I am originally from Perth and moved over to Canberra in 2018. When I looked at ANU’s website, I was intrigued by the variety of engineering majors they offered. Perth offered a lot of mining focused engineering majors, whilst ANU’s majors involved learning about a large range of topics such as renewable technologies, robotics, advanced materials and humanitarian engineering.
ANU is also well known for having excellent rankings for its research, which I think is so important because you are often being taught by professors that are really at the top of their fields. Another major factor for coming to ANU was that I could study a double degree. At the end of high school, I couldn’t decide between studying astrophysics or engineering, but at ANU I was able to do both.
One of my favourite courses was ENGN3013 (Engineering for a Humanitarian Context). The course involved learning about human-centred design and appropriate technology, and the benefits and limitations of applying this to disadvantaged individuals and communities in complex environments.
As part of this course, I had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia with Engineers Without Borders. I joined engineering students from around Australia and I had the privilege to discuss issues with locals that were prevalent in their rural Cambodian community, such as access to clean water or safe cooking, and how humanitarian engineering approaches can be applied to this context.
Aside from courses, one of my favourite parts of my degree at ANU is the plethora of extra-curricular activities available to students. These groups allowed me to implement the skills I’ve learnt in my engineering degree and additionally, being part of these teams and working towards a common goal fostered amazing friendships, gave me motivation, and allowed me to grow.
Throughout my degree, I have mentored and been a mentee with Fifty50, I’ve presented humanitarian engineering workshops to primary and high school students with Engineers Without Borders, and have even built and launched high-powered rockets with ANU Rocketry.
Next year, I will be moving to the United Kingdom to work with Airbus on their spacecraft. I was searching for graduate opportunities within the space industry and came across the position on the Airbus website. The opportunity was for two Australian graduates to work in the UK with Airbus Defence and Space. I attended the final interview in Brisbane in August 2022 with the managing director of Airbus Defence and Space UK, and was offered the role a few days later.
The program will involve working alongside space experts and gaining exposure to a range of activities including space engineering, payload engineering, ground engineering, spacecraft operations and flight dynamics. Airbus is the largest aeronautics and space company in Europe and some of their projects include the development of Europe’s first rover set to land on Mars, the operation of the UK’s military satellite communications fleet, and the development of many Earth observation satellites used for climate science research. Airbus also built the Orion European Service Module, which is part of the spacecraft that will transport people back to the moon for NASA’s Artemis mission.
As a girl who grew up wanting to be an astronaut, and who wanted to work on challenging and exciting projects that could change the world, this position is a dream come true.
The ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science recently sponsored Sophie and Angela, another final year engineering student, to attend the 2022 Women in Aviation/Aerospace Canberra Summit. This year’s summits, which are held around Australia, reflect on the International Women’s Day theme #BreaktheBias.
Here Sophie reflects on her experience.
I was fortunate enough to be sponsored by the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science to attend the 2022 Women in Aviation/Aerospace Canberra Summit. The day involved workshops, industry speakers and panel discussions from leaders in the aviation and aerospace industry.
A highlight for me was listening to Melissa Jenkins from Architectus. She gave an amazing presentation on emerging technology and the use of a UX simulation system to support people with special needs to navigate through an airport.
The day surrounded the International Women’s Day theme of ‘Breaking the Bias’ and emphasised some of the realities women currently face in the industry, as well as their advice on overcoming adversity.
Majgen Stephen Jobson, Commander in the Army Aviation Command, spoke about his realisation that traditional army training camps were designed by men, for men, which resulted in a disproportionately high number of women being discharged due to severe injuries. He spoke about the changing culture in army training, and how programs had been implemented to support women into the army, rather than expecting everyone to fit the same mould.
A repeating theme throughout the day was to ‘always back yourself.’ Cate Colman, Lead in Fighter Capability Manager at BAE Systems Australia, spoke about her struggle with imposter syndrome, including how she was surprised to achieve a pay rise despite her achievements.
Anntonette Dailey, Executive Director of Operations and Communications at the Australian Space Agency spoke about her experiences in the industry. She had once been told she had a ‘tonal issue’, and she shared how she is able to lead with candour, by being able to both care about and challenge her colleagues.
I found it surprising to hear that extremely successful women, with accolades of awards, qualifications and experiences, still had self-doubt or were punished for having the confidence and directness of their male counterparts. The resounding advice from these women, was to always back yourself, don’t downplay your achievements, and be unapologetically authentic.
In a male dominated industry, it is so important to have female role models. The summit gave me a great inspiration and confidence, that despite inequity and hardships, these women were their authentic selves and were able to succeed and be leaders in the aerospace industry.