Name: Dr Helen Meese
Age range: 36-40
Research institution: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London
Research career length: 10 years
Formerly funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Location: London, England
A-levels: Mathematics, Physics, Economics and General Studies
Engineering Foundation, University of Loughborough
BEng Electro-mechanical Power Engineering, University of Loughborough
PhD in Turbocharger performance in Mechanical Engineering, University of Loughborough
Undergraduate industrial placement on an oil refinery
Research Assistant in Electrical Engineering Mechanical Engineer, working on defence projects, Babcock
Departmental Technical Assurance Engineer
Project Manager on Naval Ships, GE Energy
Head of Engineering & Society, The Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Not all research is about theory. Engineers like Helen Meese, take theoretical ideas and turn them into technology that improves our lives. Helen’s experience as a researcher, senior engineer and now policy expert, proves that having a research background and the practical skills of the engineer, puts you in great demand and means you can move across different sectors over your career.
I’ve recently moved from ‘proper’ engineering to working in engineering policy. It’s really important to our economy and our society that we continue to have world-class engineers who are valued by the public. Though things have improved, there are still too few women working as engineers and part of my work both now and in the past, has been about trying to inspire girls to see how wonderful engineering can be.
My early research work included creating a computer program to help predict turbocharger performance in cars and designing opto-electronic control systems for electric ‘force fields’ for armoured vehicles. My work involved supervising experiments in the laboratory as well as out in the field. This research experience has helped me throughout my career working on everything from Eurofighter aircraft to submarines.
In addition to my research, I taught engineering theory on short courses and produced technical reports and papers for a wide number of audiences, including other engineers and customers. My passion for engineering has meant that for many years now I’ve been an enthusiastic ambassador - visiting schools, presenting guided tours of my workplace and running schemes and awards.
Unusually, I’ve been employed in large commercial businesses, in academic institutions, and now in a professional membership organisation. I think this shows how rigid ideas about what research careers look like are actually very different. Research skills are highly prized and give you lots of options.
I wanted to be an engineer from the age of seven. I've always loved science and science fiction, was intrigued by anything that moved and always wanted to know how things worked. I was influenced by my father and other relatives who worked as engineers. A primary school visit to a power station was a defining moment in me deciding to become an engineer.
Like most engineers, I’m quite a practical person and I found formal teaching at school quite difficult, which was reflected in my A-Level exam results. However, once I was at university I really learned what it was to be an engineer because the course was far more hands-on. The opportunity to do work experience during my degree was particularly useful as it enabled me to understand and work out what type of engineering I wanted to do. I would strongly recommend it if you get the chance.
I think the best careers advice I’ve been given was to not worry what other people thought and to just enjoy what I did!