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  • Writer's picturePam King Sams

University of Cambridge engineer celebrated as one of 2021’s Top 50 Women in Engineering.

Dr Kristen MacAskill, Lecturer in Engineering, Environment and Sustainable Development, has been named a winner of the Top 50 Women in Engineering: Engineering Heroes Awards.

The 2021 Top 50 Women in Engineering Awards personify the inventive and inclusive thinking needed to build a sustainable future. If there was ever a time that we needed these heroes in engineering, it is now.

To coincide with International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) is celebrating women who have made a significant contribution to helping their organisation, community or indeed the world to function during the last year – and Dr MacAskill from the Department’s Centre for Sustainable Development is among them.

Throughout her career, Dr MacAskill’s research interests have centred on themes of disaster risk management, post-disaster reconstruction, sustainable development of cities and resilience of infrastructure systems. She has also served as Course Director for the Construction Engineering Master's Programme from 2017 to 2020, run by the Laing O’Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology, University of Cambridge.

Her nominator said: “By any measure, Dr Kristen MacAskill is an outstanding engineer. Throughout her career, Kristen has excelled, demonstrating outstanding leadership, intellect, ingenuity and perseverance. For example, Kristen became Director of the Construction Engineering Master’s course for senior professionals at the University of Cambridge immediately following completion of her PhD in 2016.

Such a role typically requires many years of experience to demonstrate authority and credibility to mature students. For nearly four years, Kristen showed inspiration and leadership in recrafting the course syllabus, steering the pedagogical approach and coaching the cohorts with consummate ease and calm authority. She transformed the course to a position where it could justifiably claim to be a world-leading professional development programme in an industry in urgent need of radical change.”

When considering her ‘engineering heroes’ past and present, Dr MacAskill said some of her biggest inspirations are from within her immediate circle. “My biggest inspirations are not famous figures, but people around me – family, friends and colleagues. It is mostly because I can learn from them, but sometimes the inspiration simply comes from their encouraging words.

“My hope is that engineers play a more prominent role in shaping the world's future. This means not just designing because we can, but because we understand our communities and they understand what we can do. Our technical skills are absolutely a critical foundation, but we need to be more than that.”

Some of our alumni have also been named winners of the Award, including Dame Jo da Silva, Global Sustainable Development Leader at Arup, and Milly Hennayake, Civil Water Engineer, also at Arup. Another winner is Dr Claire Bennett, Senior Geotechnical Engineer at Arup, who is currently studying the Construction Engineering Master's Programme at Cambridge.

Now in its sixth year, Head Judge, Professor Catherine Noakes OBE CEng FIMechE FIHEEM, said of the Awards: “Last year was a year unlike any other and remarkable times call for remarkable people. That is why, in 2021, the Top 50 Women in Engineering Awards celebrate the engineering heroes who have responded to the challenges of an ever-changing world, from healthcare and climate change to infrastructure and championing diversity, with inspirational innovation and leadership. With over 230 nominations, only the exceptional made it to the top 50.

“The standard of nominations received was outstanding. It was wonderful to read about the achievements of these extraordinary women and the impact that they are making on society with their talent, hard work and dedication.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how truly important science, technology and engineering are to the health of our planet. The 2021 Top 50 Women in Engineering Awards personify the inventive and inclusive thinking needed to build a sustainable future. If there was ever a time that we needed these heroes in engineering, it is now.”

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