Anna-Maria is a PhD student working on the effect of thermoacoustic instabilities on flame dynamics in gas turbine engines
How did you get into Engineering?
I was exposed to engineering, since my first years of life as my father and my grandfather were engineers. During family gatherings discussions about engineering problems were very common. Also, I remember my father constructing toys, such as airplane models and flying them with me, while explaining key physics concepts. This offered me not only many hours of amusement, but it also helped me develop problem-solving abilities and a great interest in sciences and engineering. During the summer my father used to take me with him at work visiting refineries and other industries. This greatly influenced my decision to study Chemical Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) in Greece.
What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?
I was admitted to the University of Cambridge in 2012, where a completed the MPhil in Energy Technologies with a Distinction. My MPhil project on combustion under the supervision of Professor Nondas Mastorakos was the reason why I developed a strong interest in this field. After the MPhil, I continued working with Prof. Mastorakos towards a PhD on the effect of thermoacoustic instabilities on flame dynamics in gas turbine engines. The PhD is part of the University Gas Turbine Partnership between the University of Cambridge and Rolls-Royce plc. After the completion of my PhD I would like to pursue an academic career.
What motivates you?
My passion and natural curiosity to explore how things are working motivate me a lot. Also, the fact that technology and innovation developed in academia can be transferred to industry and offer solutions to real world problems is very important.
What has helped your career?
I was very lucky to have had very talented and supportive professors and supervisors during my studies. My PhD supervisor has given me excellent guidance, personal support and inspiration.
How have you overcome challenges and knockbacks in your career?
I have noticed that in working environments where women are underrepresented problems such as lack of trust in their ability as engineers, lack of support and isolation might arise. The Engineering Department and my supervisor are very supportive, so fortunately I didn’t face any particular issues. I think that when women face discrimination issues they should be open and address them as well as create a network of friends and colleagues, which will allow them to have the support and advice that they need.
Do you have any role models?
The person who has been the role model in my life is my mother. She was one of the few women in her generation in Greece who became a lawyer and took the decision to start their own law firm from a very young age. Also, Professor Dame Ann Dowling is a great inspiration for all women in the field. She was the first female professor (1993) in the Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge and she is working in aeronautics, a field of engineering which is particularly male-dominated.
Do you have any advice for women who considering pursuing a career in Engineering?
Engineering is very creative field and offers an immense variety of prospective career options. I would advise them to follow their dream and not let any ‘old-fashioned’ opinion and stereotype change their mind. Finding supportive teachers and mentors could be useful in order to get inspiration and advice to make the right choices during their career.