Dr Leonora Lang
Dr Leonora Lang (Physics 2001, PhD Mechanical Engineering 2005) is a musician, engineer, and mother.
Dr Lang did not predict a career in engineering, however her journey has made her into who she is today.
Since she was a student at the College, Dr Lang has continued to make time for sports and the arts, which perfectly round out her strong scientific and professional expertise.
Why did you choose to study Physics at Imperial?
I originally applied to study a joint course - BSc Physics & Music Performance, which is offered with the Royal College of Music. I was one of a small number who was invited to audition, however I am glad that I wasn’t offered a place and instead switched to a straight physics course.
What was the best part of your course and what was the most challenging?
The most challenging aspect was the physics – through my own stubbornness of not wanting to turn into my dad and become an engineer, I continued with the course and didn’t do very well.
The best part was getting to work on the data coming from Cassini-Huygens as it was passing Jupiter’s bow shock with Professor Michele Dougherty.
What extra-curricular activities were you involved in?
What did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?
So many individuals at the College are amazing - not just academically, but at excelling in other interests outside of science – such as in sport, music, and art.
What is your fondest memory of your time here?
Having had the opportunity to represent Imperial in university competitions.
What is your favourite place at Imperial and why?
Tell us about your education and/or career journey since graduating from Imperial.
After completing my Physics degree, I went to UCL to do a Master’s in space science, before returning to Imperial to do my PhD in mechanical engineering.
Many graduate scheme rejections later, I managed to speak to an open-minded director who offered me a job in something that I hadn't even realised was an area of work or expertise until that point… I started a graduate role in vertical transportation at a prestigious engineering consultancy (Arup), and haven’t looked back since!
I am now a Chartered Engineer with the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers.
What does a typical day look like for you now?
My company is mostly still working from home, and have just offered flexible working to all staff. I start a bit earlier than most of my colleagues so that I can finish at 16.30 to do pick up before cooking and eating dinner with my family. In the morning, after dropping off one of my children at nursery or breakfast club, I’ll catch up with emails from the previous evening – I work a lot with Canada and the USA.
I typically spend half of my day in virtual meetings. Some meetings are project focused, others might be catching up with the engineers I manage, checking their progress, going through any questions they have and discussing next steps. When I’m not in meetings, I’m reviewing work from my colleagues, writing reports or specifications, analysing data, or carrying out simulation calculations.
Outside of work, I try to fit in some running, swimming, or cycling. I recently completed my first triathlon (Olympic distance) and would like to improve my time!
What have been your career highlights and lowlights so far?
Highlights would include the sheer number of projects I’ve worked on, covering all aspects of the built environment, all over the world! My specialism has meant that I've worked on so many different types of buildings, with a myriad of architects and collaborators from different disciplines.
A lowlight would probably be when I worked from home part time following my first maternity leave. At the time, working from home wasn’t really a thing and the technology didn’t support collaborative working.
How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
My degrees in different subjects mean that I've been able to pick up knowledge across various fields quickly. I can research things efficiently and have the ability to work at a high level. My continued involvement with sport and arts has also given me the confidence to interact with people on a personal level, not just professionally.
What are your plans for the future?
To continue being a role model for my children. To show them that women can be professionals in a chosen field, they can excel at work and lead effectively whilst also being a parent. I want to show them that being active is great for both your fitness and mental wellbeing.
To be a leader at Arup, recruiting into my specialist team, to help them become the best that they can be.
What would be your advice for current students?
Be open minded. Be curious. Do more than just your degree – many consulting-type employers are looking for individuals who are able to communicate about things other than work; to engage with others on a personal level.
What would be your advice to students considering studying Physics at Imperial?
Make sure it is right for you as the course is very demanding academically.
What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?
The name means academic excellence and that is understood worldwide.
Imperial has given me rigorous mental training in being academically curious.
Do you have a favourite quote or saying?
To infinity and beyond!