In our second feature celebrating International Women in Engineering Day, we bring you the inspiration behind PhD student Sruthi Srinivasan’s engineering journey, alongside her experience at Churchill and exciting plans for the future!

Sruthi is from the United States, where she completed her undergrad degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University in 2021. She decided to pursue further study at Cambridge and is now in the final year of her PhD in Electrical Engineering at Churchill, researching computational methods for brain imaging as part of the Neuro Optics Lab. Sruthi is also one of the Academic Officers on the College’s MCR committee (the student body for postgrads at Churchill) and has organised events ranging from ‘Pints of Churchill’ – informal talks highlighting cutting-edge research undertaken at all levels of academia within the Churchill College community – to the annual showcase of postgrad research, the 2024 Conference of Everything.

Who first inspired you to study engineering?

It’s a bit of a cliché answer, but my parents were my first inspirations in engineering. My mom studied Civil Engineering and my dad studied Chemical Engineering, so they were the earliest examples I had of engineers growing up. I was pretty determined to do anything apart from engineering as a result, but eventually discovered that I really enjoyed how much room for creativity there was in solving engineering challenges. I ultimately chose to study Electrical and Computer Engineering, partly because it was neither civil nor chemical engineering, but mainly because I found it incredible to learn about technologies that could genuinely change people’s lives for the better. The skills you gain by studying engineering are truly applicable to almost any field you can think of, so the possibilities for what you can create are endless.

Are there any women engineers that inspire you?

There are plenty! Obviously, there are the really well-known names that are often cited for their incredible contributions to engineering: Mary Jackson for her work at NASA and Hedy Lamarr for her work in radio communications are two women that I’ve always found inspiring, not just for their contributions, but also for the immense social challenges they had to overcome to earn even a fraction of the recognition they deserved. However, I think the women that inspire me the most day-to-day are the ones I’ve gotten to witness in action. I’ve been so lucky to have really inspiring female engineers around me my whole life, all of whom have also done amazing things to increase female access to and engagement in engineering. I’d particularly like to point out my mom, who has always been my primary inspiration, my Principal Investigator, Dr Gemma Bale, who is also a fellow at Churchill, and my friend Bel Haider, who I co-run the Churchill MCR Academic committee with. All of these women, and many more, motivate me to be a better engineer and researcher.

Is Churchill a good place to study engineering?

I think Churchill is an incredible place to study engineering. One thing that I’ve found to be really exceptional at Churchill is the number of events that are focused on gathering the engineering community together. In particular, the engineering dinners and the women in STEM dinner, all organised by Dr Rachel Thorley, stand out as being quite unique to College. Through these events, and also by virtue of how open and welcoming everyone at college is, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of great peers and mentors in my field. Additionally, a lot of my closest friends have been made at Churchill (both within engineering and outside of it), and I think there’s a great sense of community here that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

What are your future career plans?

I plan to go into industry after finishing my PhD. My current research is focused on computational methods for analysing brain imaging data, with an emphasis on interpretable machine learning methods for diagnostic purposes, and I’d like to continue working on healthcare technologies in the future. I think there is incredible scope for improving people’s quality of life by staying in this field, and I hope to contribute to some of the incredible work being done in industry to deploy safe and reliable healthcare technologies to those who need it most.

More about INWED

International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) was originally established in the UK in 2014 by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and has since gained international recognition, with UNESCO patronage since 2016. The day serves as a platform to raise awareness about the career opportunities available to women in engineering and to celebrate the contributions of female engineers.