Name: Kate Harwood
Job Title: PhD Researcher
Qualifications: BSc (hons), DIS
Employer/University/College: Ulster University
Where you live: Belfast, NI
Hello there! My name is Kate and well, you’ve probably already guessed it but I’m an engineer. I’m also a scientist, a researcher and a bit of a nerd but that’s okay because nerds are cool! Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m in my twenties which makes me feel super old, I have a Biomedical Engineering degree from Ulster University in Northern Ireland and in my free time I like reading books and taking really epic naps.
As for me being an engineer well, I’m a special type of engineer called a biomedical engineer. Or to get all fancy I’m actually a “tissue engineer”.
A tissue engineer doesn’t work for Kleenex and I don’t make toilet paper or kitchen paper. I work instead with cells that come from the human body! My main job is to create special things called “scaffolds” to grow these cells on. Builders use scaffolds all the times.
We’ve all seen scaffolds like this on the outside of buildings but I use scaffolds too, except my scaffolds are much, much smaller! My scaffolds look like this.
So I guess it doesn’t really look like a scaffold, but when we put it under a really powerful microscope called a scanning electron microscope we get a picture that looks more like this:
Believe it or not but those squiggly grey lines are actually individual ropes of a special kind of plastic called a polymer. When these polymers are placed on top of each other it becomes a really cool thing called a biomaterial scaffold. It is on these scaffolds that I grow cells. When enough cells have grown on the scaffold we can implant them into the body to try and treat lots of horrible and nasty diseases and injuries.
So I’ve told you a bit about myself and what it is that I do every day, and I have to say that I love my job. Being an engineer is really exciting because every day is different, and I would definitely tell people to think about doing it as a job.
There are lots of different types of engineers, which means there is a job out there for everybody. So if you’re thinking about becoming an engineer in the future but you’re not sure what type I’ve put together a small list to give you a better idea of what types of engineers there are!
Chemical – Chemical engineers use physics and biological sciences to turn materials into more useful forms. Chemical engineers turn oil into petrol, they also create useful materials for people to use every day and can work with really tiny molecules. My area of engineering, biomedical, is also considered chemical engineering because I develop materials called biomaterials.
Civil – Civil engineers design, build and maintain environments. They are miners; they design and build buildings that can withstand earthquakes and hurricanes. They build sewer systems and water mains. They also look after railways and roads.
Electrical – Electrical engineers study and use electricity and other electronics. Electrical engineers build computers and all of the fun devices we use every day. They look after the internet and make sure that it keeps working the way it’s supposed to. They also make sure electrical power plants keep running so that we have a constant stream of electricity in our homes and schools.
Mechanical – Mechanical engineers design, analyse and use heat and mechanical power to create machines and mechanical systems. Mechanical engineers design and fix cars, boats, airplanes and any other vehicle you can think of. They also make manufacturing equipment so that other engineers have the right kind of tools to work with.
It’s for both boys and girls, and you don’t need to be good at maths or physics to be an engineer because there are so many different types that there is something for everyone out there.
I suppose I should probably get back to work now. I have cells growing that need fed, and trust me when I say that cells are actually more difficult to look after than babies! Keep on being awesome, I’ll be back soon!