Energising the engineering sector

Ioanna KetsopoulouIoanna Ketsopouloul is a UKERC Research Associate, connected to Imperial's Faculty of Engineering. She is part of UKERC's Research Coordination team and supports the development of UKERC's research programme.

Ioanna is also conducting research on energy system transitions and the implications of low, medium and high carbon pathways for the UK energy system as part of UKERC's 'Future Energy System Pathways' theme.

With a background in civil engineering, she specialises in low carbon buildings, energy efficient renovation of the existing building stock and microgeneration technologies.

"I enjoyed seeing things on paper develop into things in the real world."


What inspired you get in to engineering?

I have always been interested in how things work and was good at science, so I thought civil engineering would be a good choice to study at university.

I enjoyed seeing things on paper develop into things in the real world.

After working in a multi-national construction company I felt it was time for a change and decided to study for an MSc on Sustainable Building Technology, which included aspects of both mechanical engineering and architecture.

I felt it was important to use my skills to tangibly improve society and help address climate change and saw it as a good way to combine different passions of mine.

Following on from the MSc I started work at the UK Energy Research Centre in a dual capacity.

In my role as UKERC Research Associate I co-ordinate and track our research portfolio; I also undertake my own research as part of the Future Energy System Pathway theme, where I look at the implications of different energy system pathways.

Tell me about a current project you are working on…

I’m currently working on the UKERC project on Disruption and Continuity in Energy Systems.

In addition to co-ordinating the different project partners, I am delivering a work package that explores the role of incumbent utility companies in the transition to a low carbon power sector.

It’s fascinating as the project touches on so many different aspects and levels of energy system change.

I’m also glad it has the potential for significant real-world impact!

What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

Due to the relative lack of women in engineering and the energy sector, at times I’ve found it challenging not having many role models.

This really highlights a challenge that needs to be overcome – inspiring younger women to pursue a career in engineering by helping them connect to more experienced women who can act as role models and provide useful insights into what engineering actually entails.

What could the industry do to increase the number of women in the sector?

As the sector is currently dominated by men, I think that mentoring schemes and platforms where women can connect would be valuable.

As there are challenges associated with working in a male-dominated sector, it would be useful for women to connect with others who are potentially facing similar issues and learn from those who’ve overcome similar obstacles.

I also think it’s important to show younger women the variety of career options that can stem from an engineering degree.

We also need to recognise that life is about more than your career; it’s important to allow for flexible working structures and progression paths that don’t penalise women who choose to have a family and a life outside of work.

Where would you like your research to progress to?

The research I am currently undertaking at UKERC predominately has a UK focus, looking at energy systems on a local scale.

Looking forward, I would like to my work to have more of an international focus. I’d like to work on issues around the transition to low carbon energy systems but at a global scale.

This interview was first published on the UKERC website to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day 2018.