I’m a female engineer who loves science and technology. In this male-dominated industry, women have been historically in a minority.
There’s an old perception that women are not good at handling technical and engineering work. It’s a perception that we still have to battle every day.
As women, we’re more detail-oriented by nature. If we take advantage of this, we can overcome any lingering perceptions that stand in our way.
I am one of a relatively small number of women determined to pursue a career in engineering.
I had been eager to apply what I learnt at school as well as participation in the Ford-Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Conservation and Environmental Research Grants – a partnership between HKUST and Ford Motor Co.
Now, I am working as a mechanical engineer at Kovan Systems, a high-tech startup based in Shenzhen that has ambitions to export China’s technologies across the globe.
While I may never match the physical strength of some of my male colleagues, my active listening and communication skills are better than those of most.
Both these skills are part of practically every interaction in engineering work. The strengths of male and female engineers may be different but they are also complementary.
Let’s take project development planning as an example.
I consider the finer details of any process, and will always try to identify any problems that might occur when we start work on any project from a micro level.
My male colleagues have a tendency to assess directions and objectives from a macro perspective. Our collaboration can prevent avoidable mistakes during the execution, and ensure smooth and successful project delivery.
Women are playing an increasingly important role in science and engineering. Just look at Marcy Klevorn, the VP and the first female chief information officer at Ford.
There are also more and more female students taking part in engineering at HKUST. In the postgraduate (MSc) programs under the School of Engineering in the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years, female students accounted for 30 percent.
Eight female awardees were among the 19 Ford-HKUST Grants recipients in 2014-15.
I majored in thermal engineering and received my Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tsinghua University in 2013. After graduation, I decided to go to Hong Kong and pursue a postgraduate degree at HKUST for my career development.
After studying at HKUST for a while, I learned about the Grants program and applied for it, as I wanted to make use of what I had learnt to develop solutions to address environmental and conservation issues.
The Ford Conservation and Environmental Grants program was founded in 1983 with the aim of empowering individuals and non-profit groups to conduct research and undertake projects which will help preserve the environmental well-being of communities and provide solutions that contribute to a sustainable planet.
The partnership with HKUST was established in 2013 as a foundation to bring Ford’s Conservation and Environmental Research Grants program to Hong Kong.
With the guidance of HKUST professor Christopher Y. H. Chao, I successfully applied nanofluids, originally intended for industrial usage, into automobile engine cooling system. The findings from the project can help enhance the cooling performance by up to 31 percent, in addition to lowering carbon emissions and saving energy.
Different from other grants programs, HKUST lined up Ford experts to provide guidance and advice to students, and share their industry expertise.
Thanks to Ford, I learned more about real-world scenarios, and made my research project more practical and measurable – in addition to getting financial support for my project.
Through the Grants, I have deepened my understanding of experimental research skills and furthered my problem-solving skills, all of which will help me in my career.
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