Celebrating Women at Imperial: Chemical engineering postgraduates

To continue our Women@Imperial Week celebrations our student reporter Dora Olah interviewed two postgraduates from the Department of Chemical Engineering about their experience at Imperial.

Hannah Moran (PhD student)

What made you want to study Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London?

For my undergraduate studies, I wanted to study Chemical Engineering because it fit perfectly my interests and talents in maths and the sciences, and its graduates have excellent career prospects. I chose Imperial College London because it’s one of the best universities, and I had such a good experience on my interview day that I knew it was the place for me. I chose to return to Imperial to do my PhD because, again, it’s one of the best research institutions in the world, and it has excellent links to industry. It was very important to me to undertake my PhD in something useful and applicable, and Chemical Engineering at Imperial is really good for this.

What has been your favourite module during your studies?

I’ve always enjoyed fluid mechanics, in fact, that’s the subject in which I’m doing my PhD, and this was really enhanced by excellent teachers in my undergraduate degree. Also, I really enjoyed the Final Year Design Project – I had an brilliant team and it felt like a very positive accumulation of four years of learning and hard work.

What advice do you have for those who are thinking of doing a PhD in Chemical Engineering?

Before embarking on a PhD it’s really important to do your research! Make sure you choose a subject that you are really interested in, but also make sure that you choose a supervisor and research group that you will get on with and work well with. This is hugely important, as while a PhD is in essence an individual project, it doesn’t have to be a solo project. Your research group and supervisor will be you technical and pastoral support, so it is important to meet them and spend some time with them before joining.

I chose to do a PhD because I enjoy the process of learning about something in depth and applying it. I worked in industry for two years after I graduated from the MEng course, and after that time felt ready to return to study, and to London!

How do you find life as a PhD student?

Life as a PhD student is a constant learning curve and is often hard work with many unforeseen problems thrown at you, but you have the time to work everything out and that is ultimately highly rewarding. I’ve already had so many opportunities as a PhD student, whether that’s presenting at conferences all over the world, or developing my teaching skills in various formats as a GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistant). I think it’s really important to maintain a work-life balance during my PhD – that’s something that working in industry taught me to value. As such I really enjoy unwinding with yoga and running, enjoy baking and am a keen reader of all kinds of genres! I’m also a volunteer Girlguide leader, leading weekly meetings for a Guide unit in Fulham, and I’m currently organising an expedition for 10 Guides to Argentina this summer. Having things like this to work on outside of my PhD helps to keep me sane and expands my social and support network, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

At the moment, the future isn’t particularly clear for me – I still have a while left on my PhD and in that time, I hope to explore future career options some more. I know that I want to really leverage the various skills that doing a PhD has taught me, and which so far includes everything from coding to plumbing! In 10 years, I want to be working in a job that I enjoy and want to look back on my PhD as something really worth doing, something that I’m certain will be the case.

Lorena dos Santos de Souza (Research Assistant)

What made you want to do a PhD at Imperial College London?

After doing my Masters degree at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), I thought it would be interesting for the next step of my career to have experience in an international group. Imperial College London seems to have it all: the best groups on low carbon emissions (an area of study I was already interested in), multicultural atmosphere and located in an awesome city. I started my PhD in October 2014 with Professor Martin Trusler and had my viva last November.

What has been your favourite element of your studies at Imperial?

I mostly enjoy having contact with people from all around the world. I certainly benefitted from having different perspectives from my colleagues during my PhD. I could finally understand how diversity is important in research.

What advice do you have for those who are thinking of doing a PhD in Chemical Engineering?

PhD life can be frustrating and exhausting at times, but the final results are definitely worth it.

My golden rules to achieve what I considered was a successful PhD are:

  • keep a positive mind: it will help you in the difficult times
  • make friends in the Department: people are so nice and you have so much to learn from different backgrounds that it would be a pity if you pass most of your time at your desk or in the lab
  • don’t forget to have a life outside Imperial as well: enjoy the city and the country, have a hobby
  • and the most important of them all: learn how to use EndNote…

How did you find life as a PhD student?

I enjoyed my life as a PhD in and outside the department. I took part in many conferences, where I could share my research results, see what other groups were doing and collaborate with some of them. I had the opportunity to teach in the Department as a GTA. I also volunteer for running societies and at the neighbouring Science Museum.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to keep working on energy transition related studies and I’m trying to be open to what the future will hold for me. Always keeping a positive mindset!

Want to find out more? See our postgraduate study pages on the Department of Chemical Engineering website.

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