Anna Ploszajski is a materials engineer who wants to bring her work to the wider world, so we asked her a few questions about her life and work:
Why did you first become interested in engineering?
My career aspirations varied from architect to trumpet player. I was an all-rounder at school, but nobody had told me about engineering. Fortunately, I discovered materials engineering, which was the perfect blend for me of hard science and practical applications.
What is your favourite thing about being an engineer?
I imagine that being a materials engineer is similar to being a talented photographer, in that you find beauty in the everyday environment. You have to zoom in and ask: what are these atoms up to that make this thing so heavy, so fluffy, so tasty? That’s materials engineering.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Until recently, I’ve been training to swim the English Channel, so a typical weekday would start with an hour in my local lido. For the last few months, this has been followed by a good few hours working on my thesis. My latest experiment was really cool: watching the gas coming out of materials in 3D.
My freelance work is hugely varied, and that’s what I love most about it. Specific work might be delivering communications workshops to engineers or a science-themed event for children, preparing new comedy material, writing for magazines or producing my podcast.
How did you get to where you are now?
I spent my fourth year at university researching hydrogen storage with a local company. I loved flexing my new materials muscles in such a fast-paced environment and my voice was really valued. I also participated in Bright Club, a stand-up comedy night by academics and researchers. I now split my time between finishing my studies and working as a freelance writer, communicator, trainer and stand-up comedian focusing on materials engineering.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Being awarded a Young Engineer of the Year Award was really nice. Balancing work by day and stand-up comedy by night has been taxing, and it was a privilege to be recognised next to other impressive early-career engineers.
What would be your advice to someone considering engineering?
Get making! Engineering is about creating things to make the world better, whether that’s software, skyscrapers or new materials. Whatever interests you – music, gaming, eating cake – you can engineer it. Drive your parents mad by taking stuff apart, they’ll forgive you later when you can fix their iPad for them.