Barbara Shollock, Head of the Department of Engineering, said:
Claire will bring new perspectives to our growing Department of Engineering here at King’s. She has shown through her work in industry and higher education how mathematical modelling combined with an understanding of what makes people tick can help us understand and resolve problems. Her innovation in opening up engineering education to diverse students has been recognised by the IET. I am looking forward to her joining us in August as we prepare to welcome our first cohort of general engineering students–
We spoke to Claire about why she went into engineering, how engineers are creating products for women, and the importance of understanding how things work.
What attracted you to Engineering?
I intended to apply to law at university. That was what clever girls were encouraged to do. It was only when I went to a university open day that I realised that immersing myself in law books wasn’t what I wanted to do. I went to a talk on general engineering and the lecturer was talking about the maths I had done at school and how it could be applied to lots of problems. I knew about fabrication and inventing things from growing up in a rural community but this was a different type of Engineering which was about modelling, understanding and solving problems. I thought that was amazing.
Do you think there are misconceptions about Engineering?
I think one of the mistakes people make is to ask people who are thinking about engineering if they like taking things apart. Engineering is much more about understanding about why things work the way they do, and why they don’t work. It is also seen as a male domain. Simple things like changing the way we describe the way engineers work can help attract more female students.
What examples of engineering helping real life do you like?
There’s a company creating products for women, including a silent breast pump, and pelvic floor training. These are life changing for new mothers and many other women.
What advice do you give to students and prospective students?
Remember why you want to do engineering. Engineers want to solve problems and change the world and that means understanding people. It’s important to learn as much as you can about people, how they think, how they tackle issues. My own experience has been great. I studied general engineering then did a PhD modelling the regulation of blood vessel diameter in the brain and then worked in industry before going into academia. So I’ve experienced lots of different environments and challenges.
What excites you about joining King’s?
The King’s programme is cross-functional, taking in different areas and looking at problems people face. The context is exciting, a university in the middle of a great city. I did an accreditation visit to King’s recently and was impressed with the students, the diversity of their backgrounds.
How do you relax outside work?
I have small children so a lot of family time. We do the park run, and I am very involved in the local community and my local church.
Claire is the 2019 Institution of Engineering and Technology Young Women Engineer of the Year Women's Engineering Society Award Winner, granted in recognition of her work in Engineering Education. She is passionate about developing curriculum which attracts female students to Engineering through incorporation of non-technical system issues alongside traditional technological challenges, and believes that holistic systems thinking in particular has the potential to produce Engineers capable of solving society’s grand challenges.
She was previously a mathematical modelling specialist at Jaguar Land Rover, carrying out modelling capability projects and working in multiple domains around the business to derive bespoke models and simulations which could be incorporated into virtual design processes.
Claire is a QAA specialist subject reviewer for engineering, an academic accreditor for the IET, a senior Fellow of AdvanceHE and board secretary of the UK and Ireland Engineering and Education Research Network. She is also a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.