UCL Department of Chemical Engineering


UCL Chemical Engineering Celebrates INWED 2023

23 June 2023

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) on 23 June 2023, we are showcasing the inspiring work that our women engineers do in the department.

International Women in Engineering Day 2023 - collage of staff and students

International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), established by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) is celebrating its 10th year on 23 June 2023. INWED gives women engineers around the world a profile when they are still hugely under-represented in their professions.

To celebrate INWED23 and this years' theme #MakeSafetySeen, we are taking the opportunity to showcase our outstanding students, researchers and staff. Find out more below.

Kanokwan Buaprommart - PhD student

Kanokwan Buaprommart

Motivation to study engineering

"The vast contributions of modern chemical industries have improved many aspects of our daily lives. The increasing importance of environmental impacts, safety, and process optimisation has inspired me to further my studies with a PhD in Chemical Engineering, to help create innovative solutions that will positively impact global challenges."

Anyone/anything that inspired you, especially as a woman

"For my choice, I was inspired, among others, by Marie Sklodowska Curie, a Polish chemist and physicist who obtained the Nobel Prize in both fields. She performed groundbreaking research in the field of Radioactivity, allowing for the first time the isolation of radioactive isotypes. She developed the practical application of X-rays and discovered two new elements, polonium and radium, during the First World War. Due to the discrimination against women in science at the time, her groundbreaking scientific work was even more remarkable. She was the first woman to teach at the University of Paris and broke many barriers for women in science."

Something interesting you do now

"Safety is of the utmost importance in chemical engineering. Whether designing a process system, creating a new device, or managing a power facility, it is crucial to ensure safety. Engineering initiatives must comply with stringent safety regulations and standards to protect human lives, property, and the environment. Thus, my research project has focused on the development of a rigorous mathematical model to predict the thermal radiation of fires following the failure of pressurised pipelines, that are used for example to transport gas mixtures such as CO2 led to sequestration."

Yiting He - PhD student

Yiting He

Motivation to study engineering

"My initial motivation for studying engineering stemmed from the wide range career opportunities and relatively stable employment prospects it offers. As I delved deeper into my studies, particularly in chemical engineering, I discovered that engineering, as a practical discipline, will allow me  to address real-world challenges through design and innovation. My research goal is to enhance vaccine formulations, while minimizing side effects and reducing costs. Witnessing firsthand the devastating impact of the pandemic, with the suffering experienced by those around me, has further fueled my determination to continue exploring and contributing in this field."

Anyone/anything that inspired you, especially as a woman

"Although engineering students typically have a wider range of career opportunities, my visits to various industries revealed a significant gender disparity, with a much higher proportion of males in engineering compared to females. The presence of female employees is predominantly observed in universities/colleges and office-based enterprises. Considering the additional time and responsibilities that women often invest in family, marriage, and childbirth, universities/colleges and offices tend to provide relatively equal opportunities and specific welfare to support female staff. However, within the engineering industry, even if women demonstrate competence in performing various job roles, they still encounter obstacles during recruitment and promotion processes. Consequently, I firmly believe that to address this situation, it is essential for more women to enter the engineering industry and have a significant presence."

Something interesting you do now

"In labs, my colleagues and I frequently work with a range of organic chemicals. To protect ourselves from potential skin and eye contact with these chemicals, we always wear lab coats, gloves, and goggles. However, there are instances when we unintentionally overlook the presence of volatile organic compounds, such as when opening chemical storage cabinets or measuring chemicals. To address this, I have taken measures to ensure safety. Upon understanding the inhalation risks associated with each chemical, I relocate the necessary equipment, such as a hotplate and balance, to a fume hood for operation. For chemical storage cabinets, I organize volatile chemicals in cabinets that are connected to ventilation ducts. When faced with unavoidable exposure to volatile organic chemicals, I have used masks or gas masks to prevent inhalation. These precautions are aimed at safeguarding the health and well-being of both myself and my colleagues, ensuring that the experimental process remains as safe as possible."

Yiota-Victoria Phakoukaki - PhD student

Yiota-Victoria Phakoukaki

Motivation to study engineering 

"Motivated by my passion for problem-solving and making a positive impact, I chose to pursue a profession in chemical engineering."

Anyone/anything that inspired you, especially as a woman

"My grandmother's life story has been a significant inspiration to me. She endured hardships during a war, faced poverty and yet she defied societal expectations and managed to become a strong and successful businesswoman. Witnessing her achievements and determination has motivated me to pursue a profession where I can make a difference."

Something interesting you do now

"Currently, I am working towards a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, focusing on the development of  continuous intensified solvent extractions for the purification of aminoacids important to pharmaceuticals. This innovative technology has inherent benefits in terms of sustainability, efficiency, and safety. As part of my role, I am the safety representative of the intensified processes lab, I prioritize the well-being of my colleagues and strive to foster a culture of safety, ensuring a conducive working environment for everyone involved."

Dr Han Wu - Research Laboratories Manager

Han Wu

Motivation to study engineering

"During my PhD and PDRA, I worked on the crystallisation of pharmaceutical materials. Discovering different polymorphs was just like cooking, something I enjoy very much."

Anyone/anything that inspired you, especially as a woman

"My dad has always been my role model, fearlessly embracing challenges and solving problems as a Senior Engineer, inspiring me to believe in myself and pursue my dream. I ended up working in Engineering as a female technician, and represent the UK at ISO for international standard development with Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) method."

Something interesting you do now

"Currently I am working with UCL radiation services to improve radiation risk assessment of Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) and how we could improve warning signs, procedures, user training and safety for all. In collaboration with a team of scientists at UCL Chemistry and Cambridge University, I had a paper published in Science on the discovery of medium-density amorphous ice which has been characterised safely using SAXS at -190°C"

UCL Engineering celebrates INWED 2023

As part of UCL Engineering's INWED 2023 celebrations, representatives from across our departments have been interviewed about their research, telling us how they are changing the world. 

Prof Eva Sorensen, Head of Department at UCL Chemical Engineering explains how mathematical modelling and computational modelling can be used to help solve some of the world's biggest challenges.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/08EfYjj-YUk



Image Credits:

  • Kanokwan Buaprommart
  • Yiting He
  • Yiota-Victoria Phakoukaki
  • Dr Han Wu
  • Prof Eva Sorensen