I went to school in north London where I excelled at maths and physics but really enjoyed art classes. I wanted a profession that would combine drawing with science. Aged 15 I did a week of work experience in an architecture practice where I learnt the most important thing of my entire career: what structural engineering was.
I went on to study General Engineering at Newnham College, Cambridge University. I studied the basics of different types of engineering before specialising in structures. Newnham is a women’s college so I experienced an all-female living environment and a male dominated studying environment. In the engineering department I quickly came to believe that a woman could succeed in a “man’s industry”.
After graduating, I started working at WSP where I still work now, 5 years later. I have been fortunate to work on some amazing projects in central London and Heathrow airport. These include the Shell Centre- a challenging project in central London consisting of seven new towers, built over several tube lines. On this project I have designed the structure for two of the towers as well as a large section of the shared basement. I have worked on this from concept design through to construction and it is fantastic to see buildings I have designed in real life.
In 2012 I co-founded the Structurally Found competition- a photo treasure hunt designed to tell the general public about the amazing engineering surrounding them. After a lot of planning and persuading, Structurally Found became a part of Open House Weekend in 2014 and attracted 3000 entries from around the world. We ran the event again in 2015 and 2016, adapting and expanding it each time.
I continue to work on a variety of projects at WSP, and am currently preparing for my chartership.
by Alison Fearn
For the past two and a half years, I have been a postdoctoral research fellow, part of the Molecular Oncology group at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, where I have been working to understand how prostate cancer develops so we can give patients the most appropriate clinical care.
Prior to that, I spent two years at the University of Southampton Cancer Sciences Institute studying the causes of a very rare form of blood cancer, Splenic Marginal Zone Lymphoma, and uncovered a new genetic change seen in very many patients. This has helped understand why people develop this cancer, as well as hopefully finding better treatments for it.
I completed my PhD at the University of Sheffield in 2011, where I was investigating the genetic events responsible for inherited susceptibility to breast and prostate cancer. Our aim was to improve breast and prostate cancer screening to target it to the people who would benefit most.
As a Design Manager, I specialise in managing multi-disciplinary design teams on major infrastructure projects. I have worked on a number of high profile projects, including the £790m London Bridge Station Redevelopment project, the Paddington Cube and HS2 Euston Station.
My strong drive, goal orientation and leadership skills have empowered me to be a significant leading role model for women in both the rail and construction industries. Through my passion for sustainable positive change and my numerous positions on Industry Committees, I champion initiatives to encourage young people into engineering.
I was one of the founders of the independent charity Cameroon Catalyst and am determined to help facilitate sustainable development in rural Cameroon.
In 2015, I was awarded an MBE in recognition for “Services to civil engineering and international charity work."
I am a UK and European Chartered Principal Engineering Geologist, with over ten years’ global experience. My career has taken me to Australia and led me across the Arabian Peninsula and back to England. In doing so, I have created a global network and left behind a legacy of impressive, award-winning infrastructure projects that have helped millions of people improve their daily lives.
I have worked on eight multi-award-winning highway schemes, from feasibility to construction, the total length of which rivals the M25. I am incredibly fortunate to do something that I am passionate about, and I am invested in helping other young engineers build a career they can be proud of. As a STEM ambassador and part of WSP's school engagement programme Launchpad, I help young people make informed choices and open their eyes to the creative world of engineering.
In my efforts to promote the image of engineering, I blog regularly, and have written articles about my career, Women in Engineering that have been published in Construction News and Infrastructure Intelligence.
Over my career, I have published two technical journals and had a double page spread on the A1 widening scheme, Gateshead, UK in Ground Engineering. Recently, I gave a technical presentation at the NW Geological Society on the A1widening scheme and was subsequently invited to repeat the presentation across the UK.
On 01 January, I began my two-year tenure as the UK National Chair for the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) Progress Network. I am leading an active group of over 2000 young professionals from a variety of firms, disciplines and sectors across the UK. As National Chair, I form strategic plans to build capacity and provide leadership to the existing regional groups and grow and nurture the network across further geographical regions.