Professor Lynne Jack (Professor of Building Services Engineering) is Director of the Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design) at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
What got you interested in engineering?
I first became interested in engineering during my time at secondary school. I remember being intrigued by the concept of engineering principles applied to the development of renewable energy technologies. Studying for my undergraduate degree in Energy Engineering cemented my desire to work in the field, as I could see how the knowledge gained and skills learned could be applied to real-world challenges.
Where did you study?
I completed my first degree at Edinburgh Napier University in 1990, and my PhD at Heriot Watt University in 1997.
My first degree was in Energy Engineering and, after graduation, I worked as a Thermal Engineer on the cooling design of electronic circuit-boards. After spending some time working for a small engineering consultancy, I then joined Heriot-Watt University where I began my research career working in the area of water and drainage systems for buildings.
What’s the most notable project you’ve ever been involved with and why?
Almost every project is different so it’s always difficult identify the most notable. But those that have a tangible outcome or where academic impact on the sector can be demonstrated are usually the most noteworthy. Personally, I enjoy site monitoring or measuring data from experimental test-rigs, and using this to develop simulation models to predict system performance. Examples of notable site investigations include data gathered from social housing apartments in Scotland and from an experimental test tower in Taiwan.
Projects where we have collaborated with industry partners have also been hugely successful and, I believe, present the best opportunity for ensuring impact from academic research. Examples includes our very successful relationship with Studor, where we have, over an extended period of time, built increasingly sophisticated simulation models to predict the performance of systems and products for building drainage, and also the LUNA project work, where we are about to embark upon a study of the impact of water efficiency upon the viability of the loading units methodology to pipe and pump sizing for water supply systems in buildings.
What specific skills or attributes do you feel that women bring to engineering?
In my experience, the best engineers have demonstrated a genuine ‘can-do’ attitude, and have been open to team-working and interdisciplinary collaboration. The very nature of engineering challenges means that, oftentimes, the way to tackle a particular challenge, problem or design is not immediately obvious, but working together and being open to ideas will, more often than not, allow the team to reach the optimal solution.
Less than 10% of engineers in the UK are women. What advice or thoughts can you give to women thinking of studying or training to become engineers?
My advice to those thinking of studying or training to become engineers is to remember that the rewards always outweigh the challenges! Study hard, work hard and try to look out for examples of good practice from people that you’d like to emulate. And try to think of yourself not as a female engineer but as good engineer, able to deliver to the highest standards of quality in response to the requirements of a job.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
Married with two teenage sons, I dedicate most of my time outside work to my family. In rare moments to myself, I enjoy reading music, some cycling and am currently learning a new language (albeit rather slowly!)