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Why I decided to study Civil Engineering

Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

This is a guest blog written by Elena Smart, a Maths and Physics tutor on MyTutor.

This February 11th was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, so to celebrate it I wanted to share my journey so far as a woman studying a STEM degree, and hopefully inspire more girls to get into science!

How my passion for science began🔬

I’m studying civil engineering at Bath university, after completing Maths, Further Maths, Physics, and Geography at A Level. My initial interest in science started at primary school. I had an inspirational science teacher who was so passionate about the subject. At this point, I was particularly curious about space and so at the age of 11, I was determined that I was going to be an astrophysicist and work for NASA! During my time at secondary school, however, I became more interested in the practical applications of science, and how they can be used to help people. Engineering seemed like the perfect fit – using Science and Maths for problem-solving. In the summer of year 11, I attended the EDT Inspire Summer School for Civil, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. At this point, I still thought that I wanted to get into a career in aerospace, however, this course opened my eyes to various disciplines, and I was particularly taken with civil engineering. This focuses on designing infrastructure, such as roads, railway, buildings, and bridges.

School years and engineering competitions🏆

Throughout my time at school, I also entered various competitions that exposed me to the different aspects of engineering. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers had a photography competition with the title ‘Engineering in Transport’. This led me to explore all sorts of different modes of transportation, with my submission being a photograph of Westminster Underground Station. I also entered the Newnham College essay competition; here I explored ways buildings contribute to climate change and thought about what can be done to reduce their impact on the environment. The impact that infrastructure has on the world, whether that be positive or negative, is huge, and this drew me to study the subject.

STEM scholarships👩‍💻

When researching Civil Engineering courses for my UCAS application, I became aware of a QUEST scholarship programme organised by the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE). I applied for this programme and was delighted to be awarded a scholarship, sponsored by Atkins, a large civil engineering firm. This programme offered me the opportunity of placements with Atkins so I could experience working in the Civil Engineering sector alongside my studies. There are lots of similar opportunities out there (and some are exclusively for girls) so it’s definitely worth looking into!

How the STEM world currently looks🔍

Men still make up the majority of the workforce in STEM careers, however, research carried out by STEM women shows that the percentage of women in science-related careers is increasing, with women currently making up 46% of the science professional workforce. In other areas, such as engineering, the percentage of women is lower, but there are positive signs, and this needs to continue so that we reach a more even split across the board. Encouraging girls from a young age really helps with this, and I’m sure that the Lego I loved as a child helped in some way to make me a civil engineer!

Lastly, my advice for girls who want to get into science🧬

I’d highly encourage looking at any courses, competitions and scholarships that are available. Both the Inspire Summer School and Newnham College competitions were open to girls only to encourage girls to learn more about careers in science.  They also inspire further research and reading into subjects that you’re interested in. There are so many resources out there to encourage girls to get into science and STEM, so make the most of them! 

A final bit of advice is to have the confidence to share your ideas and answers! Some people, especially girls, find it harder to put their hand up in class just in case they get the answer wrong. But remember, (and I’m sure you’ve heard this before!) one of the best ways to learn is to get it wrong and try again.

So, to sum up: have confidence in yourself, research the subject you’re interested in – whether that be through watching TV programmes, reading books, or attending summer courses – and encourage those around you to consider going into science as well!

As always, if you have any questions or feedback, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us on tutors@mytutor.co.uk or 0203 773 6024.

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