Professor Chimay Anumba FREng is a professor and Dean of the College of Design, Construction and Planning at the University of Florida. He was previously professor and head of department at Penn State University and spent nine years as a professor at Loughborough University. Professor Anumba was featured in a short video as part of the Academy's Designed to Inspire campaign, describing the qualities of an engineer.
“Engineering provides wonderful opportunities to improve people’s quality of life, travel around the world, work with a diverse group of people, and play with some amazing gadgets. ”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
My background is in civil and structural engineering. Apart from a brief period in professional practice, I have spent most of my career in education, developing the next generation of engineers. My research focuses specifically on investigating how computing can improve the design and construction of buildings and civil infrastructure systems.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
I chose to go into engineering because I was fascinated to find out how buildings and other civil infrastructure are designed and constructed. I initially wanted to go into architecture but eventually ended up studying building at undergraduate level and then doing a PhD in civil engineering.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
Engineering offers one tremendous opportunity to make a difference to the quality of life in any society. Almost all systems that people rely on, from the moment they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night, have an engineering base. It offers me the opportunity to help shape the world we live in and to have lasting societal impact.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.
There are numerous research accomplishments of which I am very proud. However, what I am most proud of are the students whose lives I have had the opportunity to positively influence over the years. I have worked closely with over 48 PhD graduates and they have all become established academics and professionals around the world.
How do you think racial parity in engineering can be achieved?
I do hope it will be achieved but it will require concerted efforts to attract ethnic minorities to engineering. We need to have more engineering role models that young people can relate to and see themselves emulating. Schools also have a strong role to play in encouraging kids from BAME backgrounds to move into STEM disciplines and to pursue careers in engineering.
Has being a BAME engineer had an impact on your career that is either positive or negative?
I do not think that it has significantly affected my career one way or another. In the early stages of my career, there were many times when I found that I was the only black person at meetings and conferences but I soon got used to it. People’s implicit biases dissipated as they got to know me and my capabilities.
How has the ethnic diversity of the profession changed since you started working in engineering?
The level of diversity in the profession has certainly improved and there are now many more engineers from a BAME background in prominent engineering positions. However, much more needs to be done to improve diversity at all levels.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
I would definitely encourage them to go into engineering, as it is a very fulfilling profession. It provides wonderful opportunities to improve people’s quality of life, travel around the world, work with a diverse group of people, and play with some amazing gadgets.