Siemens Industry Software (Belgium), University of Southampton, National Composites Centre
Research Engineer – Design and Simulation
National Composistes Centre
Mechanical engineer, “scientific” baker, keen cyclist and runner
I am Italian and I live in Bristol. I love baking cakes and (almost) never make the same cake twice. I love it because there is a lot of chemistry behind it and knowing the science side of it means that I always get the recipe right the first time (and friends and family love that!). I have two bikes, a single speed and cyclocross. They are both very loud, red and orange. I’m very proud of them. I’m training for a 10k race after the summer. I also love travelling and before moving to the UK I lived in Belgium to do a PhD.
I create virtual models of airplanes or car components to make sure they work before they are produced.
I am a simulation engineer which means that I spend most of my time creating virtual models of parts that people want to produce. Producing an airplane or a car part is very expensive so companies ask us to re-create the part on our computers and make sure that they are going to work. It is very interesting because I have to understand how a part works before it is mounted on an aircraft, for example. I also simulate manufacturing processes, that is the process used to produce a specific component. This can tell you in advance if you can actually make your part or not and it is very useful because it makes you save lots of time and money.
I am also a material engineer and I work with composite materials. Composite materials are man-made: we take two materials with very different properties, for example plastic and glass fibres, and we combine them together to obtain a material that is better than the two we started with. They are very light and strong and they can replace metals for many applications, making cars, airplanes, even ships lighter and less polluting. It can be very challenging to work with them; that’s why a lot of engineers and material scientists are working to understand their properties better.
My Typical Day: I try to understand and identify a trend in the numbers and graphs that my simulations give me
On a typical day, I work on my computer to create a numerical model, that is a mathematical approximation of a real component. It can take up to few days, if the part to analyse is complex. To create a model I need the geometry and the material properties. For the manufacturing processes is the same, but in that case I will need other information, for example: what is the temperature of the part? how quick is the process?
When the simulation is over I have to interpret the results. This is the most interesting part because I need to use all my brain power and remember everything I learned in school to make sense of the data. Sometimes it is easy but sometimes the results are not so obvious or the disagree with other people’s results. If this is the case, I have to go back to my model and look for a mistake. Some other times, “wrong” results can turn into a new discovery, It is not very common but it can still heppen, especially if we are trying to solve an unsual problem or we are doing research on a new technology.
What I'd do with the money
Day out at the NCC and “The only girl in the room” blog
I have two ideas for spending the money.
The first one, is to invite students to my company to show them how challenging and beautiful engineering can be. At the NCC we cover all the phases of product development and I think ti would be very interesting for the students to see how different engineers with different skills can work together to create something.
The other idea is to create a blog called “The only girl in the room”. I know that it can be scary for girls to get into science and engineering because there aren’t many. Quite often I’m the only girl in the room so I want to share my experience and some tips to overcome the gender imbalance. I think that what girls need the most is everyday life examples to prove that science and engineering are for girls as much as for boys.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, determined, enthusiast
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
My PhD is the thing I am most proud of
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I liked building things and doing experiments. My brother studied engineerng before me and my dad always encouraged me to become a “scientist”. Engineering just seemd the right thing to do.
What did you want to be after you left school?
As a kid I wanted to become either an astronaut or win the Nobal prize for literature. Not quite there yet…
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No, I was a boring student
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Florence+the Machine, at the moment
What's your favourite food?
Yogurt with granola and blueberries
What is the most fun thing you've done?
A camping/cycling trip through Belgium
Tell us a joke.
To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be