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Profile of Fiona Hughes

Fiona is a first year PhD student in the Geotechnical and Environmental Research Group

Fiona Hughes photo.jpgBackground – how did you get into Engineering?

At school my favourite, and strongest, subject was maths. I considered doing maths at university, but realised that the branch of maths at A-levels that I enjoyed most (mechanics) was a lot more aligned to engineering – it was using maths to solve practical problems. If I’m completely honest, I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I applied to study engineering at university, but found that it combined my love of maths and physics with solving practical problems.  I did my undergraduate engineering degree here in Cambridge, and having enjoyed my degree I have recently started a PhD in the same department.

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?

I am currently a first year PhD student in the Geotechnical and Environmental Research Group.  My research project involves doing model testing in a geotechnical centrifuge to look at how soil and foundations behaviour in earthquakes. I have just returned from Ecuador where I was able to see first hand the damage that occurred due to a MW 7.8 earthquake in April, which reinforced to me why more research in this area is necessary to reduce the amount of damage and number of casualities in earthquakes across the world.

Alongside my PhD I have enjoyed being involved with teaching undergraduate engineering students. I really enjoy helping others to learn, and hopefully getting them excited about engineering too!

What motivates/interests you?

I love solving problems, and I really enjoy learning.

Given the current challenges faced across the world, for example population growth, climate change and natural disasters, there is a wide range of problems that engineers are currently addressing in an attempt to help improve the world we live in.  

What has helped your career?

I have been fortunate to always have people around me who support me. This has included my parents who instilled a strong work ethic in me and always believed in and supported me. I have also had a number of great teachers and supervisors at both school and university who stretched me and encouraged me.

How have you managed to balance family life/other interests with your career?

I have always combined my studies with competing in high level sport. My college (Queens’) and individuals within the department have always been very supportive of this. I am very grateful for this, as it would have been impossible without their support.

Do you have any advice for women who considering studying/pursuing a career in Engineering?

Go for it! Engineering is an exciting and continually evolving subject.

Also, women and men are equally able when it comes to becoming successful engineers.