#BEHuman: Dr Amanda Foust

#BEHuman (Bioengineering Human) is a series that profiles the academics, researchers and students that make up the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College. Our aim is to give you an insight into the ground-breaking work that takes place in the UK’s leading bioengineering department through the eyes of the fantastic bioengineers that are advancing research frontiers, solving life sciences-related problems and creating future leaders.

As it is International Women in Engineering Day on the 23rd June, our focus this week is on celebrating the achievements of our outstanding female bioengineers.


The first BEHuman to be profiled is Dr Amanda Foust, RAEng Research Fellow. Dr Foust has been a part of the Department of Bioengineering for two years and her current research aims to engineer bridges between cutting-edge optical technologies and neuroscientists to acquire new, ground-breaking data on how brain circuits wire, process and store information.

How did you become a Bioengineer?
At university, I had trouble deciding whether to study neuroscience, physics, or electrical engineering. Then it turned out that I didn’t have to! Bioengineering builds bridges between these disciplines.
I started within Imperial’s Department of Engineering as a postdoc and then won a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship to fund my research over 5 years.


What is your proudest professional achievement?
I was very proud of my doctoral dissertation, approved with distinction at Yale. When I was 17 years old I would never have thought myself capable of that.


What is your proudest personal achievement?
I am training for a private pilot licence and recently completed my first solo flights. It’s a dream come true— there are few things I’ve done more fun, and more unexpected, than flying a little aeroplane.


How has being a woman shaped, influenced and impacted your career?
Throughout university, I had a bad case of “womanly under-confidence”. I didn’t think I could do it (whatever it was) or do it well enough. My first research mentor did all he could to eradicate that way of thinking, with much success. Since then I’ve been trying to pay it forward.


How has being a part of the Department of Bioengineering shaped your career?
In previous departments, my efforts to combine neuroscience with engineering was considered oddball. The Department of Bioengineering, however, encourages these cross-disciplinary leanings in very natural and concrete ways. I feel like I belong here, and that the department is behind my efforts to establish a research group.


What piece of advice would you give a 17-year-old girl that is thinking about studying Bioengineering?
Get digging and get involved in a few different research projects. Shadow as many bioengineers as possible. Find out what types of projects excite you. If none do, then go and find jobs that do and how to train for them. Then look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I can do it.”


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