#BEhuman: Poppy Oldroyd

#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 next BEhuman to be profiled is Poppy Oldroyd, a first-year undergraduate student on our Biomedical Engineering (MEng) course. Poppy is also a keen fencer and a member of the Imperial Fencing Club.

How did you become a Bioengineer?
While I was attending an engineering summer school, a talk was given by Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut. She inspired me, by showing that you can do whatever you dream to do, and to me, engineering is all about turning dreams into reality. During A-levels I struggled to choose between medicine and engineering; bioengineering provided that bridge between the two. So, I researched into bioengineering, discovered the undergraduate course offered by Imperial, and the rest is history!


What is your proudest professional achievement?
I was honoured to receive a Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Award sponsored by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, given to only 10 undergraduates each year, from the Institute of Engineering and Technology last December. This award recognises young engineers and their academic achievements.


What is your proudest personal achievement?
One of my proudest personal achievements was being able to co-run my local Brownie group, which I attended when I was a younger, after 5 years of volunteering there. This allowed me to give back to the community which gave so much to me, which gave me such a sense of personal achievement. Whether it was working on arts and crafts badge or the scientist badge, I was able to inspire girls of a young age to be whatever they wanted to be.


How has being a woman shaped, influenced and impacted your career?
The fact that only 9% engineers are women has definitely encouraged me to prove that women are just as capable as being an engineer as men are. Whenever I used to tell teachers, friends and others that I wanted to study engineering I was often met with a questionable expression. But, this only made me more determined to beat the stereotype and raise the profile of women in engineering.


How has being a part of the Department of Bioengineering shaped your career?
I have only been part of this department for just under a year, but I have already had so many doors of opportunity open up for me. The weekly department seminars provide such an insight into the range of careers that bioengineering can lead to.


What piece of advice would you give a 17-year-old girl that is thinking about studying Bioengineering?
I would tell her that she is making the right choice! And I would advise her to stick to her guns and not let anyone tell her that she can’t be an engineer. There are many websites and organisations such as WES, Women’s Engineering Society, and WISE, Women in Science and Engineering, which give lots of advice and helpful hints about studying engineering. Finally, I would tell her to visit lots of bioengineering departments at different universities to get a feel of what it would be like to study bioengineering and what it encompasses.

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