Published: 21 June 2017

Celebrating women in engineering with PhD student Adela Martin

To mark International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June 2017, we talk to PhD student Adela Martin to get the inside track on what attracted them to engineering and the exciting discoveries they are making every day.

Adela is studying for a PhD in water and waste water treatment within the Centre for Environmental Health and Engineering of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

What inspired you to get into engineering?

Born and bred in a family working in engineering and science, I don’t know whether I inherited the genes or grew towards this field myself. I think it started with shadowing my father as he undertook DIY tasks around the house.

Did you have a female role model in engineering or science when you were younger?

When researching Surrey’s programmes in environmental engineering I came across Dr Sabeha Ouki – now my supervisor – and was impressed with her contribution to waste water treatment, which is my favourite topic. She was the one who sealed my decision to apply to Surrey. So if I didn’t have a role model before, I definitely have one now!

Why did you decide to pursue a PhD programme after your undergraduate degree?

From all the environment-related subjects in my undergraduate studies, I was especially drawn to the water topics. I focused both my graduation project and my Master’s dissertation on water issues and I wanted to acquire better knowledge of the subject – so the next logical step was a PhD programme.

What’s your PhD project all about, in a nutshell, and why do you find this such an exciting topic?

Alongside the ongoing development of new products used in our everyday life, there’s a need to keep emerging pollutants below approved levels. This is the case with metaldehyde, which is widely used to control snails and slugs in the UK. My research aims to develop innovative adsorbents to retain and eliminate these pollutants.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your chosen discipline?

I’m a big nature lover and I do my best, every day, to reduce my carbon footprint. Besides helping me to develop professionally, being able to make a contribution towards reducing pollution through my PhD is very meaningful to me.

What are your future career ambitions?

This PhD has actually seen me return to engineering after a 15 year gap, and I never intend to walk away from it again. I started the programme with the intention of going into industry but have developed a taste for research so may make that my career path.

Do you have any advice for aspiring female engineering and science students?

During the first few weeks of my PhD I questioned whether I’d made the right choice because my knowledge on some aspects of my topic was zero. But I took on the challenge and continue to do so. Dedication, passion and commitment are the ingredients you need to succeed in any area, and engineering is no exception.

Do you feel that enough is being done to encourage women to pursue a career in engineering?

While work is being done, women are still under-represented in civil engineering. I think there’s an ongoing need to support women in developing careers in engineering by promoting a positive identity for women and minimising negative attitudes about gender.

Engineering at Surrey

Want to learn more? Explore our courses in Civil and Environmental Engineering, including our Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD, and discover our world-leading research.

Supporting female engineers

The University of Surrey is strongly committed to equality of opportunity and promoting diversity for the benefit of all our staff and students.

We are proud to employ leading female academics across all four of our engineering departments. Their expertise and passion for their subjects provides an integral contribution to Surrey’s world-leading research and their teaching both inspires and informs the learning experience of our students.

We currently hold Bronze Athena Swan awards in multiple areas, including the Institutional Award and a Department Award for our Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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