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Published: 27 September 2013

Surrey graduate named IMechE Young Member of the Year

A structural engineer working on the 2018 mission to Mars, MEng graduate Abbie Hutty has another mission in mind as she accepts the prestigious IMechE Young Member of the Year Award – raising awareness of mechanical engineering as an exciting and fulfilling career path.

For Abbie, the spur to become a structural engineer was reading a newspaper article, as a teenager, about the European Space Agency’s planned mission to Mars – the very project she is now working on at European space company Astrium. Inspired by the realisation that engineering involved such a ‘cool’ project, she went on to study Mechanical Engineering at Surrey and spent her professional training placement at Surrey Satellite Technology, which gave her the edge when it came to applying for a job in the space sector.

However Abbie believes that for many teenagers, negative perceptions about engineering are preventing them from pursuing it as a career, and – as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Young Member of the Year for 2013 – she hopes to increase awareness about this varied and fascinating field.

“While it’s obviously important to get more women into engineering, I think that there’s a broader education job to be done,” she says. “Parents, teachers and careers advisers are the biggest influencers on young people when it comes to choosing a career, so if the public generally has the wrong perception about engineering, that has a huge effect on students as they consider their career options.”

With nearly 70,000 members worldwide, the IMechE Young Members Board gives young mechanical engineers the chance to get involved – at local, regional and national level – in helping raise the profile of mechanical engineering and championing their area of interest. As a Young Member for the Eastern region for the past 18 months, Abbie Hutty has been very active in reaching out to schools and the public at large: as well as speaking to groups and organising workshops, she has hosted secondary school pupils on visits to the Astrium site, giving them a fascinating insight into her work.

It was this outreach work, as well as Abbie’s longstanding commitment to the Eastern region, that resulted in her well-deserved IMechE Young Member of the Year award, which will be presented at the Institute’s Vision Awards in London on 25th September. As Young Member of the Year, she will get the opportunity to represent Young Members at the highest level of the Institution and through the media.

Currently the Spacecraft Structures Engineer on the ExoMars Rover Mission, Abbie is part of a team responsible for ensuring that the spacecraft is structurally capable of surviving its launch and subsequent landing on the surface of Mars. “The biggest challenge is to monitor the implications of each tiny change we make, which means collaborating with other team members who can be based anywhere in the world” she says. “Being part of a mission that will one day land on another planet is a real privilege.”