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Rebecca Robinson

Rebecca Robinson

Rebecca Robinson was inspired to go into engineering by her father and the desire to change the way people live.

19 February 2013

1. What subjects did you study at school?

A Level: Physics, Maths, English and General Studies

2. What are your hobbies?

Horse riding, swimming, walking as well as reading and watching films

3. What is your favourite film/book?

Dirty dancing / Twilight Saga (chick flicks!)

4. What is your favourite food?

Anything with fish, but especially salmon

5. Do you have any specific role models/mentors who influenced you into what you are doing now?

My Dad, he is an engineer and so I’ve always been brought up around engineers/computers. He always encouraged me to try fixing things/doing little experiments.

6. Who do you admire?

Marie Curie, a fantastic physicist and chemist and the only person to be awarded 2 Nobel Prizes in the sciences. Her work was related to the theory of radioactivity. She realised the importance of science communication and gave lectures and wrote books aimed at non-scientists to explain her ideas and thoughts for radioactivity in the future (including the portable x-ray cars that could be taken in to war zones).

7. What inspired you to get into engineering?

I have always enjoyed playing with gadgets such as mobile phones and games consoles. But I didn’t just enjoy playing with these devices. I was always curious about the way they worked. Whenever something broke, I was the first to try and open it and ‘fix’ it. To be honest this rarely worked and my parents were often left with a video player that was irreparable!

However, I really wanted to make a difference to people’s lives. I knew that I could do that in medicine (and other related areas), but I didn’t want to become a clinician. I realised that engineering had the potential to change the way people live, it could make their lives easier; for example, the invention of the stair lift helps elderly people go upstairs. So I chose to combine my love of technology and engineering with medicine, leading me into a career in clinical engineering.

8. What is your Job title

Pre-registrant Clinical Scientist.

9. Did you always want to be in the profession you are in?

I have always wanted to be involved with science and helping people.

10. What does your typical day involve?

rrobinsonresearch_pic_150.pngI work at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, where I spend half my time performing physiological measurement clinics and half my time carrying our research.
A typical day may involve electro-diagnostic clinics at the Royal Liverpool Hospital or Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Tests are carried out on patients to understand the physiological pathways. The details of theses tests are interpreted and the results are relayed to the clinicians.

If I am not working in clinics I am conducting research. Currently I am working on a device that measures the breathing rate; I have been asked to plot the output of this and sound an alert when it peaks. This is to be incorporated into a larger project that is looking at the carotoid artery in the neck using ultrasound.

This is me doing visual electro-diagnostic research. This work measures the electrical activity at the back of the eye in response to a visual stimulus. The gold-leaf electrode is inserted under the lower eyelid so it can detect the small voltage changes that occur at the retina.

11. What do you like most about your job?

I love that fact that I am working at the cutting edge of technology. I am learning about a new technique that no-one has ever looked at before. Each day is full of new discoveries and challenges.

Having a career in medicine and healthcare is very appealing, because it’s helping people and I like the idea of contributing to the welfare of others. Working at the very edge of technology is very inspiring for me. So, the combination of those two worlds using new technological developments to help people, was the thing that absolutely did it for me.

12. Why do you think it is that not many girls get into engineering/STEM/Construction careers?

I think that engineering has a masculine image, and this can put some girls off. However, it’s not all about designing cars or working in high voltage labs. Engineering is an enormous area, with projects that involve many people with different expertise all around the world, so there is the opportunity for international travel.

Engineering can be seen as a caring profession. In my research area we attempt to use engineering/science to help people, from improving hearing aids to developing new diagnostic tools.

13. What do you like most about your job?

I love that fact that I am working on the cutting edge of technology. I am learning about a new technique that no-one has ever looked at before. Each day is full of new discoveries and challenges.

14. How do you see your work affecting other people’s lives?

I hope this work will have a positive impact on people’s lives. The work will be used to help patients that have suffered a stroke, have chronic pain and are visually or auditory impaired, and has the potential to help in many other areas as well.

15. “Being an engineer is great because…”

I get to be creative and work in an area that has never been explored before. Each day is filled with personal and professional rewards and challenges.

16. What is the biggest stereotype you have faced?

Being a female engineer.

17. What difficulties have you encountered along the way that you had to overcome?

One difficulty I faced when I started university was my personal tutor. He didn’t approve of female engineers. He told me that the drop out rate for women on his course was 100% and that he didn’t expect it to change. But that made me more determined to show him, and I did. I graduated from university with a 2:1 degree and a 1st class final year project.

18. Do you find it difficult being mainly in a ‘male dominated’ job environment?

No I don’t see it as a major problem, I get along with all the men I work with. However I am involved in a female network called WiSET (women in science engineering and technology).

I have been a student coordinator for WiSET since 2006. It encourages females from different engineering/scientific disciplines to network and actively promotes interdisciplinary understanding as well as being a social outlet.

19. What would you recommend to a girl who wants to do engineering (or your respective area) but is unsure of which field to get into?

Explore all the options and take advantage of the great careers events available. Once at an event with other engineers or scientists, talk to them and find out about their work and why they chose that field. Remember engineering is a huge area and has the potential to have applications almost everywhere, so I’m sure there will be something for you.

20. What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring female engineer?

Work hard but always enjoy what you do otherwise it’ll be very difficult to get the best out of yourself. 

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