Dr Di Carter is a materials development engineer with Senior Aerospace BWT based in the UK at Macclesfield, Cheshire. A large part of her time is spent encouraging young people to follow her into the industry

What first got you into aerospace engineering?

I admit it isn't an obvious choice for a materials engineer with a doctorate in environmental technology. Many of my fellow "greenies" are more likely to be found protesting at airports! However, the answer to our environmental woes is not going to be to stop flying, but do it in a more responsible way in lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft.

How did you end up at Senior Aerospace?

To be honest, I didn't know much about the place until I came for an interview. However, I am a people person and my one-hour interview ended up lasting nearer four since we didn't stop talking! I am a great believer in long service being an indicator of how a company treats people and there are some that started work here before I was born.

Dr DI Carter

Describe a typical day

There is no such thing. It can be spent with a supplier, testing and validating new materials, getting samples made, writing test reports, attending a conference, travelling, visiting test houses, advising as a specialist for health and safety, liaising with the council over the emissions from our bioreactor or fixing problems on the shop floor.

What are the best bits of the job?

In this industry, there is much to be said for the knowledge that comes with experience and I am very lucky I continue to learn from my colleagues. They help me understand what customers really mean when they request something obscure and whether they really understand themselves.

And the worst?

The worst is travelling to the places I visit. It sounds glamorous when you have meetings in Florida, Niagara Falls and Atlantic City, but most of your time is spent getting from one place to another.

How do you encourage more young women into engineering?

The fundamental problem facing young women is that engineering has not even appeared on their radar. When I ask children to guess my job at workshops it is often hairdresser, nurse and teacher that come up. I tell the girls and young women how varied engineering can be and how they could be solving issues like lack of fossil fuel, renewable energies, climate change and world hunger. I give talks to different groups and workshops in my role as engineering ambassador; I take part in the Career Academies, Go4Set programme and the Engineering Education scheme. It is extremely rewarding and I recommend every professional should work with young people.

Does it worry you that you work in a very male environment?

I worry that there aren't enough female role models in top positions within industry. The male environment I am used to, as in my spare time I work in an infantry unit of the Territorial Army. The boys know that I give as good as I get! I think you have to appreciate that we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

How do you see the future?

Like most people, eventually I want my boss's job, then his boss and so on. But first, I want to undertake more research with young people. I would like to get to supervise a Year In Industry student, then one day get a collaborative research project going whereby I can supervise an engineering doctorate student. These kinds of projects mean that both academically rigorous and industrially relevant research can be conducted. This is likely to bring more innovation into this industry. There is so much that young people can offer them and there really is a bright future for them in this industry, if we encourage them enough.

Source: Flight International