In our third feature celebrating International Women in Engineering Day, we bring you the inspiration behind Juliana Ferraro’s engineering journey.

Juliana is from Montreal, Canada, where she studied Chemical Engineering with a minor in Nanotechnology at McGill University. In her penultimate year, she completed a 4-month research project in Engineering at Cambridge. Motivated by the science, the people she met, as well the beauty and history of the city, she applied for postgraduate studies at the University. She is currently completing a Master of Research (MRes) in Sensor Technologies at Churchill and starts her PhD in Engineering in October. Juliana won the People’s Choice award at the College’s 2024 Conference on Everything for a presentation of her work studying aerosol delivery of chemotherapy drugs to target mesothelioma.

Who first inspired you to study engineering?

From a young age, I was fascinated by the way objects or systems work and remember mornings watching the Canadian television programme ‘How it’s made’ with my father. Although not engineers by trade, my father and grandfather always included and encouraged me to help with work or weekend projects, fixing and building things together – my favourite being the design and construction of a swing set for our backyard when I was 10 years old. I believe these moments played a key role in planting seeds that would grow and eventually orient me towards engineering.

Are there any women engineers that inspire you?

Professor Noémie-Manuelle Dorval Courchesne, my supervisor and mentor during my undergraduate degree at McGill University, has been a notable inspiration in my life thus far as an engineer. She is a brilliant, dedicated and rigorous teacher and researcher, supporting and uplifting others around her, helping students achieve far beyond their potential. During our first conversation about research, she encouraged my ideas, leading me to join her group and work alongside her for almost 4 years – an experience that shaped the course of my academic life. I continue to feel extremely lucky for the opportunity I had, the labmates who helped and inspired me and all that I learnt from them, lessons I have carried with me across the pond.

Since arriving in Cambridge, I have also met impressive women through the Sensor CDT and Churchill College – new friends, classmates, labmates, football teammates and academics that uniquely excel in their own domains. I am greatly looking forward to learning from and working with my future PhD co-supervisor, Róisín Owens, who is a leader in her field and an important advocate for women in STEM.

Is Churchill a good place to study engineering?

Churchill is a friendly melting pot of people from diverse backgrounds with different interests, so you never know who you will meet and what interesting conversations you will have with others. I have enjoyed the numerous opportunities to engage with the community through the MCR and the various clubs and groups, allowing all students to find a place to grow, honing their talents or learning something new.

A significant event was this year’s first (and hopefully annual) formal hall for International Women in STEM Day, which was an incredible opportunity to meet other female-identifying students at Churchill and see the impressive depth and breadth of expertise in our College. The presentations showcased extremely interesting work being done here, the energy in the dining hall and stimulating conversations that could be heard throughout the hall were a testament to the impressive women around us.

What are your future career plans?

Next term, I will be starting my PhD in Engineering at the Institute for Manufacturing in Professor Ronan Daly’s group. My research will focus on sensing aerosol drug delivery for targeted treatment of lung diseases. I am looking forward to a career that will allow me to continue to do research and help others through my work, with an emphasis on science communication and improving the accessibility of engineering and technology.

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.