This is our final post in our series of female engineers, with Caroline Gauchotte-Lindsay an environmental engineer from our very own UofG. Caroline really shows the intersectionality of STEM subjects and the prospects of engineers in academia, and she’s done quite a bit of travelling too! We hope you’ve enjoyed the NWED series!
I trained as an “Ingénieur” in France, which actually has a slightly different meaning than your UK Engineer. After two years of intense maths, biology, chemistry and physics studies and a very competitive national exam, I got into my dream “engineering” school: ESPCI Paris (the establishment where Marie and Pierre Curie discovered Radium!). There, for 4 years, I studied advanced physics and chemistry (and some neurosciences and biology!) taught by very eminent and inspiring Professors including a couple of Nobel Prizes! The teachingincluding more than 50% of lab work, research and industrial projects and alsoweekly small group meetings discussing current research with academics. TheSchool is meant to train us for industrial R&D and most people in my year wenton to do a PhD and now work for companies like Areva, Thales, St Gobain, L’AirLiquide, Michelin, Schlumberger… While the School certainly gave me the taste for research, as far as I remember I wanted to solve real life problems and in particular in forensic sciences. After specialising in Analytical Chemistry in my last year, I came to the University of Strathclyde to study for a MSc in Forensic Science. It is during my summer placement, with a great mentor, that I realised that after all I did want to do research for a little longer.
This is when I “fell in” Environmental Engineering. I moved to School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at the Queen’s University in Belfast for a PhD in Environmental Forensics. Environmental Forensics is about identifying the source of pollutions and contaminations so for that you need to be an engineer, a chemist, an hydrogeologist, a biologist… it was challenging and exciting! After my PhD, I came back to Strathclyde for my postdoctoral studies but in the Department of Civil Engineering this time (the conversion to full blown engineer was truly complete!) and in 2012 I joined the School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow as a Lecturer.
Some of my research and industrial work is still environmental forensics but I have also naturally moved on to study methods to clean up pollution and notably how we can harness the power of microbes in order to do so. Although they still mainly have a bad name, microbes have incredible properties that we can use to our advantage, providing harmless, cheap and clean solutions to many civil engineering problems. I love my field of research because I get to look at fundamental science questions but their resolution have direct applications on our quality of life.
There is another exciting side to my job as I get to educate the next generation of Civil Engineers. It is so rewarding to see bright young people getting excited about making a real difference in the world and to be able to equip them for the challenge!