My name is Gabriele and I was born and raised in the marvellous lands of Lithuania, but for the past 2 years I have been living in the UK. I am a second year Materials Science and Engineering student at The University of Manchester. Many people ask me what Materials Engineering is and why I choose this subject. Well, I have always enjoyed Physics, Chemistry and Maths and I was searching for a course combining all of them. Until, nanotechnologies and graphene popped into my radar and without a second thought, I applied to the university where graphene was found. As a teenager, I was always striving for challenges so studying a course with so many different fields (biomaterials, tissue engineering, polymers, alloys, ceramics) was exactly what I was looking for.
Why I Like Being an Engineer
Engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM; therefore, whenever I tell people my degree, I receive stereotypical questions about being a female in engineering. Engineering captivates me as I am in lectures with world-class researchers and this inspires me to improve personally, contribute to society using tools of engineering and make a difference. Being so interested in the academic world, I asked my favourite lecturer if I could do a summer project in his team. After my first year at university, I got an internship at Manchester Institute of Biotechnology where I conducted research on self-healing polymers, made from oxidised lactose.
Imagine getting a one-page long description of an experiment, where no measurements, concentrations, catalysts are given and you have to make a final product, which in theory, when pressure is applied, should be able to recover the tears. I was working with extremely time-consuming and expensive products and every small mistake could cost a lot of money but because of my hard work, the results of this extremely challenging project surprised the PhD students and raised eyebrows of post-doctorates. No one expected the first-year university student to succeed and be able to contribute to the academic paper – but I did it!
Why I Joined a Society
Universities are famous for their range of different societies. As I was interested in Aeronautical Engineering, I joined Flight Simulation society where I soon became a part of the committee. During my time here I expanded my knowledge by designing my own aircraft with some help from Aerospace Engineering students and in my second year in the society, me and my teammate (we were the ‘strangest’ team, as I was the only female participating and he is a first-year student) designed a vertical take-off and landing aircraft and were chosen to represent the university at an aircraft designing and handling competition in the United States of America.
It is such an amazing feeling to be surrounded by like-minded people who are passionate about their field of studies and it has encouraged me to learn more and participate in discussions about new concepts. In the beginning, it was difficult to be a part of this society as I had no knowledge how an aircraft works, but slowly I became equal to all other members and involved in socials and events. This year, I taught first-year members how to use flight simulators, shared my experience about ‘living conditions’ in the simulator room and got to fly my aircraft in it with the full motion power – I felt like I was a real-life pilot!
What Lies Ahead?
During my second year at university I found out that Rolls Royce together with Target Jobs were conducting a competition for Female Undergraduate of the Year. Over 800 applications were sent and only 20 students were invited to attend an assessment centre in Rolls Royce. Proudly, I can say that I was one of those females. They were 2 amazing days, filled with networking, getting to know the company and finding out possibilities for after I graduate. One of Rolls Royce’s goals is to have more senior female engineers and attract them to the engineering world. This company conducts a wide range of projects where you can put yourself in a position of a real engineer and what it feels like working there and I really saw myself undertaking the challenges in a world-leading company and who knows – maybe in a couple of years I will go back there and lead a group of apprentices into the engineering world.
I cannot imagine studying another subject. Engineering intrigues me every day with new technologies, new materials being invented, and it gives me many different opportunities to improve.
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