Janet Botha: Interview for International Day of Women & Girls in Science

To mark UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we interviewed Janet Botha - a fourth year student on the BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering - to find out more about why she became interested in science and engineering.

Janet, who is from Lusaka in Zambia, shares her journey as an engineering student at Edinburgh so far, and advice for the next generation of women in STEM.

Why did you pursue engineering?

Growing up, I always loved science and math but didn’t know what I wanted to do. I started watching documentaries and stumbled upon the construction of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I was so impressed and intrigued, thought it would be great to be a civil engineer and do something as daring and impactful as that.

The Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, the construction of which partly inspired Janet to pursue civil engineering 

Which areas of engineering interest you most and why?

I’m a civil engineer so infrastructure and buildings fascinate me. They are the backbone of every society, ensuring we live as comfortably as possible. I love how they exist in the background yet positively impact our lives every day.

Tell us about the most interesting or rewarding experience you've had studying engineering at Edinburgh so far.

That would be my final year thesis project. I’m investigating the viability of a new engineered system to strengthen existing structures, using a composite material made from polymer fibres which have been 'pre-impregnated' with resins. 

This is intended to reinforce existing structures that might need strengthening due to deterioration or change in use - I'm focusing on concrete structures like buildings and bridges, but it could also work for steel, masonry and other structures that need strengthening.

I have gained extensive lab experience and collaborated with colleagues in other areas of engineering in the School.

How do you hope to use engineering in your future career?

I think engineering is really special because of the direct societal impact inherent in engineering work. Therefore, using the problem solving and critical thinking skills I’ve developed during my degree programme, I hope to create positive change in whatever area of work and community I’ll be in.

Is there any advice or inspiration you would share with the next generation of women, who might be considering studying a STEM subject?

Be bold and take a chance, go for it! I did, and I’m so glad I never listened to anyone who told me otherwise. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to the next stage of my career as I graduate this year. We need more women in STEM, we need you in STEM. Your perspective, experience, and unique insight is what the industry needs to progress and flourish. it’s a rewarding and caring industry, so why not get on board?

When you're not studying, what do you enjoy doing?

I’m a singer and guitarist. I haven’t taken formal guitar lessons but was brave enough to open a YouTube channel to share my music. Still shocks me that I did!