Professor Muffy Calder OBE FREng is the Vice-Prinicipal and Head of College of Science and Engineering , and a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Glasgow
“Engineering is too important to be left only to men.”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
I have responsibility for a large college covering engineering, computing science, mathematics, physics, chemistry, earth and geographical sciences, with around 600 staff and 6000 students. I am a computing scientist and still an active researcher, using mathematics and logics to model and reason about the behaviour of complex systems, usually ones that involve software but might also be biochemical. Throughout my career I have worked with a number of companies, helping them to solve their research problems, from telecommunications to sensor systems.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
I always wanted to be a scientist or engineer from a young age, and I went to university to study maths and physics. I took computing as an additional course and at first I just hated it. At that time computers were rare and expensive, and the first course I took involved finance for purchasing a computer. I was furious; I didn’t go to university to learn about shopping! But then the next course was about programming and I found my vocation – I just loved programming, and I still do. It is so powerful and so creative; you can think of an idea and implement it all by yourself, without having to wait for timeslot in a laboratory or for an experiment to complete. It is just brilliant.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
Making things happen.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.
I am very proud of being a Fellow of the Academy. My father was an engineer; he died some time ago and so he never knew, but I shed a little tear for him the day I received my letter from the Academy. I am also terribly proud every time I get a technical result, especially when it involves working with industry, and for three years I was Chief Scientific Adviser to the Scottish Government.
How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started working in the engineering sector?
Being a woman in engineering has always been positive for me. Being different can have its advantages and my colleagues have always been very considerate to me. I am often the only woman in the room, but usually I just don’t notice it. One thing I have learned is those geeky, introverted boys in first year grow up to be very thoughtful and interesting adult engineers.
How do you think gender parity in engineering can be achieved?
I wish more women would ‘just do it’. Engineering is too important to be left only to men.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Just do it!