It’s Engineers Week 2017 and International Women’s Day, so what better time to celebrate the great women of engineering here in Ireland and working abroad?
For the International Women’s Day and Engineers Week that’s in it, we’re celebrating Ireland’s leading women engineers with a list of 25 high achievers who simply bowl us over with their accomplishments.
Capturing the incredible variety of careers available to those who study engineering, these women are academics and business leaders, researchers and entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators. Not only are they interdisciplinary superstars, they are also advocates for putting the A (as in, arts) in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) to generate some STEAM.
Kilkenny native Dr Aoife Gowen’s research area is multidisciplinary, involving applications of sensor technology and chemometrics to biological systems. Immortalised in art form as part of the Accenture Women on Walls unveiling at the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), Gowen was one of three Irish researchers who secured €2m in EU R&D funding each as part of the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants in 2013. She received the funding for her novel chemical imaging techniques that will allow scientists to see how water interacts with surfaces at a very high resolution, and to explore the properties of materials.
An art historian turned engineer, Prof Debra Laefer also featured in the RIA Women on Walls unveiling, as well as the Faces of Research films from University College Dublin (UCD). With degrees from NYU, Columbia University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Laefer’s research aims to prevent damage to buildings above tunnel excavation by developing a 3D modelling system. She currently heads the Urban Modelling Group at UCD and is associate editor of four journals. Laefer is a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, as well as a Fulbright fellow.
A graduate of medical mechanical engineering at Dublin City University (DCU), Dr Tanya Levingstone currently works as a postdoctoral researcher in the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) at Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI). Last year, Levingstone, her team at TERG and a group of researchers from the AMBER centre discovered a new material that repaired damaged knee cartilage on a horse. This patented, multilayered 3D porous scaffold – named ChondroColl – returned the injured horse to competitive showjumping.
Sarah McCormack is associate professor of civil structural and environmental engineering at Trinity College Dublin. Another Women on Walls star, McCormack earned a PhD from University of Ulster for her work on a novel method for solar concentration using quantum dots. Having contributed towards dozens of peer-reviewed publications, her research now explores photovoltaic panels that convert solar energy into direct current electricity.
Caitríona Lally is a bioengineering professor at Trinity, and also features in the group portrait at the RIA. Lally scored a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in engineering from University of Limerick (UL) before securing her PhD at Trinity. Her research focuses on arterial tissue mechanics, vascular imaging, vascular mechanobiology and tissue engineering. In 2014, she secured an ERC Starting Grant for a five-year €1.5m project that will advance research in arterial fibre remodelling for vascular disease diagnosis and tissue engineering.
— Patrick Prendergast (@pjprendergast) November 14, 2016
Dr Ellen Roche’s most recent work has helped to develop an innovative soft robotic sleeve. The device can help a heart to beat, with Roche named as first author on the paper published in Science Translational Medicine. Roche is an MIT postdoctoral research fellow in biomedical engineering in the college of engineering and informatics at NUI Galway (NUIG). She secured €100,000 in funding for the project last summer, having previously studied and worked at Harvard and Trinity.
Prof Tiziana Margaria is professor of software systems at UL and a principal investigator at software research centre Lero. Her area of focus is system and service engineering. The vice-president – and former president – of the European Association of Software Science and Technology, as well as a prolific author of engineering-related papers, Margaria has built an impressive career in academia. She has held professorships at several universities across Europe, and holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a PhD in computer and systems engineering from the Politecnico di Torino, Italy.
Ann Kelleher is a corporate vice-president and general manager of Intel’s technology and manufacturing group. From her current base in Oregon, the Cork woman oversees the company’s worldwide manufacturing operations. Kelleher was the first Irish woman to be appointed VP at the global chip giant, having originally joined the company as a process engineer in 1996. She was also the first woman to receive a PhD from the National Microelectronics Research Centre, a precursor to the Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork. She holds a bachelor’s degree, a master’s and a PhD in electrical engineering.
Appointed as vice-president for Intel’s technology and manufacturing group in 2016, Ann-Marie Holmes currently holds the position of factory manager at Intel’s Fab 24 advanced manufacturing facility at Leixlip. Holmes has worked up the ranks at Intel since joining in 1991 as a graduate in a process engineering role. She has held a number of engineering roles at the company over the years, and was the first Irish graduate hire to become an Intel VP. Holmes became a fellow of Engineers Ireland in 2016.
As an engineer, scientist and performer, Niamh Shaw wants to awaken people to the wonders of STEAM by merging it with the creative arts. Co-founder of STEAMakers, Shaw is core lectures chair of the Space Studies Programme 2017 at the International Space University. Her achievements saw her included in last year’s Science 50 list on Siliconrepublic.com, as well as our Women Invent series. Currently a member of Crew 173, Shaw recently worked on a simulated Mars mission project in the Utah desert for the Mars Desert Research Station. With higher-than-sky-high ambitions, Shaw aims to get to space within the next eight years.
— Dr. Niamh Shaw (@niamhiepoos) March 7, 2017
Co-founder (and CEO) of software firm Element Wave, Dorothy Creaven has a degree in electronic engineering from NUIG, where the company is based. Element Wave won two eGaming Review awards last year, with the six-year-old company recently lauded by Gartner for its mobile marketing analytics expertise. Creaven has more than 15 years’ experience in engineering, operations and leadership, and has been invited to speak at numerous international conferences.
Prof Lisa Looney is the newly appointed executive dean of the DCU Faculty of Engineering and Computing, and the first woman to fill this role. She completed her PhD at the EU Institute for Advanced Materials in the Netherlands, focusing her research on ‘hydrogen attack’ in pipelines that carry hydrocarbon gases. She later moved to DCU, where she became a founding member of the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and director of the Material Processing Centre. She will take up her new position later this month. Her current research includes work on developing new biomaterials such as replacements for bone tissue and coatings for implants.
— claireoconnell (@claireoconnell) September 19, 2016
With a civil engineering degree from NUIG, a master’s in engineering computation from Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and a master’s in bioengineering from UCD, you could say that Charlotte Murphy’s knowledge in the engineering field is extensive. With more than a decade of experience in chartered engineering, Murphy decided to establish her own company, Charlotte Murphy Consulting Engineers, in 2015. Based in Galway, she works as a design and project engineer in the areas of structural engineering and medical devices.
— Charlotte Murphy (@murphygalway) November 15, 2016
As programme director at IBM Watson Health, Bernadette Fitzsimons engineers cognitive solutions for government and human health services. She earned an honours degree in electronic engineering from DCU in 1992 before becoming a software engineer at Ericsson and a project manager for Broadcom Éireann Research. Fitzsimons spent 13 years working as vice-president of Cúram Software before it was acquired by IBM in late 2011, prompting her to bring her invaluable software experience to the Big Blue team.
Barbara McCarthy was announced as HubSpot’s director of engineering in May 2016, where she now leads an engineering team that works on a number of the company’s core marketing and sales products. In previous jobs, she has also directed software development projects for companies including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Inspired Gaming. She is a vocal advocate for increased diversity in engineering, particularly when it comes to inspiring her six-year-old daughter.
MD of EVB Sport, Yvonne Brady’s relatively short career has already reaped numerous accolades. The Drogheda engineer’s female sportswear invention was shortlisted for the 2014 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, while Enterprise Ireland’s High-Potential Start-up funding has previously backed her business. Brady earned a BA BAI in civil, structural and environmental engineering at Trinity in 1995, adding postgrads in design and sales at DIT in later years. Her first product was launched on The Late Late Show in 2013.
A visit to NASA at age 11 inspired Dr Norah Patten’s burning enthusiasm for all things space, and set her on a journey down the engineering path. Armed with a doctorate in aeronautical engineering, she worked at IComp at UL before becoming co-chair of the International Space University. Another member of the Science 50 list, Patten recently founded Planet Zebunar to provide products that engage children in STEM education, which is due to launch in the next few months.
— NorahPatten (@SpaceNorah) March 7, 2017
Having already spent a decade as the CEO of Fujitsu in the UK and Ireland, Regina Moran continues her work with the Japanese company with the additional role of head of industries for the EMEAI region. As a chartered engineer, Moran has long been recognised as one of Ireland’s leading members in the field. She held the position of president of Engineers Ireland for a one-year term, during which she put particular focus on the role of women in STEM.
Tanya Duncan is the managing director of Interxion Ireland. Having joined Interxion in 2001 as a solutions project manager, Duncan was promoted to operations manager two years later, and appointed as MD in 2005. With a BA and BAI in mechanical and manufacturing engineering from Trinity, as well as a strong background in business, Duncan has been instrumental in the establishment of Interxion as a major player in the Irish data ecosystem. Prior to joining Interxion, she held senior technology positions with KPNQwest and Esat.
Director of the Connect research centre, Inspirefest 2015 speaker Prof Linda Doyle remains an advocate for greater collaboration between engineering and the arts. Having received her PhD in electrical engineering in 1996, Doyle is highly active in the field of cognitive radio and wireless networking. Last year, she was named as the coordinator of the new Edge programme to attract more leading ICT researchers to Ireland’s third-level institutes.
Madeleine Lowery is currently a professor in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at UCD, where she uses engineering methods to model the brain, nerves and muscles in a bid to improve technology to treat tremors in Parkinson’s disease. This includes research into electromyography, bioelectromagnetics, deep brain stimulation and neural control of movement. Her extensive education includes a bachelor’s degree in engineering and PhD from UCD.
In 2016, Dr Laoise McNamara was appointed personal professor in biomedical engineering at NUIG, where she has spent 10 of the last 12 years of her career as an engineering lecturer. In her current role, McNamara leads a research group of eight PhD students and three postdoc fellows in the field of mechanobiology, which tries to understand how bone responds to mechanical forces. McNamara has an exceptional research track record with international awards and peer-reviewed publications.
Sinead O’Sullivan is CEO of Fusion Space Technologies and formerly worked at NASA, where she developed parts of the technology that would take spacecraft – and, potentially, humans – to Mars. Her love of space came as a student at Southern Regional College in Armagh when she won a competition to attend NASA’s space school in the US. She is currently based in Boston where she is also a research fellow at Harvard. Her company, Fusion, is focused on merging crowdsourced drone imagery with satellite imagery to change the future of Earth imaging.
Dr Ita Richardson is a principal investigator at Lero and a senior lecturer at UL. She has more than 200 publications in refereed journals and conferences, book chapters and edited books. Richardson carries out industry-based research with indigenous Irish companies such as Homesafe Care and Ocuco, and multinational organisations such as Vitalograph, IBM and Intel Shannon. She also researches with the Health Service Executive, specifically within Limerick public hospitals, where her team has developed H-QAP – a Hospital Quality Assurance Programme.
Accenture technology consultant Brianne Mulvihill came to the professional services company in a somewhat roundabout way. With a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a PhD in bioengineering, her move into tech saw Mulvihill ticking off one more engineering function. Currently based in the open innovation office at Accenture’s Centre for Innovation to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, Mulvihill works with global start-ups and the broader Irish tech ecosystem to bringing AI tech to industry.
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Updated, 4.35pm, 16 March 2017: This article was amended to remove a reference to the launch of the Sentinel-2B satellite, as it was not connected to the Mars simulated mission that Niamh Shaw participated in.