Racing to success
Imperial graduate Katie always loved the great outdoors, but she never dreamed she’d end up working for Formula 1.
"Knowing that Imperial was one of the best universities in the world - with a close link to Formula One teams - made this course and university an obvious choice."
I was brought up on a farm in the countryside, so I was often outside as a child. I was always wondering how things worked or why things happened as they did – whether that was bit of machinery breaking or why we were feeding the horses what we did, or why the seasons changed.
I really didn’t know what to do as a career and so picked law as something that seemed sensible and could pay well. However, I didn’t get into the university I wanted to and didn’t actually get the grades I wanted either.
Thankfully, my maths teacher was also a wonderful mentor to me and suggested I studied mathematics at university.
I was good at it, enjoyed it and the career possibilities were endless.
She highlighted for me the importance of picking a future based on something you love doing. University should be an enjoyable time, so pick something you find interesting and it will be wonderful!
Maths in the real world
Through Clearing I got a place to study at a university in London. One day in my third year I was watching Formula 1. I realised that fluid dynamics plays a huge part in technology and race car development. I was hooked.
Being a woman didn’t change any of that – it’s a university filled with culture striving to help you get the most out of yourself whoever you are."
This spurred me on to go and study an MSc in Advanced Computational Methods for Aeronautics at Imperial.
Knowing that Imperial was one of the best universities in the world – with a close link to Formula 1 teams – made this course and university an obvious choice. I was lucky to gain a scholarship too.
The MSc gave me the ability to apply my love of maths to something real and tangible. I love that I have a background with the ‘pure’ mathematics, but engineering is wonderful in teaching one to apply that to real life.
I had a fantastic and rich experience studying at Imperial – from being part of the Aeronautical society to riding on the Equestrian team, which led to my selection for the GB Student riders equestrian team.
Being a woman didn’t change any of that – it’s a university filled with culture striving to help you get the most out of yourself whoever you are. I loved that.
I was lucky to gain a place on the McLaren F1 graduate programme straight after graduating from Imperial.
I have worked as a Strategist in F1, I ran the McLaren P1 GTR test programme, travelled the world racing GT cars and ended up in Bermuda working with Sir Ben Ainslie as part of his America’s Cup team. I couldn’t ever have imagined doing all of this and I still haven’t hit 30 yet!
The most challenging part of my role is trying to deliver everything to such a high standard so quickly. In top-level sport most work is required yesterday! But I loved being pushed and trying to be the best I could be every day.
I also loved the range of people I met. There is always something to learn from every human being you cross.
I am now a project manager at Thales, and I love applying my mathematical skills to that too!
My advice would be that if you love something, do it, even if you can’t work out what it will lead to career-wise. That can come later and most universities will be able to help you work that out.
I firmly believe that if you build a foundation based on something you enjoy, you can’t ever go wrong.
Hear more from our students
Paula – "maths is not just for men"