Fewer than one in 10 engineers in the UK are female – the lowest percentage in Europe, according to the Women’s Engineering Society. Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30%. Here, two pioneering female engineers at Oxford University explain what drives them.
Priyanka Dhopade was named as one of the top 50 Women in Engineering Under 35 in 2017, as chosen by the Women’s Engineering Society. She grew up in Canada, where she studied for a degree in aerospace engineering. She completed a PhD at Monash University in Melbourne before moving to Oxford in 2013.
As a child I was very interested in aeroplanes, and how things fly in space – I wanted to be an astronaut. My parents suggested engineering, because it’s quite practical. I could use my enthusiasm and my skills to do something that’s real that matters.
My research looks at the thermodynamics and the fluid dynamics of jet engine internal flows. I do a lot of computational fluid dynamics to look at the transfer of heat inside an engine and use those predictions to help design innovative cooling systems for modern jet engines. What that does is it helps to make the engine more efficient and safer as well, and reduces the environmental impact in terms of emissions and fuel consumption. If we help to make jet engines more efficient, that’s going to have a huge environmental impact.
Not just hard hats
The stereotype of an academic is someone who sits at their desk and doesn’t talk to anybody and just scribbles away in their notebook. But I talk to so many experimentalists and work with them to help design these massive test facilities so that we can look at different aspects of the jet engine. I work with industry sponsors and get their input on the