INWED24 profile: Making waves in computational fluid dynamics

Katrina Caulatit, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) engineer at Katrick Technologies, discusses her journey into engineering and her work on cutting-edge wind power generation technologies.

What originally sparked your interest in engineering?

My interest in engineering, particularly in pursuing a PhD in CFD within Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, was sparked by both academic fascination and practical experiences. As a researcher, I was captivated by the interplay between fluid dynamics and mechanical systems, especially when I first encountered CFD simulations. Modelling and analysing fluid flow behaviour using computational methods opened a new world of possibilities for solving real-world engineering problems.

My passion for engineering was further fuelled by working with CFD modelling and simulations. These projects demonstrated the practical applications of CFD in optimising designs and improving performance. The blend of theoretical knowledge and practical application, coupled with the potential for innovation in wind energy harvesting technologies, solidified my decision to specialise in this field for my PhD. The challenge of pushing the boundaries of current technology and contributing to advancements in aerospace engineering and renewable energy drives my dedication and enthusiasm.

What is your educational background?

I pursued a PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, where my research focused on developing an innovative building-integrated wind energy harvesting system. Using CFD tools, I aimed to design, optimise, and validate the system through extensive investigations and case studies. My work involved creating detailed CFD models to simulate the aerodynamic performance of the energy harvesting system under various conditions. By running these simulations, I analysed the impact of different design parameters and environmental factors on the system's efficiency. This comprehensive approach allowed me to identify optimal configurations and make data-driven recommendations for improving energy capture and integration with building structures.

What was your first engineering role?

My first role was as a researcher in the Department of Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, where I focused on using CFD tools to investigate wind energy harvesting systems in various urban and rural environments. This position allowed me to apply my theoretical knowledge to real-world challenges and develop my technical skills further. I conducted comprehensive CFD simulations to analyse the performance of wind energy systems, optimising their designs to maximise energy capture efficiency. By testing different configurations and interpreting complex data sets, I drew meaningful conclusions and made informed recommendations for system improvements.

How did you end up in the role you’re in now at Katrick Technologies? What interested you about the company?

What attracted me to Katrick Technologies was the opportunity to expand upon my PhD work and apply my skills to real-world applications. The research I was conducting for my PhD is closely aligned with their innovative work in wind energy technologies. My research reflects the work they are doing to bring oscillating aerofoil wind energy systems into the real world. The company’s commitment to innovation and sustainability in renewable energy resonated with my professional goals. Additionally, their collaborative and forward-thinking work environment appealed to me as a platform for continued learning and professional growth.

What has been the highlight of your engineering career so far?

The highlight of my engineering career has been conducting impactful research and contributing to the field’s advancement. One of my proudest achievements is having my research published in reputable scientific journals, influencing and inspiring further studies. Presenting at conferences has also been rewarding, allowing me to share my findings and engage in enriching discussions with peers and experts. Applying my academic knowledge to real-world industry problems has been another significant highlight. Using CFD tools to visualise case studies and validate experimental data has provided invaluable insights and demonstrated the practical applications of my work. These experiences have solidified my expertise and emphasised the importance of bridging the gap between academic research and industry practices.

What is the importance of encouraging more women into engineering careers?

Encouraging women to pursue a career in engineering is vital for fostering diversity and innovation. Increasing the representation of women in engineering brings a broader spectrum of perspectives and ideas, leading to more creative solutions and enhancing the overall effectiveness of engineering endeavours. Addressing the gender imbalance creates more inclusive work environments, attracting and retaining diverse talent, and strengthening the industry's capacity for innovation and growth. By promoting women in engineering the impacts extend beyond the industry to advance societal progress and equality. Breaking down stereotypes and barriers historically limiting women's participation in STEM empowers more women to contribute their skills and expertise to technological advancements and societal challenges.

What do you think some of the barriers are for women in getting into engineering? How do you think more women and girls could be encouraged into this career path?

Barriers include societal stereotypes, lack of visible role models, and educational disparities in STEM exposure. To encourage more women and girls into engineering, initiatives that promote STEM education from an early age, showcase successful female engineers as role models, create inclusive workplace environments, and offer targeted scholarships and internships are essential. These efforts can break down barriers, inspire interest, and support women in pursuing and thriving in engineering careers.

What advice would you give to women and girls interested in pursuing a career in engineering?

My advice is to follow your passion and believe in your abilities. Seek out mentors for guidance and support, and actively engage in STEM education to build a strong foundation. Explore diverse opportunities in the field to find your niche and network with professionals to learn and grow. Be resilient in the face of challenges and advocate for diversity within the engineering community. By staying committed to your goals, embracing learning opportunities, and creating a supportive network, you can thrive in engineering and contribute meaningfully to the field's advancement.