraft research and in industry. She was nominated by one of her students:

    “Professor Berthoud is one of my favourite staff members. She is so charismatic and has really helped me in thinking about my careers. Her support and enthusiasm has been a valuable part of my time at University.”

  19. Dr Maria Pregnolato

    is a Lecturer in Infrastructure Resilience, and EPSRC Research Fellow. Her research focuses on flood risk management. She was nominated by her students:

    “Maria completed a double degree in Civil Engineering in Italy and China, after which she decided to follow her dream on becoming a researcher starting as a PhD at Newcastle University. As a Lecturer, she works with multiple companies and brings her innovative ideas into the department! She is a very active person, an inspiring individual and a role model to many. She is one of the hardest working people I know and very ambitious and humble at the same time! As a PhD Supervisor, she promotes student’s research independence, encourages building our networks and helps care for their mental health. Despite sometimes being the only young woman at work meetings, she brilliantly drives the agenda”

  20. Marie Van Brittan Brown

    Nominated by Professor Stephen Eichhorn from Bristol Composites Institute

    “Marie Van Brittan Brown was an African American woman, born in Queens, New York. She invented a home security system, along with her husband Albert Brown. They patented the technology, but received very little money for the invention. The technology included cameras and wireless communication so images of someone at the door could be transmitted to any TV set in the house. They also had an audio link up so they could speak to the person at the door. This type of technology is now widespread, but in 1966 it was revolutionary. Marie Van Brittan Brown is often mistaken for Alice Parker, who invented a central heating system, and so her achievements are further undermined and forgotten.”

  21. Dr Becky Selwyn

    is a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering and part of the team who developed our home lab kits, to enable practical learning during lockdown. Becky has just received an award for her inspiring and innovative teaching. She was nominated by her students:

    “Becky Selwyn is an excellent role model of a woman in STEM and academia; she is very good at what she does, and uses her position to help empower others in Engineering. She understands the importance of making engineering accessible, and has gone out of her way to help me get the adjustments I need to make sure I can continue to study despite getting sick.”

  22. Mary Millard

    is Faculty Manager for Engineering at the University of Bristol. She was nominated by her colleagues:

    “Mary does an amazing job of managing the Faculty of Engineering and has made great things happen which have benefited Engineering students and staff alike over many years. She is the lynchpin of the Faculty and whilst not an engineer herself has no doubt played a key (if perhaps hidden) role in facilitating others to achieve their Engineering potential through learning and research.”

  23. Dr Faezeh Arab Hassani

    is a Lecturer in Electrical & Electronic Engineering. Her research includes micro/nano-electronics and micro/nano-electromechanical-systems. She was nominated by one of her students:

    “Dr Faezeh motivates me. She is exceptionally talented, organized and always guides us through new research and cutting-edge technologies. Her outstanding teaching has helped me immensely and now I’m implementing the same approach that she teaches. She is a huge inspiration to me and she will be my Engineering hero forever!”

  24. Neri Oxman

    Nominated by one of our students:

    “Architect and engineer inspired by nature to create amazing materials and structures made more beautiful, eco friendly and structurally sound by mimicking natural compounds. She owns her own business that traverses art and engineering and speaks in an inspirational way especially to aspiring female engineers.”

  25. Grace Hopper

    Nominated by Dr Tom Deakin, Senior Research Associate in the High Performance Computing Research Group:

    “Grace Hopper was a Computer Scientist with the American Navy. She developed some of the first linkers so programmers could write code in an imperative programming language that looked more like English than machine code. Her work led to the development of COBOL and compilers. She’s also famous for her aide memoir to learning how long a nanosecond is: a visual demonstration for showing why electronic communication, originally to satellites, took so long.”

  26. Mingzhen Liu

    Nominated by Professor Ian Bond, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering:

    “Mingzhen Lius is a University of Bristol alum, graduating with a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 2011. She has just been elected to the Standing Committee of the China Association for Science and Technology, the youngest ever member at 31. She is also Deputy Dean of the School of Materials and Energy of the University of Electronic Science and Technology and her paper in Nature discussing perovskite has been cited over 3000 times.”

  27. Samantha Cristoforetti

    Nominated by one of our students:

    “Samantha, beyond being the first Italian female astronaut, is going to be the first European female commander of the International Space Station in her next mission. She is an inspiring, strong figure, and a role model for all women in engineering as for all the little girls who dream (like I used to) of being a different kind of princess. After all, who needs prince charming when you can put on an astronaut suit and pilot a rocket towards unknown adventures? “