To mark International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) 2019, The Engineer is profiling some outstanding females from across UK STEM. Arundathi Shanthini has just finished her undergrad degree at UCL and is currently doing a year in industry. Here, she explains what drew her to science and the benefits of a career in engineering.
What exactly do you do?
I am currently pursuing my MEng (Electronics with Computer Science) degree in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering here at UCL. We learn how to design, simulate and analyse circuits, the theory behind communication systems and the various processes involved behind its working; designing, synthesising and testing digital circuits in various different ways and a lot more!
But it is not all theory, we also have lots of practical work in our course in the form of challenges, scenarios and lab work, which gives us exposure to working in teams. This also helps us develop project management skills whilst learning various practical skills like designing circuit boards, designing and building prototypes, simulating communication systems on software etc.
What attracted you to the field you are in?
It is definitely my interest in science that initially drew me towards engineering. As a child I went through different phases during my time at school. There was a time when I loved biology and wanted to do something in the medical field. But when I was introduced to coding, I started enjoying it more. Then I realised that I like building things and just pure coding probably won’t keep me creatively satisfied so then I started working on small electronic hobby projects. That’s how I discovered electronic engineering as an option that had the potential of involving both logical and designing/building. But yes, at the end it all started with my love for engineering which started growing in me around Year 7 at school.
What do you find exciting about it, what do you get out of it, why do you enjoy it?
I have always loved building and creating things. I enjoy the process of creating something, even though sometimes it involves failing and trying again or sometimes even starting all over again. But when I finally see it work as expected, I get a unique feeling of satisfaction and joy. That’s what I work towards. Even though I initially hated the process of having to go through several failed iterations of the same task before succeeding, over the years I have grown to like and appreciate this process of failing and learning, as much as the joy that the final product gives. So even today, being able to work hands-on on projects and the creative satisfaction you get at the end of achieving the desired results is what I find the most exciting about engineering.
Why might you encourage others to consider a career in engineering?
It is sad that engineering is (or shall I say was) perceived as a man’s field. This is an entirely wrong concept as there is no aspect of engineering that a man can do better than a woman. Engineering is an absolutely amazing field. Given that it has the potential to directly impact the lives of people across the globe, makes me feel proud of being part of this community. So, I always utilise every possible opportunity to encourage others, especially girls into the field.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions around the subject as well. I think that STEM subjects usually demand a bit more time for you to be able to understand and grasp the basic concepts but once you crack that, the rest is all just extensions that were derived from them. As a school going kid, I also found science difficult till I gave it the time it demanded. But once I got the hang of it, I started to love the subject like no other and it was extremely rewarding.
What are some of the really interesting things you’ve worked on at UCL?
Since my time as an undergraduate student at UCL Engineering, I have had several opportunities to work on different projects. One of my favourite projects that I have worked on since the time I joined UCL is the robotic arm I made in my first year. It was something that I made from scratch for the first time, from designing the chassis to laser cutting the parts myself to building and coding it.
Currently, I am on a Year in Industry and I work with big datasets and use the power of several machine learning tools to build predictors or tools that categorise topics within huge texts or conversations. My work here helps the company save millions of pounds a year and this means that the users get the products and services for cheaper prices.