STEMinist Profile: Ghilane Bragagnolo, Research engineer

Ghilane Bragagnolo

Research engineer

McLaren Automotive- University of Surrey

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I love my job as a researcher, I love thinking I am making the difference, working on understanding something that it’s still unknown. A car is not just something nice to look at, but behind that cool design there is the work of a team that aims to improve the car performances and this requires the understanding of a wide number of parameters such as materials, aerodynamics and electronics.

When someone asks me what do I do for living and I say that I’m a mechanical engineer, I’ve always found funny to see their surprised and full of merci faces! People get scared when they hear the word ‘engineer’. Honestly, I quite like the look of admiration painted on people faces!! but at the same time I would like them to understand that it’s not just a bunch of numbers and math, but it can actually be quite fun! This is the reason I became a STEM ambassador, to transmit what I do to the public, starting to children who have to believe that engineering is not scary but something everyone can do and enjoy.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My doctorate project of course! For now, it is the most interesting project I have been working on. I am focusing in crush structures, composite materials and modeling/simulation techniques. This is not just a very challenging area but it is also very exciting! I consider myself lucky to be working with such a great company and to be able to touch by hand the results of my work.

Role models and heroes:
My parents. My dad is not just a model for me but he is my one and only hero. He built his own company from zero, as self learner, and he is the smartest person I have ever met. My mum is, on the other hand, one of the strongest women I know.

I would like to mention some of the women I heard about, who have a very good job and at the same time are good mothers, who take their children to school and go to their lacrosse and football games. However, I have never met one of those yet, and I am quite sceptic about it. But it is for sure something I would like to aspire to.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I enjoy the challenge of being a researcher and at the same time developing professional skills thanks to the link with the company. I am half way through my doctorate and I have already learnt so much. Every day is unique, you can be in the labs, in the office, at conferences or at meetings. With every day comes a new challenge and that certainly keeps things interesting.

During my last high school year, while I was choosing which degree to pursue, my mum was concerned about her daughter getting into in a male-dominated area. One of my teachers told her: ‘ She can do anything she wants, tell her she can and she will’. Sometimes, hearing from the outside that you can do something it really helps you to believe you can. I like going into schools talking to young people about my career. I like to think that if they meet someone they admire and aspire to, they can push to get there.

Advice for future STEMinists?
It is such a rewarding career that you will forget how difficult and stressful it had been to get there! Do what you love and make of a job your passion, it will feel more like a hobby than a job!

Favorite website or app: LinkedIn

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