In this article, we hear from staff and students involved in the Molly Fergusson Initiative – a recently founded initiative to promote the visibility and community of people who identify as women in the School of Engineering.
The Initiative involves all women and their allies in the School, working to support them through activities such as networking events, identifying funding to support staff- and student-led projects, and sharing information about resources and hidden barriers. It relies on the support of many in the implementation of its activities. The Initiative ultimately hopes to encourage more female school leavers to study engineering, and more of our female graduates to remain in engineering professions.
In reflection of the theme of this year’s International Women in Engineering Day – ‘Shape the World’ – we asked some of those involved with the Molly Fergusson Initiative: ‘How are you shaping the world as a woman in engineering?’
Dr Camilla Thomson, Chancellor’s Fellow in Energy (Chair)
“As a Chancellor’s Fellow in Energy at Edinburgh’s School of Engineering, my research focusses on the effectiveness of sustainable energy innovations in addressing the challenges of the climate emergency. I am passionate about making sure that the changes we’re making to energy systems aren’t only achieving a net reduction in carbon, but doing this as quickly, cost-effectively and sustainably as possible.
“I have always been a supporter of women in STEM, as I firmly believe that one’s choice of career should be independent of gender. I’ve recently founded the Molly Fergusson Initiative to promote the visibility and community of people who identify as women in the School of Engineering. Honouring our first female honours graduate and the first female fellow of the ICE, this initiative aims to foster a supportive and inclusive environment by improving connectivity between staff, students and alumni of all genders, at all levels, and in all disciplines and research specialities.”
Dr Anna Garcia Teruel, Research Associate (External Society Liaison and Acting Vice-Chair)
“As a Research Associate in Offshore Renewable Energy in the School’s Policy and Innovation Group, I lead the impact assessment of innovations developed in the H2020 floating offshore wind project FLOTANT – quantifying their techno-economic, socio-economic and environmental impacts.
"I previously completed a PhD in wave energy, where I created a framework to generate novel and optimised Wave Energy Converter (WEC) designs. I am now accelerating the development of WEC technologies by working with wave energy developers in industry and collaborating with Wave Energy Scotland, an initiative of the Scottish Government, to identify areas where further research and innovation is required.
“I am always ready to share my passion for a more sustainable energy sector with others, from school students as STEM ambassador, to engineers of different backgrounds as an IMechE speaker, University students as supervisor of Masters projects, and researchers as co-organiser of the INORE European Symposium that recently took place in Scotland. I am also committee member of the Molly Fergusson Initiative coordinating the liaison with other organisations and initiatives.”
Mbayer Abunku, PhD researcher (Events Coordinator)
“I am currently doing a PhD in energy systems. My background is in electrical power engineering. There is a great push for the integration of renewable energy into the mainstream power sector and my background in power engineering has positioned me to contribute, in my own little way, to making the power sector sustainable and more reliable for the good of humankind.
“I have been involved in community relations activities, such as the time I was a demonstrator for ‘pop up engineering’ during the Edinburgh Science Festival at the National Museum of Scotland in 2019. It was a fulfilling time as I got to introduce engineering to children of all ages.
“I am a strong supporter of women in STEM and I always tell those hoping to follow this path that being a woman should not stop you from achieving what you want, but should rather fuel your desire to be the best in whatever you do – whether in STEM or something else. As one of the events coordinators for the Molly Fergusson Initiative, I am committed to promoting the visibility of women in STEM.”
Desen Kirli, PhD researcher (Events Coordinator)
"As a sustainable energy engineer, my ultimate goal is to use my research to contribute to the decarbonisation of the electricity system. This involves investigating innovative smart grid solutions using state-of-the art technologies like blockchain, smart contracts and artificial intelligence. In a nutshell, my research explores the techno-economic potential of peer-to-peer energy trading and energy storage. In this scenario, we maximise our local consumption which reduces the stress on the grid and decreases our reliance on centrally generated and fossil-fuelled generation.
“I consider myself an active member of the engineering community. I am a STEM ambassador for the East of Scotland, Event Coordinator of Molly Fergusson Initiative, and Treasurer for the student branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Previously, I was President of the Engineering Graduate Society, organising skills workshops and wind farm visits. During my undergraduate degree, I co-founded and led the student society Engineering for Change which focuses on sustainable engineering. This society offered international volunteering projects and local activities such as building a bike-powered cinema."
Gunel Aghabayli, PhD researcher (Undergraduate Liaison Officer)
"I am a chemical engineer with a chemistry background. Chemical engineers work to improve our quality of life and environment, and achieve sustainable goals by developing alternative technologies. These technologies will help us to fight the effects of greenhouse gases, global warming, and different pollution problems, and ultimately to help save our world.
“My doctoral degree involves designing and modelling energy storage system for CO2 utilisation through low carbon energy. Over the last five years I have taken an active role on different STEM projects, providing mentoring and careers advice to young girls. I am Institute Representative on the School Postgraduate Experience Committee, and Undergraduate Liaison Officer for the Molly Ferguson Initiative.
“I would strongly encourage any young woman to study my subject. By becoming a chemical engineer, you will gain technical knowledge of chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, materials science and information technology. It’s a rewarding career which will allow you to make a difference. If you want to ‘shape the world’, start with yourself: work harder, achieve your dreams and be proud of yourself!"
Anushka Kapoor, final year MEng Chemical Engineering (Undergraduate Liaison Officer)
“From a young age, I have been engaged in supporting and fostering environments to promote womxn in engineering. I founded the first engineering club at my secondary school and over my time as the leader, I was able to increase female involvement from 15% to 50%.
“Last year I worked on a project to develop and troubleshoot a dynamic simulation of a small-scale solar desalination unit, applying the processes of humidification and dehumidification to optimise energy and cost efficiency. The project was based in Turkana, Kenya and aimed to develop a safe and drinkable water supply for local communities.
“Over the next six months, I will be involved in designing a novel optical imaging process for imaging droplets on a surface for the EU-funded research group, ThermaSMART - ultimately enabling improved thermal management in microelectronic devices.
“As part of the Molly Fergusson Initiative’s undergraduate liaison team, I have been able to promote the visibility of women in engineering and hope to continue this work over the coming year.”
Maty Tall, MSc Sustainable Energy Systems student (Committee Member)
“I am passionate about women’s empowerment, sustainable energy, and all the ways in which the two interact. My current research area focuses on accelerating factors for small and medium enterprises run by women and delivering sustainable energy solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. I help to identify the social, political, and economic local factors that promote women-led energy initiatives and study their scalability and replicability in order to implement them around the world.
“Women are at the forefront of the energy transition as main users, so it is only right that they are also promoted as leaders throughout the energy value chain. Creating spaces and initiatives where this can be further discussed and research gaps identified is one way I am shaping the world as a woman engineer.
“Earlier this year, I attended a youth leadership summit organised by the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), to exchange ideas on energy sustainability and gender equality with fellow youth leaders and those from the world stage including former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon.”
Sarah Dallas, PhD researcher (Communications Officer)
“I am a bioengineer, carrying out pioneering work in cancer research – specifically, the application of physical manipulation of cancer stem cells in order to eliminate them from a tumour, which may prevent tumour recurrence.
“I am Communications Officer for the Molly Fergusson Initiative, a role which involves promoting our networking events and sharing information about resources and hidden barriers for women in engineering.”
Dr Francisca Martinez-Hergueta, Researcher and Lecturer (Supporter)
Francisca is Researcher and Lecturer in Impulsive Dynamics, and was shortlisted among the 20 top candidates in the L’Oreal-Unesco Women in Science Award 2017. She recently featured on the panel of the Molly Fergusson Initiative’s first networking event, co-run with Edinburgh University Women in STEM (EUWiSTEM).
“My research interests include lightweight composites for impact applications to reduce the fuel consumption of current transport technologies. My expertise focuses on ballistics, an extremely challenging field where experimental characterisation and numerical modelling are combined together to obtain predictions of the ballistic response of structural components. This research has an important industrial background with previous collaboration in projects funded by Williams Advanced Engineering, Airbus Operations S. L. and Rolls-Royce.
“I am actively involved in teaching and outreach activities to encourage female students to fight for their dreams, transferring my passion to them.”