Professor Jane Jiang FREng is a Director of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology
“Engineering is just like solving a puzzle, the more you put into it, the more clever ideas come out. ”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
My current role is as a director for a national research centre in innovative manufacturing. I lead my team in the development of a ‘factory on the machine’, which links measurement and production to minimise cost and allow increased productivity and efficiency in manufacturing.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
Engineering was the only choice I was given to go into during China’s Cultural Revolution period. At the age of 15 I started my apprenticeship in a bus factory in China, followed by 20 years of an industrial career in engineering, from a chassis worker, to a technician, to a metrologist, and finally to a fully qualified engineer.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
Engineering satisfies my curiosity. The starting point is to ask yourself – how do you make your daily work better and more efficient? It gives you a chance to create new ideas or innovative techniques, which could provide better solutions for manufacturing processes, and make products with more quality, that are more controllable, cheaper and environmentally friendly. This is just like solving a puzzle, the more you put into it, the more clever ideas come out.
Tell us about an achievement which you are most proud of.
You always have a vision (or some say ambition) for your future research associated with the state-of-the-art technological progresses. For example, in the early 2000s, I envisaged what was critical for my subject area and this led to the foundation of a new optical research laboratory (with an initial £6000) to explore optical embedded measurement technologies. This research has now blossomed and many novel measurement (patents) technologies beyond state-of-the-art are gradually being embedded into advanced manufacturing. This is what I am most proud of.
How do you think gender parity in engineering can be achieved?
An engineer depicted as a washing machine repairman or a car mechanic really does not help achieve gender parity. The professional side of engineering and the full range of exciting and creative activities need to be emphasised. Engineering needs to be put on the same level as other professions, such as accountancy and medicine.
How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started working in the engineering sector?
I think there is now more respect for women in engineering than there used to be. Most men in engineering now have a very mature attitude to women being in engineering. Furthermore, there is now more support for women; women can now have both a family and a career.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Engineering is interdisciplinary and is a fundamental basis for today’s high-tech world. If you have the motivation to help improve the manufacturing future and help raise our living standards, an excellent starting point is to have an engineering career.