skip to primary navigationskip to content

Profile of Dr Claire Barlow

Claire is a Senior Lecturer in Manufacturing and Deputy Head of Department (Teaching)

cbarlow.jpgI was brought up in an environment where reading, questioning, creativity and problem-solving were the norm. My father (a medical doctor) was immensely practical, loved gadgets and had a great talent for devising ingenious mechanical devices; my mother (an artist) imposed aesthetic standards and created a hospitable and welcoming home through which passed a constant stream of curious friends and relatives. It all provided a great foundation for a career as an academic and a research scientist.

I came to Cambridge to read Natural Sciences, specializing in Materials Science, and remained in that department for my PhD. I joined the engineering department as a postdoc to work with Professor Mike Ashby, who was not only tremendously inspirational but also very supportive. I moved over to the Manufacturing and Management division, then in Mill Lane, as a lecturer in MET. It was (and is) a very friendly place, but my first year was a difficult time. There was a lot to learn, particularly with the industrial elements of the course, and the managerial side was new to me. However, my main problem was that the course lacked transparency, and I was forever finding out about things I should be doing only after I’d failed to do them. Once I’d discovered what was going on, my organizational instincts kicked in and I started to make suggestions for improvements to the running of MET. I found that if I prepared the ground carefully with relevant staff and then presented a well-argued proposal, with a sensible plan for how it could be implemented, then people were generally happy to let me get on with it. It’s not surprising that I very soon found myself MET Course Director, a post I held for a decade. I learnt a lot about how organizations work, how to run an efficient operation without the dysfunctional people derailing it, how to implement change and how to strike a balance between democracy and oligarchy.

Undergraduates are at the heart of the department, and teaching is for me a high priority. In my current role as Deputy Head of Department (Undergraduate Teaching) I have the opportunity to meddle with structures and procedures, trying to make the system run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. On the whole, staff in the Department are co-operative, and many are wonderfully enthusiastic about teaching matters.

I value the autonomy that an academic career has enabled: I’m not good at following other peoples’ agendas. I have tended to do what interests me rather than what would be strategically sensible, so my career progression has been rather irregular. I value the interdisciplinary environment in the department and the opportunities it has provided to do things I enjoy, and to make things happen. I’ve felt very privileged to work here.

At home I am supported by my husband, Jim Woodhouse (also in CUED), who is wonderfully domesticated and does the household chores while thinking about his work (he says). He has grown-up children who have flown the nest (though not very far).

RSS Feed Latest news

The Telegraph Top 50 Women in Engineering campaign

Feb 28, 2017

The WE50 campaign aims to raise awareness of the skills shortage facing the industry and the huge discrepancy between the number of men vs women currently in Engineering professions, to change perceptions and encourage young women to consider Engineering as a viable and rewarding career.

Careers in Engineering Campaign

Dec 22, 2016

WES recently partnered with Mediaplanet UK on the 2016 Careers in Engineering Campaign in The Week and online.

IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Dr Jenni Sidey

Dec 19, 2016

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has announced that Dr Jenni Sidey, University Lecturer in Internal Combustion Engines, has received the 2016 Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award.

View all news

Upcoming events

WES Annual Conference 2017

May 12, 2017

University College London

Upcoming events