UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Women in STEaPP

We asked some of the women in the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) what inspired them to go into their current fields, and join STEaPP.

Dr Irina Lazar, Associate Professor (Teaching) in Engineering and Public Policy

Headshot of Irina Lazar
"I always found fulfilment in seeing tangible outcomes of my work around me. This, coupled with my interest in maths and the built environment, made engineering a natural choice. Through my engineering and academic work, I become acutely aware of the gap between technological advancement and its implementation on a large scale in society, and of the sometimes-narrow solution we propose for addressing complex issues. This realisation led to my decision to study public policy and to take up a role in STEaPP, where I feel I can make a difference in an interdisciplinary space, at the interface between engineering and policy. I am also fortunate to lead the Science and Engineering for Social Change BSc, a unique programme bringing science, engineering and policy together to train the next generation of social change leaders. My research focuses on engineering education and policy, and I work on projects ranging from inclusive education and community-based learning to embedding sustainability and ethics in the curriculum and more."

Veronica Li, PhD student

Headshot of Veronica Li, PhD student
"My passion for sustainability initially drove me to pursue experimental research in new solar energy technologies. However, I became increasingly concerned about the human aspect of the climate crisis, such as the role of politics in climate outcomes, or social inequalities and climate justice. My experience in a science- and technology-focused university also drew my attention to emerging technologies and their societal impacts. These varied interests brought me to STEaPP, where I now engage with normative questions of how knowledge, evidence, and technology should be incorporated into sustainable energy transitions and public health. STEaPP is an incredibly welcoming space that has allowed me to meet colleagues who are equally passionate about making a positive impact with their work, and it has given me invaluable opportunities to grow as a researcher, educator, and individual."

Jennifer Reed, Head of the Policy Impact Unit

Headshot of Jennifer Reed
"I’m sure we can all think of a moment where a new policy was announced, or a pledge made by a politician, which made us sit back and ask ourselves – why on earth did they think that was a good idea?! That is exactly what drove me to consider a career in policy.

Naturally curious, I like getting to the heart of issues, making sense of the world and solving problems. I wanted to be a part of making the world a better place (as corny as that may sound!) and ensuring sensible decisions were taken that would improve peoples lives. I am fortunate enough to have worked in a variety of policy roles including in Parliament and the Civil Service, witnessing firsthand how good use of evidence can transform decision making for the better.

This is what attracted me to the Policy Impact Unit at STEaPP. We work with academics to help tease out actionable insights from their research and translate these into policy outcomes – delivering real world impact. At STEaPP I am surrounded by colleagues who not only understand the benefit of this work and are supportive, but have lived and breathed the world of public policy themselves and are looking to inspire the next generation on policy engagement. That makes this an incredibly exciting place to be, and somewhere I am proud to work.

Outside of work, I can usually be found following my children around their various sports clubs and hobbies – which have undoubtedly overtaken all of my own!"

Dr Erica Thompson, Associate Professor and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow

Headshot of Erica Thompson holding a book
"I have always been interested in solving problems in the real world.  A university career wasn’t necessarily the obvious choice, but I’ve developed a strong interdisciplinary network of external collaborators focused around applications of modelling in different sectors and connecting up the dots between social and physical science, policy and practice, more broadly than I think would be possible anywhere else. I am really excited by the outward-facing and policy-oriented mission of STEaPP and constant challenge to use our expertise 'to change the world for the better'.


Outside of work, I am also a school governor, which has been an even bigger challenge!"


Dr Carla Washbourne, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy and Director of Research

Headshot of Dr Carla Washbourne
“I have always been a little ‘undisciplined’. From a young age I was interested in almost everything, but especially drawn to landscapes. I wanted to understand how they were shaped by nature and by human actions and studied a mix of earth sciences, archaeology and engineering on my journey to do so. My current work seeks to improve our urban landscapes, especially blue and green spaces, by better integrating as wide a range of knowledge and voices as possible into our urban planning and decision-making. STEaPP brings together colleagues and dedicated students from many different academic, professional and personal backgrounds and is an inspiring place to test new ideas and develop support for engaging with challenging real-world problems. 


Outside of the office I can be found writing, running, dancing, or volunteering for community causes across the south as part of GoodGym."