Imperial College London

“If you enjoy doing it, go ahead and do it” - women engineers in #INWED Top 50

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Dr Nausheen Basha

Dr Nausheen Basha, one of our Top 50 Women in Engineering

Three Imperial engineers have been lauded in the Women’s Engineering Society (WES)’s Top 50 Women in Engineering Awards for #INWED.

23 June 2022 marks International Women in Engineering Day (#INWED), which celebrates the “best, brightest and bravest women in engineering, the inventors and innovators who dare to be part of the solution and are helping to build a brighter future.”

Congratulations on this brilliant achievement by Alalea, Nausheen, and Sophie - three of our brightest engineers! Professor Julie McCann Vice-Dean (Research) & Ambassador for Women, Faculty of Engineering

Just 16.5 per cent of engineers are women, but WES and INWED give women engineers around the world a profile when they are still hugely under-represented in their professions. At Imperial, the Faculty of Engineering champions the excellent work produced by its female staff across engineering and aims to present engineering as an attractive career choice to young women.

As part of the INWED celebrations, WES has lauded Imperial’s Dr Alalea Kia, Dr Nausheen Basha, and Dr Sophie Morse as three of the top 50 women in engineering. We profile their careers and advice for budding female engineers.

Professor Julie McCann, Vice-Dean (Research) and Ambassador for Women at the Faculty of Engineering, said: “Congratulations on this brilliant achievement by Alalea, Nausheen, and Sophie - three of our brightest engineers! At the Faculty, we’ve been proactively engaging in the Athena SWAN framework to encourage and confirm its commitment to advancing the careers of women in engineering. To complement formal initiatives that support the training of our women engineers in topics related to career progression, and which train all our staff to better understand diversity and why it is important, we will be organising more community events to facilitate support networks. This will also include the chance to meet invited top women engineers to learn from them and be inspired.

Dr Alalea Kia, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dr Alalea Kia has developed next-generation permeable pavements called Kiacrete – pavements of high strength and durability that ‘absorb’ water from heavy rainfall without clogging. These are developed to alleviate the impact of climate change and urbanisation-related flooding, whilst making our current and future infrastructure more resilient.

This recognition of my work highlights the importance of developing sustainable permeable infrastructure. Dr Alalea Kia Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Kiacrete, developed through Dr Kia’s research and startup company, Permia, has major environmental benefits, including reduced emissions, flood mitigation, water reuse, and the decreased urban heat island effect.

These novel permeable pavements have so far been installed at Imperial’s White City Campus where they are exposed to real world loading and weather conditions. Dr Kia is currently in discussions with local government, infrastructure operators, industry bodies, and engineering consultancies and contractors to deploy her engineering innovation at several more sites.

In 2021, Dr Kia won a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship to apply her permeable pavement technology to airports and engineer a new system to keep airport infrastructure clear from surface water, ice and snow all year round. 

In 2022, she was awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to develop next-generation materials for essential infrastructure in the built environment including highways, railways and buildings.

Dr Kia said: “I am honoured to be recognised as one of the top 50 women in engineering. This recognition of my work highlights the importance of developing sustainable permeable infrastructure to address the challenges our society faces, including climate change and urbanisation. It also motivates me to inspire the next generation of women to engineer, invent and innovate."

"Embracing unconventional concepts will teach you invaluable lessons"

“To date, I have designed and delivered talks and outreach activities to increase the number of female engineers. Through my involvements in

Learn by trying and embrace all ideas, even those that initially appear unusual or unachievable. Dr Alalea Kia Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

different female focus groups and university enterprise networks, I try to foster a positive work environment that retains women in engineering and encourages them to communicate their research and innovations, providing significant benefit to them and society.

“The advice that I would give to aspiring or current women engineers is do it now, learn by trying and embrace all ideas, even those that initially appear unusual or unachievable. Embracing unconventional concepts will teach you invaluable lessons, and you will become wiser. This way of approaching problems can even lead to breakthroughs with significant impact on the environment, economy, and society.”

Dr Sophie Morse, Department of Brain Sciences

Dr Sophie Morse is a bioengineer who gained her Masters in Engineering at Imperial, before returning to carry out her PhD developing methods to improve the delivery of drugs to the brain using focused ultrasound and microbubbles. Now, she is using focused ultrasound to improve drug delivery to brain tumours.

It means a lot to me that all the passion and time I’ve put into developing this technology...while advocating for women ...is being recognised. Dr Sophie Morse Department of Brain Sciences

Dr Morse will launch her own research group in October 2022 in the Department of Bioengineering, where she will use focused ultrasound to stimulate cells in the brain, particularly immune cells and glial cells that support our neurons. Ultimately, the aim is to find new ways of treating Alzheimer's disease, brain tumours and even slow down ageing.

Her work has been recognised by numerous awards including Young Investigator Awards from the British and European Medical Ultrasound Societies, William James Award from Institute of Engineering and Technology, and the Gold Medal in Engineering and Westminster Medal at STEM for Britain in Parliament.

Dr Morse said: “I am honoured to be receiving this Women in Engineering Award. It means a lot to me that all the passion and time I’ve put into developing this technology to deliver drugs to the brain, while advocating for women so they feel comfortable in engineering, is being recognised. I am so thankful to everyone who has supported, mentored and encouraged me along the way.“

"Don’t let anyone put you off your dream"

Dr Morse believes in the importance of encouraging and inspiring women to join the field of engineering.

Give new things a go and learn to prioritise and to say no, so you can do more of what you love and less of what you don’t. Dr Sophie Morse Department of Brain Sciences

As Chair of the Volunteer Engagement Committee for the largest international IEEE ultrasound society, she works to empower women from under-represented countries. She strongly advocates for more development opportunities early-on in women’s careers, and works with young female students to expose them to the opportunities of STEM careers.

For young women engineers and those hoping to get into engineering, Dr Morse said: “Give new things a go and learn to prioritise and to say no, so you can do more of what you love and less of what you don’t. Don’t let anyone put you off your dream. You can do this!”

Dr Nausheen Basha, Department of Chemical Engineering

Dr Nausheen Basha is a Chartered Engineer and Project Manager at Imperial with a keen interest in computational fluid dynamics, multiphase flows, machine learning, and improving diversity in engineering. 

Her PhD research was recognised by the Institute of Refrigeration (IOR) and she received the prestigious Ted Perry Award in 2021. Her previous work to develop air compressors at City, University of London, was deployed in supplying oxygen cylinders during crucial COVID-19 pandemic intervention in India.

Creating a balance will require the men in this space to act as active advocates and allies. Dr Nausheen Basha Department of Chemical Engineering

At Imperial, Dr Basha manages a UKRI-funded project, called PREMIERE, that uses artificial intelligence to create the next generation of ultra-fast predictive models in multiphase flow systems. These are systems that deal with the flow of gas, liquid, and, potentially, solids flowing simultaneously in pipes, channels, and reactors.

PREMIERE seeks to better understand the behaviour of these flow patterns and use intelligent computer simulations to predict how these patterns can be influenced for the better - whether the flow is in the body or a chemical plant. The aim is to enhance productivity and efficiency across manufacturing, energy, and healthcare.

Dr Basha is also currently researching data-driven optimisation of mixing reactors as part of the PREMIERE project, and sits on the Data Driven Modelling Special Interest Group. At Imperial, for her ‘exceptional work and support’ on PREMIERE, Dr Basha was recognised in the 2021 President’s Awards for Excellence.

Dr Basha said: “Winning WES’s Top 50 Women in Engineering award alongside some of the bravest, brightest, and best women engineers in the UK is an absolute honour.”

Passionate about improving equality and diversity in engineering, Dr Basha devotes much of her time to inspiring other young women and minority groups to take up STEM subjects via Nuffield Research Placements and work shadowing programmes. She has contributed to newsletters for the Women’s Engineering Society and has been a columnist for Process Industry Informer magazine covering topics like cultural barriers for women in STEM, wage gaps, and gender inequality in engineering.

"We need to be consistent in promoting women to leadership roles"

Though Dr Basha’s natural inclination towards maths, physics, and solving problems led her down the engineering career path, she says she is always struck by the lack of female representation in the engineering space:

If you enjoy doing it, go ahead and do it. Everything else ought to fall in place. Dr Nausheen Basha Department of Chemical Engineering

“As the engineering profession is still largely male dominated, creating a balance will require the men in this space to act as active advocates and allies. There is some remarkable work being done at Imperial, like the Springboard Women’s Development Programme and Academic Women's Programme (AWP). However, we need to be consistent in promoting women to leadership roles and increasing the number of support network groups for women.”

For young women and minority groups, Dr Basha advises: "If you enjoy doing it, go ahead and do it. Everything else ought to fall in place.”

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Imperial is also celebrating INWED with a series of events including a workshop, table-top escape games, key note speech and networking with refreshments, hosted by the Women in Engineering Network (WiN).

Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO of WES, said: ‘"Once again WES is delighted to celebrate the achievements of women engineers. It's a joy that so many innovative women are making a difference to our everyday lives and working to mitigate the impact that engineering has on the environment."

See the press release of this article

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Caroline Brogan

Caroline Brogan
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