Professor Judith Driscoll FREng is a Professor of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge.
“Schools need to give bursaries to women to take up maths and physics at A level. Universities need to give more bursaries to women too. It is so important to have diversity and it is really worth investing a small sum to ensure that talent from half the population is promoted and nurtured.”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
Materials are in all engineering applications and across all industry sectors, from transport and IT to healthcare and energy. Meeting improved performance and/or low energy utilisation requires ever more complex materials and combinations. They need to be designed and engineered in the right way. I design and engineer complex materials for IT and energy applications.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
I come from a family of engineers (electrical and mechanical going back two generations, at least). We are all practical people.
Please describe your first job.
My first experience of engineering was as a summer student at GEC Hirst Research Centre where we were making circuits. The first step was to fabricate them, and I developed an improved process to ensure that the gold contacts would adhere well to the layers underneath. I relished the ability to be given a problem and to go into a lab and solve it. I was truly inspired.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
Getting basic materials ideas from the lab into industry products. It is really satisfying to follow your own simple ideas and experiments, and make something more of them. It‘s so important to have ideas and try them out, and to remember that failure is also fine and very much part of the process. Success won’t come without trying new things.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.
Getting my high-temperature superconductor experiments from lab to industry. It has taken more than 20 years, but I was not going to stop believing in my work or my ideas.
How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started working in the profession?
Being an academic means that I don’t fully feel like I am in the profession. But I have seen diversity issues improve a lot over the years. It is no longer acceptable for anyone to assume you are an assistant to a man, which is something that I have experienced over the years.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Go for it! It is so amazing to be able to change the world. Don’t think that you can’t do it, just do it! The career is so varied, so diverse, so important to humanity, and such fun.
This year’s IWD theme is ‘Balance for Better’. How can engineers contribute to a gender-balanced world?
We need more diverse engineers. It isn’t easy, but it is immensely rewarding. Schools need to give bursaries to women to take up maths and physics at A-level. Universities need to give more bursaries to women too. It is so important to have diversity and it is really worth investing a small sum to ensure that talent from half the population is promoted and nurtured.
This profile was created for International Women’s Day in March 2019. All information was correct at time of publication