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5 minute read

Academy success for five brilliant female engineers

Five young female engineers who have been outstandingly successful in their respective fields at an early stage of their careers will each receive a prestigious award and a £3,000 prize at the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Dinner in London on 11 July.

All five are winners of the RAEng Engineers Trust Young Engineer of the Year competition, awarded by the Academy with support from the Worshipful Company of Engineers.

The overall winner, Rosie Goldrick, will also receive the Sir George Macfarlane Medal for excellence in the early stage of her career.

(l-r) Winners of the RAEng Engineers Trust Young Engineer of the Year competition – Dr Áine Ní Bhreasail, Dr Giorgia Longobardi, Rosie Goldrick, Dr Mariia Sorokina & Sophie Harker / Picture: Royal Academy of Engineering


Rosie Goldrick

Rosie Goldrick joined MASS Design Group’s Kigali office in September 2016 as a structural engineer from Engineers Without Borders. She now leads a diverse team of international and multidisciplinary engineers in the design and implementation of innovative projects throughout East Africa.

As a Structural Engineer and a Construction Project Manager for the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture project, Rosie helped to lead the team through design and construction using earth and wood, which involves interpreting local and international building codes to design structures that would be seismically appropriate for the region. She is now contributing to research which will inform standards for adobe block (mud brick) construction, commonly used in rural areas. She also sits on the Rwanda Standards Board Technical Committee for Civil Engineering and Building Materials.

Rwanda has experienced three earthquakes in the past 60 years. While the University of Rwanda started teaching seismic design three years ago, there still remains a lack of expertise across the country, particularly for smaller projects. As Structural lead and a Construction Project Manager for Ruhehe Primary School, Rosie led the engineering team to deliver an earthquake resistant design. The school was a design-build project of the African Design Centre for which she also ran a structural engineering lecture series as part of MASS’s curriculum.

Rosie has led efforts to recruit new members of the engineering team to build MASS’s capacity to design and implement innovative, mission-driven projects. Her team has grown rapidly over the last two years, from five to 24 engineers, with 70% of the team hailing from Rwanda or East Africa. She has also set up an internal professional development system.

Before joining MASS, Rosie worked for Atkins for five years designing infrastructure, including working in India for eight months as a design coordinator on the Doha Metro.

Sophie Harker

Sophie Harker is a Senior Aerodynamicist for BAE Systems and is one of the youngest engineers to have achieved Chartered Engineer status at just 25 years old. She works at the forefront of aerospace technology, developing advanced designs and concepts for new generation fast jets and aircraft that operate in space as well as inside the atmosphere. She has contributed directly to BAE System’s hypersonic capabilities, including applying technologies from the first hybrid air-breathing rocket engine system (SABRETM) being developed by Reaction Engines Ltd, which could revolutionise travel from the atmosphere into space. One day she hopes to go into space herself as an astronaut.

What makes Sophie a truly exceptional and talented engineer is her creative and innovative approach. Her work on hypersonic air vehicles includes building the necessary business cases and defining the product philosophy at each stage of development. She has also led a process transformation programme within the avionics department at BAE Systems, which involved engaging with 400 other engineers to streamline the avionics design process.

Sophie is an active STEM role model and ambassador and features in the Academy’s flagship This Is Engineering campaign to promote careers in engineering. She has also founded a not-for-profit organisation which reaches out into schools using video call technology to connect schools to STEM ambassadors, making it easier for schools to benefit from outreach. In December, the Institution of Engineering and Technology announced Sophie as the 2018 Young Woman Engineer of the Year.

Dr Giorgia Longobardi

Dr Giorgia Longobardi is founder and CEO of Cambridge GaN Devices Ltd (CGD), a start-up developing highly efficient power electronics that could offer major energy savings in applications ranging from power supplies for consumer electronics to LED drives, data centres and wireless chargers.

Giorgia’s work is focused on gallium nitride (GaN) technologies, including sensors and system solutions for efficient power management. She was awarded a prestigious Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) at Gonville & Caius College Cambridge and spun her company out of the engineering department at Cambridge University after completing her PhD in collaboration with NXP Semiconductors and soon after receiving an EPSRC follow on impact acceleration fund and winning the first prize of Cambridge Enterprise business plan competition. After spending a year in Japan sponsored by a JSPS fellowship, Giorgia led a successful seed fund investment round for her company, which now employs ten people, and her drive for innovation has led to 12 patent applications. CGD was recently selected as one of the best deep-tech startups to watch by the School of Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Turin.

Beyond her technical achievements, Dr Longobardi is extremely passionate about promoting STEM subjects to the next generation, especially women. She has been a STEM ambassador engaging with school students all around the world and in Italy, UK, and Japan.

Dr Áine Ní Bhreasail

Dr Áine Ní Bhreasail is a chartered civil engineer specialising in geotechnics, currently working for Arup. Her expertise in soil movement, together with her analytical approach and strong communication skills, have enabled her to make a real impact on the industry and to help develop more resilient infrastructure.

During her PhD research, Áine captured the first images of cracks in frozen soil that allow water to seep in and freeze, wedging the soil apart, which can lead to destructive heaving. This permafrost thaw not only damages buildings and infrastructure but also releases greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. Her ground-breaking findings also help to explain how materials as diverse as lava, ice-cream and bone implants behave in real-life situations.

Áine’s work has brought together Highways England and Network Rail for their first joint research project, investigating how hyperspectral imaging could monitor invasive vegetation, determine soil moisture and measure deterioration of assets – reducing maintenance costs and keeping roads and railway lines open.

Áine is a member of the Mayor of London’s Infrastructure Young Professionals Panel, which advises the Greater London Authority. She has provided advice to the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee and authored a chapter of the World Bank’s Urban Rail Development Guidebook on Resilience to Climate and Natural Hazards.

Áine dedicates time to mentoring with the Social Mobility Foundation, helping young people from low-income backgrounds explore careers in engineering, and she also devised the current work experience programme for Arup’s Infrastructure London team. In 2017, she was named one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering by the Women’s Engineering Society.

Dr Mariia Sorokina

Dr Mariia Sorokina is a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow, currently developing next-generation hardware enabling faster and more energy-efficient artificial intelligence (AI) computing. She has established a new, emerging research field – fibre-laser based neuromorphic engineering – that is critical for the development of data-hungry AI applications.

Early in her career Mariia showed a strong aptitude for engineering research related to signal processing. She has developed a novel type of signal shaping that breaks the established paradigm, for the first time enabling fibre-optic communication faster than was previously thought possible. This discovery is seen as crucial for the development of future high-capacity broadband systems to meet the ever-increasing demand for data.

Mariia is passionate about communicating the benefits of engineering and inspiring new people to join the profession. She helped to organise Lightfest2015, which attracted over 12,500 people to visit Birmingham library for demonstrations, workshops and public lectures on the science of light.

She is also working with industry to get companies involved in Birmingham City Council’s Big Datа Corridor as part of the European Structural Investment Fund.