|Name||Dr Kate Durkacz|
|Qualifications||BSc MSc PhD|
|Role title||Lecturer, School of Engineering and the Built Environment|
|Organisation||Edinburgh Napier University|
|Interview date||23rd August 2013|
|Interviewed by||Ailish Fowler|
What are Kate’s qualifications?
What has been Kate’s career path to date?
Over the course of her career Kate has undertaken a number of roles all related to the domain of mathematics. These have included research positions at:
- GEC, where Kate worked on aircraft navigation systems;
- Sheffield University, where Kate’s research assistant post on a project on mathematical control provided her with the opportunity to study for her PhD;
- Strathclyde University, where Kate developed algorithms for applications in geology and seismic science;
- Leeds University, where Kate was involved in transport research.
Kate has also spent much of her career teaching mathematics. This experience includes helping international students prepare for UK higher education, teaching statistics to Masters student at the University of Leeds, and a role at the University of Derby that is similar to the one that she now holds at Edinburgh Napier University. Here she supports students on engineering and computing degree courses.
What is Kate’s involvement with Connect?
Kate has much involvement with Connect. The focus of this work is responsibility for supporting and encouraging female staff and students to participate in Connect events. This is part of her role as the Scottish Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology academic champion for the School of Engineering and Built Environment. The goal of this academic champion post is to help recruit more female students to engineering courses at Edinburgh Napier, and to ensure the retention of those female students already within the School. To this end, Kate works with other staff and student ambassadors at Edinburgh Napier University on a number of initiatives, including hosting visits from school children. In 2012/13, for example, mixed groups of pupils came into the University to experience ‘hands-on’ engineering activities and to gaining knowledge of engineering as a subject. Kate enjoyed the enthusiasm of the visitors and hopes her influence may encouraged some of them to pursue a career in engineering.
What is Kate’s experience as a woman working in mathematics and engineering?
Kate has observed that the ratio of men to women on the courses that she has taken and taught, and in the various places that she has worked, has differed from institution to institution. For example, on her BSc at St Mary College London the split was about equal in the first year. This was because the course was also taught to undergraduate students of statistics, i.e. a course which attracts more female students than mathematics. In contrast, when she started her career at GEC Kate was surprised to find that out of an intake of 60 new graduates, just four of them were female.
Kate highlights that one of the reasons for the lower proportion of women on maths and engineering courses is the lack of understanding of such subjects. Many simply don’t fully understand what the term “engineer” comprises, and too often engineering is seen as a “boys’ subject”. Kate regrets that the impact of this is that girls lose interest in maths and other science subjects. It is a pity that they do not consider a future in science and technology, where so much career opportunity lies.